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Tableau's database vision quest

For a small Seattle startup, the future rests on a new invention designed to make data management easy on the eyes -- and the minds -- of DBAs.

If the folks at Tableau Software have their way, a visual revolution will be on the horizon in the way their customers use database technology.

Tableau, based in Seattle, Wash., is set to release a new invention that they call VizQL, a visual query language that their president, Christian Chabot, said will mean a new way of using database technology every flavor of data store, including MySQL, DB2 OLAP, Microsoft Access, SQL Server, text files, and even Excel.

The support for these databases will arrive when the product launches and the end of March, and Chabot said support for Oracle will arrive a few months later.

Chabot explained that VizQL is designed to tackle one of the biggest problems in data management today: Too much data and no way to efficiently picture it all.

"In 1995, everywhere you went people were saying 'we have to collect data.' Today they have more data than they know what to do with," Chabot said.

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Enter VizQL, which Chabot said marries queries to visualization in a way that has not existed to date. The result is more immediate insight into key business information that could be easily overlooked in millions of rows and columns of data.

"The key is visual analysis," Chabot said. "What if anyone in the company of any technical background could query any database of any subject of any query language?"

VizQL, he said, takes business intelligence out of the metric group and makes it accessible to anyone in the organization using a drag and drop interface. The tables created by VizQL are not snapshots, Chabot explained, but live data accessed by a live visual menu.

Noel Yuhanna, an analyst with Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research, said the bottom line with database management today is that customers are looking for simpler, easier tools to query their data.

VizQL does include more visual query tools, but Yuhanna believes the next layer to be applied to database technology will be intelligence tools.

"Intelligence tools understand what the data is all about and how to deliver it," Yuhanna said. "Query tools are somewhat obsolete now."

Yuhanna said that with the current tool set today, DBAs still have to figure out what data needs to be integrated and then how to do analysis on that data.

"There's a lot of hard work still required behind the scenes, but users still want their data available quickly and with the least amount of effort," Yuhanna said.

Chabot said VizQL will eliminate the "sit and stare" environment that queries currently produce with administrators. In the future, he predicts that there will be a live interactive environment that will allow users of all skill levels "dive into their databases" in real time.

Pricing for VizQL Standard Edition, which supports MS Access and text files, is $999.00 and includes one year of maintenance. The Professional Edition, which supports Excel, Access, text files, MySQL and MySQL Server, Hyperion Essbase and IBM DB2 OLAP is $1,799.00 and includes on year of software maintenance.

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