Previously, I wrote about Amazon QuickSight, a new service targeted at business users that aims to simplify the process of deriving insights from a wide variety of data sources quickly, easily, and at a low cost. QuickSight is a very fast, cloud-powered, business intelligence service for the 1/10th the cost of old-guard BI solutions. Today, I am very happy to announce that QuickSight is now generally available in the N. Virginia, Oregon, and Ireland regions.
When we announced QuickSight last year, we set out to help all customers—regardless of their technical skills—make sense out of their ever-growing data. As I mentioned, we live in a world where massive volumes of data are being generated, every day, from connected devices, websites, mobile apps, and customer applications running on top of AWS infrastructure. This data is collected and streamed using services like Amazon Kinesis and stored in AWS relational data sources such as Amazon RDS, Amazon Aurora, and Amazon Redshift; NoSQL data sources such as Amazon DynamoDB; and file-based data sources such as Amazon S3. Along with data generated in the cloud, customers also have legacy data sitting in on-premises datacenters, scattered on user desktops, or stored in SAS applications.
There’s an inherent gap between the data that is collected, stored, and processed and the key decisions that business users make on a daily basis. Put simply, data is not always readily available and accessible to organizational end users. The data infrastructure to collect, store, and process data is geared primarily towards developers and IT professionals whereas insights need to be derived by not just technical professionals but also non-technical business users. Most business users continue to struggle to answer key business questions such as, “Who are my top customers and what are they buying?”, “How is my marketing campaign performing?”, and “Why is my most profitable region not growing?” While BI solutions have existed for decades, customers have told us that it takes an enormous amount of time, IT effort, and money to bridge this gap.
The reality is that many traditional BI solutions are built on top of legacy desktop and on-premises architectures that are decades old. They require companies to provision and maintain complex hardware infrastructure and invest in expensive software licenses, maintenance fees, and support fees that cost upwards of thousands of dollars per user per year. They require teams of data engineers to spend months building complex data models and synthesizing the data before they can generate their first report. To scale to a larger number of users and support the growth in data volume spurred by social media, web, mobile, IoT, ad-tech, and ecommerce workloads, these tools require customers to invest in even more infrastructure to maintain performance. Finally, their complex user experiences are designed for power users and not suitable for the fast-growing segment of business users. The cost and complexity to implement, scale, and use BI makes it difficult for most companies to make data analysis ubiquitous across their organizations.
Enter Amazon QuickSight
QuickSight is a cloud-powered BI service built from the ground up to address the big data challenges around speed, complexity, and cost. QuickSight puts data at the fingertips of your business users in an easy-to-use user interface and at one-tenth the cost of traditional BI solutions, even if that data is scattered across various sources such as Amazon Redshift, Amazon RDS, Amazon S3, or Salesforce.com; legacy databases running on-premises; or even user desktops in Microsoft Excel or CSV file formats.
Getting started with QuickSight is simple. Let’s walk through some of the core experiences of QuickSight that make it so easy to set up, connect to your data sources, and build visualizations in minutes.
Powered by Innovation
QuickSight is built on a large number of innovative technologies to get a business user their first insights fast. Here are a few of the key innovations that power QuickSight:
SPICE: One of the key ingredients that makes QuickSight so powerful is the Super-fast, Parallel, In-memory Calculation Engine (SPICE). SPICE is a new technology built by the same team that created technologies such as DynamoDB, Amazon Redshift, and Amazon Aurora. It is the underlying engine that allows QuickSight to deliver blazing fast response times on large data sets. SPICE sits between the user interface and the data source and can rapidly ingest all or part of the data into its fast, in-memory, columnar-based data store that’s optimized for analytical queries. SPICE is cloud-native, which means that customers don’t need to provision, manage, or scale infrastructure manually. Data is automatically replicated across multiple Availability Zones for redundancy and also backed up to S3 for durability. This allows us to enable organizations to reliably and securely scale to support thousands of users who can all perform fast, interactive analysis across a wide variety of AWS data sources.
Auto-discovery: One of the challenges with BI is discovering and accessing the data. As a native offering from AWS, QuickSight comes deeply integrated with AWS data sources such as Amazon Redshift, RDS, and S3. For instance, QuickSight auto-discovers all RDS instances and Amazon Redshift clusters to which any logged-in user has access. Customers can visualize their data by picking a table and then getting to a visualization in just a few clicks. In addition to AWS data sources, QuickSight also lets customers connect to third-party databases running on Amazon EC2 or on-premises and popular business applications like Excel and Salesforce.
AutoGraph: Picking the right visualization is not easy, and there is lot of science behind it. For instance, optimal visualization depends on various factors: the type of data field selected (“Is it time, number, or string?”), cardinality of the data (“Does this field have only 4 unique values or 1 million values?”), and number of data fields that you are trying to visualize. While QuickSight supports multiple graph types (e.g., bar charts, line graphs, scatter plots, box plots, pie charts, and so on), one of the things we have tried to simplify is a capability that automatically picks the right visualization for selected data using AutoGraph. Users pick the data fields to visualize and QuickSight automatically selects the most optimal visual type.
Collaboration and sharing of live analytics: Users often want to slice and dice their data and share it in various ways. With QuickSight, you can collaborate on analyses, which are visual explorations of your data, and allow others to modify the analyses in any way. You can also share your analyses as read-only dashboards and allow your viewers to interact and filter the visualizations without modification. QuickSight lets you combine visualizations into guided tours, or stories, that you can share with other users to tell the story of your data.
What our customers are saying about QuickSight
In the past months, thousands of AWS customers participated in the preview of QuickSight, including global enterprises and startups from a range of industries. Many worked closely with the team to provide early feedback and helped us rapidly iterate on the product. I am pleased to share some of the positive feedback from our preview customers like MLB Advanced Media, Infor, and Hotelbeds.com.
MLB Advanced Media (MLBAM) is a digital media and content infrastructure provider that powers an ever-growing number of massively popular media and entertainment properties. Brandon SanGiovanni, who is a traffic manager at MLBAM, tells us that QuickSight made it easy for them to explore and analyze their data in a fraction of time expected and provided them with a comprehensive view of their business without being constrained by pre-built dashboards and metrics.
Infor is a business application provider with more than 90,000 customers and 58 million cloud users. Steve Stahl, who is a Senior BI Development Manager at Infor, tells us that they found QuickSight’s SPICE engine to be fast and let them easily and quickly process and visualize datasets on RDS and Amazon Redshift. They’ve been using QuickSight during preview to analyze their customer data and look forward to continuing to use it after launch.
Miguel Iza is the Head of Data and Analytics at Hotelbeds, a global distributor of accommodations serving more than 185 destination countries worldwide and more than 25 million room nights annually. He tells us that QuickSight simplifies the way their users access data to perform self-service analysis and share insights with other. They plan to adopt QuickSight for their new data solution and looks forward to QuickSight democratizing business analytics in their company.
How you can get started
I’m excited that QuickSight is now generally available in N. Virginia, Oregon, and Ireland, with other regions coming soon. Get started by signing up for free at Amazon QuickSight, with 1 user and 1 GB of SPICE capacity. For more details, see Amazon QuickSight Now Generally Available: Fast, Easy to Use Business Analytics for Big Data on the AWS Blog.