Will Datazen Suffer the Fate of ProClarity?
Microsoft is famous for providing a multitude of tools, technologies and techniques to satisfy a particular need. With the recently announced acquisition of Datazen, we now have another Dashboard tool/platform option to add to the current product constellation which includes PerformancePoint, Excel, SharePoint (on-prem and on-line) and Power BI.
Options are good right? Generally yes, assuming we have some good options in the mix. However, it’s not easy to know which of these options will hit the “sweet spot” for capabilities, cost and control? Considerations should not be limited to current needs. One must also consider which technology will survive and thrive over the long-term.
Yes, there are many paths up the mountain but the view from the top is not the same. When selecting a Dashboard solution set, picking the right path for your company requires two things:
- Knowledge of your dashboard requirements
- Comprehensive understanding of all the options available from Microsoft and how well each of the options can fulfil your requirements.
Personally, I’m very optimistic about the Datazen acquisition but we have seen what can happen when Microsoft acquires a really promising product. The result is not always what we hope for. Remember ProClarity before it became PerformancePoint? Not only did Microsoft dramatically curtail the innovation of this product, the product actually lost important functionality post-acquisition.
So what are Microsoft’s motivations behind this acquisition? It seems unlikely that Microsoft acquired Datazen because it wants to kill it. More likely is that Microsoft now has an answer for customers who: a. Need a mobile-first solution, b. Choose to host their dashboard solutions on premise, and c. Do not want to use SharePoint for this. Ok, check, check and check. A nice side benefit for Microsoft is the acquisition of the Datazen development team. All up, this looks like a great move for Microsoft. To read more about what Microsoft and Datazen are saying about this, there is a MS Blog or a blog from Datazen.
Microsoft is saying that this acquisition complements its Power BI strategy, but what does this mean? Yes, it does provide customers with and on premise mobile dashboard solution but what is the integration story here? How will it work with Excel (with Power Query, Power Pivot and PowerView)? Will it support Power Designer as an authoring environment? It is too early to know how, when or if this level of cross-tool support will come about. If integration of the Power BI tool set does not happen rather quickly, I believe that both Microsoft and its customers will miss out on a huge opportunity. Instead of a truly robust and comprehensive solution, we’ll be left with an even more confusing assortment of solution options that don’t play well together.
From my perspective, this move is potentially good for some of our current clients who desperately want to brand their dashboard solutions and they want the ability to embed dashboards within custom web applications. While these capabilities will be available through Power BI in the future, Datazen offers these capabilities today.
From the dashboard end user perspective, the Datazen is comparable with Power BI, but is further along in terms of maturity. However, the Power BI platform is evolving really quickly and will soon catch up. Here are some visual comparisons:
I have yet to spin up a Datazen server environment but this is on my list of near-term priorities. I like the direction Microsoft is going with Power BI, and as a solution developer, I love the capabilities that are available on the platform today, and it keeps getting better. I’m looking forward to exploring Datazen to see how it compares.
Consistent with Microsoft’s current “take no prisoners” approach to pricing, if you own SQL Server (enterprise) you get Datazen for free. The viewer and publishing/authoring tools are free as well, and are available for download today. Note that the authoring tool, Datazen Publisher is only available on Windows 8 and 8.1. The viewer app is available on Windows, iOS, Android and access is also available through browsers supporting HTML5.
So if you are contemplating a dashboard solution for your organization, which path is best? One can probably assume that PerformancePoint is a dead end. If you are need an on premise solution, Power BI sites will not fill this need any time soon. In this case Datazen may be your best bet, but stay tuned.