Cloud BI / Cloud Analytics – The new kid on the block


Cloud BI (or Cloud Analytics) seems to be popping up a lot lately.

What is Cloud BI?

Cloud BI is an application that allows data analysis and the ability to access this anywhere via a web browser. The application is installed in and maintained by the Cloud BI provider. Think of it like your Google Mail; an email application in the cloud. To have this email capability, all that is required is a subscription to the service. The email application is simply there. You don’t need to install, perform maintenance and worry about whether the system is up and running. Google, the cloud email provider, is looking after the whole application.

Why should you be considering Cloud BI?

Let’s look at the typical non Cloud BI application. First of all, you need to install the data analysis application. You also need to provide your own hardware and server in which the data analysis application is installed. Once it’s installed, you need to perform a ongoing maintenance such as installing software patches and updates. You need to perform a back up of those application as well. The hardware also requires a refresh / new hardware after several years. You need to engage the right team and resource to assist you. Sometimes it gets too hard, too many internal processes and the whole process of getting the data analysis application up and running can take a long time. With Cloud BI, you bypass all of the above steps. Simply access the analytics application via a web browser and the Cloud BI provider is takes care of the headaches.

In summary, Cloud BI is a great option if:

  • you don’t have the time and resources to install and maintain an in house  BI application. Especially if your organisation has a small (or non-existent) IT team
  • it’s not your organisation’s main business. We understand the importance of data-driven decision making to an organisation and data analysis is key to enabling this. However if your organisation’s main business is otherwise, the last thing you want is to spend lots of time/resources supporting the application itself. You want your staff to focus their time and energy on data analysis to support good decision making as opposed to maintaining an application
  • Moving to the cloud is a key IT policy.

How Scalable is Cloud BI?

I strongly believe Cloud BI is more scalable and reliable than your on-premise BI tool supported internally within your organisation. Cloud BI application providers offer a scalable and responsive BI application to many customers in a multi-tenanted environment. Cloud BI providers do this day-in day-out. They have to ensure the application is up-to-date and any patches are applied as soon as possible. The Cloud BI application providers need to have the best processes to support many customers around the world. In essence, these providers are well geared to taking the hassle away from your organisation.

Is Cloud BI really that simple?

In a nutshell – yes, it’s that simple. However, there are several considerations when it comes to Cloud Analytics:

  • data sovereignty
  • location of your data sources (e.g. On-Premise vs Cloud) and keeping your data up-to-date
  • maturity of your organisation in cloud adoption.

Lets dig deeper into these points.

Data sovereignty

Some Cloud BI providers host their application in the United States or data center elsewhere outside Australia. Australian companies and organisations may have a preference or requirement not to have their data located outside Australia.

Location of your data sources and keeping your Cloud BI data up-to-date

It’s great to have your data analysis tool in the cloud. However, if your data sources (e.g. databases, data warehouse, etc) is not located in the cloud (i.e. in an on-premise data center behind your company’s firewall), the integration between your Cloud BI and your on-premise data sources can be cumbersome.

To keep the Cloud BI data from your on-premise data source up-to-date, you are more likely to push the data from your on-premise data source into the cloud. Your organisation is less likely to allow a firewall to be opened for the Cloud BI to access your on-premise data source. How much data are you pushing?

Cloud BI with On-Premise Data

Cloud BI application works best with cloud data sources (e.g. Amazon Redshift, Google Big Query, Cloudera, as both application are located in the cloud. You can connect live to those cloud data sources or enable automated data refresh scheduling.

Cloud BI with Cloud Data

Maturity of your organisation in cloud adoption

It is important to understand where your organisation is currently at in terms of its cloud adoption. Are you using Cloud BI to analyse data located in the cloud whilst still using a legacy BI tool to analyse your on-premise data sources (e.g. databases / data warehouse behind corporate firewall)? Is there a plan to move those on-premise data sources into the cloud eventually?

Cloud BI ain’t the new kid in the block in the Tableau world

In Tableau, Cloud BI is not new.

Tableau Online is Tableau’s Cloud BI, launched in mid 2013. It is one of the most mature Cloud BI tools on the market. You get the best of both worlds – the best data analysis tool with a high level of cloud maturity.

No matter what your cloud requirements, where your data is located or where you are on the cloud journey, Tableau has several deployment options to suit your organisation’s needs:


Not sure which one is for you? Review the following for more detail on each:

Tableau Public

  • Cloud BI for the public – also known as the ‘YouTube for Tableau visualisations’
  • Free
  • Connect to flat files only and data is also exposed to the public
  • Hosted in North America

Tableau Online

  • Cloud BI – no need to install or maintain software or refresh hardware
  • All you need is an account with a subscription
  • Subscription model with an annual renewal option
  • Works well with cloud data sources and cloud applications (e.g. Salesforce, Google Big Query, Amazon Redshift, etc) – you can connect live
  • For on-premise data sources – it’s a push mechanism from your on-premise data source to Tableau Online or you can utilise Tableau Online Sync client
  • Secure multi-tenancy
  • Hosted in North America or Europe.

Tableau Server in AWS Marketplace

  • Cloud BI with a BYO license
  • It’s a turnkey solution in which the cloud infrastructure (provided by AWS) and the Tableau Server software (provided by Tableau) is pre-installed with a pre-configured license. All you need is your own Tableau Server license (purchased directly from Tableau or Tableau partners).
  • Ideal if your organisation has data sovereignty requirements. The application can be hosted in the local region supported by AWS AMI (other than North America)
  • Tableau will update the Amazon Machine Image (AMI) for all minor and major releases as well as maintenance releases. However, you also have the option to upgrade AMI yourself or do a backup and terminate your current AMI and fire up the new one that Tableau submits to market place. You will get an email when a new version is available
  • Works well with Cloud data sources and cloud applications (e.g. Salesforce, Google Big Query, Amazon Redshift, etc) – you can connect live
  • For On-Premise data sources – it’s a push mechanism


Tableau Server in Microsoft Azure Marketplace

Similar to Tableau Server in AWS Marketplace but this is hosted in the cloud infrastructure provided by Microsoft Azure


On-Premise Tableau Server

  • Not a cloud solution
  • You install your own Tableau Server software in your own infrastructure behind your corporate firewalls
  • Suitable if your organisation has an enterprise BI requirement in which the application must be hosted in your organisation’s data center
  • You are responsible for the installation and maintenance of Tableau server software, operating systems and the hardware requirements
  • You can connect live to the on-premise data sources or schedule an automatic refresh

Off-Premise Tableau Server

  • Similar to the on-premise Tableau Server but you install Tableau Server at the cloud provider (e.g. Rackspace, Telstra Cloud, Amazon AWS, Microsoft Azure, etc)
  • You are responsible for the installation and maintenance of Tableau Server
  • The cloud infrastructure provider is responsible for installation and maintenance of operating systems and the hardware
  • Your organisation would like to leverage the infrastructure provided by the cloud infrastructure’s provider.
  • If your on-premise data source is hosted in the cloud infrastructure (e.g. as a private cloud), you can connect live to those data sources or schedule an automatic refresh
  • Works well with Cloud data sources and cloud applications (e.g. Salesforce, Google Big Query, Amazon Redshift, etc) – you can connect live or schedule an automatic data refresh.

So if you’re ready to jump into Cloud BI to enable your organisation’s data driven decision making, Tableau is the perfect tool. If you’re not quite there but still on the journey or even have no Cloud ambitions, rest assured that Tableau has a range of options to suit your organisation’s requirements.

Cloud BI / Cloud Analytics – The new kid on the block