Tableau takes its data-analysis software to the cloud

Tableau Software, the poster boy for next-generation analytics software and, now, Wall Street darling, is taking to the cloud with a new Software-as-a-Service offering called Tableau Online. However, while the delivery model is new, the new product itself is really just the same Tableau Server option users have come to know and love (or not).
According to Ellie Fields, a product marketing manager at Tableau, the differences between the new offering and Tableau Server are “very minor” save for the way they’re bought and delivered. The cloud version is less expensive (only $500 per user per year) and is faster and easier to get started with, as SaaS versions of traditional software products tend to be.
Tableau Online has already attracted about 200 users during the time the company’s salespeople have been “soft selling” it under the radar, Fields said. Some are existing Server enterprise users that prefer a cloud-based version for different purposes and employees, but a lot are the smaller businesses that were previously priced out of the market for buying and maintaining Tableau’s desktop or server editions.
“They’ve been offering this product as an option and folks have been buying it,” Fields said.
The product has been in the making about two years, from inception to its general availability as of Thursday. Alpha users began kicking the tires about a year ago.
If there is one notable difference, it’s probably the sharing and collaboration capabilities that the cloud naturally enables. In the case of Tableau Online, Fields highlighted how users can publish interactive dashboards to the web and share them with clients or partners without granting behind-the-firewall access. It also can serve as a good place for centralizing a bunch of disparate data sources such as local databases, other SaaS products (e.g., and other cloud analytics tools (including Google BigQuery and Amazon Redshift).
All in all, Tableau Online is probably a safe bet for the company, which can bank on its reputation and a general acceptance of SaaS to deliver a good number of customers. A cloud version is also something that many of Tableau’s next-generation analytics peers/competitors are doing (e.g., Birst, GoodData, ClearStory, Bime,¬†and SiSense through a partnership with Rackspace), as well as some legacy business intelligence vendors such as MicroStrategy.
Some of us, though, are still waiting for Tableau to revamp its free, web-based Tableau Public offering. As I’ve explained before, it could stand to be a little more intuitive (and private) to attract more individual users, who might actually be willing to pay a small amount for it, too. Tableau Public will never be the moneymaker that business-focused versions are, but it could help grow an even bigger footprint of dedicated and data-savvy users.
I’m not holding my breath, but Fields did say, “We’re always looking to try and make analytics easier and analytics more accessible.”