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July 18, 2013 at 5:30 AM

Tableau visualizes the cloud, launches hosted product

Seattle’s Tableau Software is announcing a new cloud-based version of its business intelligence tool that it’s selling via subscription.

Called Tableau Online, it’s basically a hosted version of the Tableau Server product, bringing the company, based in the Fremont neighborhood, in line with the rest of a software industry that’s moving toward hosted, subscription services.

This also puts Tableau firmly in a sweet spot for enterprise technology. Spending on analytics, collaboration and software-as-a-service products is expected to outpace overall tech spending in 2013 and 2014, according to a report this week by Forrester Research.

Tableau is pitching its cloud version as being easier and more flexible for companies to deploy. It doesn’t require software installation and is accessible via most browsers on PCs and tablets. New users can be invited via email and click to join the program.

Companies will need to think carefully about which employees get those invites, though. Tableau is charging $500 per year per user for Tableau Online, a shift from the perpetual license  sold with Tableau Server.

Tableau has already made its products mobile-friendly. Other versions run on mobile devices and, since March, it has enabled users to create reports — as well as view them — on tablets or via browsers.

Tableau Online takes mobility a step further by enabling people to access the software without requiring a secure, VPN connection. This makes it easier for mobile workers such as salespeople to use the analytics tools on their tablets, and for a company to share their Tableau reports with customers and partners outside their firewall, said Ellie Fields, director of product marketing.

Capabilities of Tableau Online are close to the on-premise versions, but it doesn’t have as many features for creating dashboards. Organizations may opt for a mix of hosted and on-premise versions, using the latter for creation, Fields said.

Tableau has been testing its hosted product for about a year with customers. At the start of this year it began offering the product to some existing customers and about 185 took the plunge.

The company has also offered a free, cloud version of its product called Tableau Public for three years. It’s a lightweight version lacking business-friendly capabilities, such as permission controls, but it helped the company cut its teeth on a hosted version of its product.

That doesn’t mean Tableau is moving to host everything. Unlike companies that have introduced cloud products and then killed on-premise versions, Tableau plans to offer both, Fields said. Customers such as government agencies and healthcare providers will continue to want an on-premise solution, she noted, and both cloud and on-premise options “can live together.”

“This is just another way to offer them another option,” she said.

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