Updated Comparison of Data Visualization tools

One of the most popular posts on this blog was a comparison of Data Visualization Tools, which originally was posted more then a year ago where I compared those best tools only qualitatively. However since then I got a lot of requests to compare those tools "quantitatively". Justification for such update were recent releases of Spotfire 4.0, Qlikview 11, Tableau 7.0 and Microsoft's Business Intelligence Stack (mostly SQL Server 2012 and PowerPivot V.2.)


However I quickly realized that such "quantitative" comparison cannot be objective. So here it is - the updated and very subjective comparison of best Data Visualization tools, as I see them at the end of 2011. I know that many people will disagree with my assessment, so if you do not like my personal opinion - please disregard it at "your own peril". I am not going to prove "numbers" below - they are just my personal assessments of those 4 technologies - I love all 4 of them. Feel free to make your own comparison and if you can share it with me - I will appreciate it very much.


Please keep in mind that I reserve the right to modify this comparison overtime if/when I will learn more about all those technologies, their vendors and usage. Criterias used in comparison below listed in 1st column and they are grouped in 3 groups: business, visualization and technical. Columns 2-5 used for my assessments of 4 technologies, last column used for my subjective weights for each criteria and last row of this worksheet has Total for each Data Visualization technology I evaluated.

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  1. Andrii Taranov18/12/11 22:40

    Hi Andrei,

    From developer perspective I've always get this steps in most BI projects:
    1. Prototyping of feature report/dashboard
    2. Data fetching for the rep/dash (olap/table/file sources) and aligning
    3. Data pre-UI calculations (when you need to calculate any behavior/color/distinguish in received data or change the logic based on filters selections etc.)
    4. UI possibilities for rep/dash visualizations (ability to do any dynamic selections, include charts in table and vise versa, ability to freely change any type/part of UI object like font/color/type etc.)
    5. Abilities to export data and/or charts/tables for any additional presentation or sharing purposes.
    6. Easy maintain of new requirements implementations, same as creation of current rep/dash documentation against implemented logic.
    7. Reuse the created rep/dash for new - using it as source of data and objects as building blocks.

    And I cant tell when can we find all this in easy of use solution :).

    Any strong side have weakness from the other side:
    1. IBM Cognos/Oracle has all - except pricing
    2. Tableu/QlikView - have many of UI and lack of metadata/parts reuse
    3. Microsoft - many in API - not so in UI
    4. From technology part - I even dont know how to compare - so big gap in pricing/scalability options between the products...

    So there are no silver bullet in BI Space, amount of workarounds are always overwhelming.

    Thanks for your Comparison - it feeds a lot of my thoughts!

  2. Hi Andrei,

    Again a very interesting article, great comparison.

    Given microsofts SSIS I wondered why microsoft scores lower on data integration than tableau. Next to this I would think tableau is better in modeling and analytics than qlikview. Could you give some clarification? I know three of these tools except spotfire and I agree on everything except those 2 things.

    Best Regards

  3. Andrei Pandre25/12/11 13:59

    1. Data Integration: Tableau has more diversified and wider support for data sources, including Aster Data nCluster, ParAccel, Sybase IQ, Vertica and others.

    2. Analytics: I actually agree with your assessment and I updated estimates accordingly, Still Spotfire is far ahead of everybody in this department.

  4. Andrei Pandre25/12/11 14:19

    Hello Andrii:

    on your last 4 points I have the following comments/opinions:

    1. IBM Cognos/Oracle: in addition to ridiculous prices they are 1 or 2 generations behind in terms of Data Visualization, so I did not include them into comparison.

    2. I suggest to spend more time learning about Tableau and Qlikview: you will see that they are very easy to use, excellent and fast for prototyping, data fetching, pre-UI calculations, leaders in UI for Data Visualization, good at exporting data, their applications easy to maintain and reuse.

    3. Microsoft so far cares more about their lucrative Office and SQL Server businesses and they do not care too much (yet) about Data Visualization market.

    4. Technological Comparison is possible (see mine above) only if you are willing to accept that it will be a very subjective. But this is known for almost 2500 years, way before computers and software were invented: Protagoras famously said that "man is the measure of all things", see it here:

  5. Sriram Kumar3/2/12 12:33

    Hi Andrei,

    This is very useful. We are in the process of evaluating Tableau vs Qlikview for embedding these tools inside our enterprise web application. Can you elaborate more on your "development" category? And throw some light on the following based on your assessment (if you evaluated their "server" deployment mode)?

    - Layout elasticity (flexibility to re-size the reports when embedded within an application)
    - Ability to pass parameters between the native application and the reports

    Based on my evaluation, I can clearly see Tableau is very supportive during the evaluation process (quick responses to questions, great forum and knowledge base). QlikView has presence in the US through partners and they are not responsive at all! SpotFire, less said the better. I just can't get access to their server for evaluation. No response from the sales team! If sales isn't interested in selling the software, I can only imagine the plight when it comes to support.


  6. Very useful! It would also be nice to see your evaluation (maybe as additional criteria, wink wink?-) of Free personal edition (QlikView) and Free reader (some others), which can sometimes lower developer and user costs.


  7. [...] http://apandre.wordpress.com/2011/12/18/dv-comparison-2011/ [...]

  8. Hi Andrei,

    This is a great analysis. We currently use Tableau Desktop (6.0 have not upgraded to 7.0). It works great for visualizing clinical and financial hospital data. We are starting to gain traction and now need to go to more of a server based approach. Also, our clients are very interested in predictive modeling.

    According to your above analysis, Spotfire "may" be a better choice for us long term. My question is: how difficult is it to re-create and build in Spotfire if all your learning and skills have been acquired developing visual sheets and dashboards in Tableau? We are a two person team (I guess that's still a team) and have spent 3 solid months building in Tableau.


  9. Andrei Pandre10/3/12 13:07

    Hi Kevin:

    To re-implement your visualizations in Spotfire will take time and it is not just learning the different UI and the different approach to visualizing, exploring and analyzing data. It may also include efforts on backend, for example if your Data are in SSAS or PowerPivot Cubes, Spotfire 4.0 cannot read it (but may be next version will be able to do to that).

    Also it make take time to tune the performance of your visualizations or you will need to change your design, because there is no one-to-one correspondence between chart types in different platforms.

    My estimate if you spent 6 man-months building in Tableau, then re-create it (with the same data) in Spotfire may take no more then 2-3 man-months, considering you have to relearn new environment. I could be wrong, so please inform me (when you done) about how long it will take - I am curious...


  10. super great blog, greatly appreciated scorecard!

  11. Great Blog, your comparision is greatly appreciated

  12. Great analysis Andrei!
    I was crunching the numbers (for subtotals) and got different numbers ... for example, the totals based i got on your numbers and weight were 408, 390, 406, 388.
    What am i missing?

    Secondly, based on you analysis (that i agree with), a solution based on Microsoft's platform with a Visualization tool such as Tableau is the way to go. What are your thoughts about that?


  13. [...] un avis plus neutre que le mien, voir la série d’article d’Andrew Pandre, surtout celui-là, en faisant attention aux dates et aux numéros de version des produits. Ça bouge très vite sur [...]

  14. Andrei. Data integration wise QV is also better. I am not sure which one you are referring. QV 11.2 or ? But When tableau can integrate, obivous, QV can do. More over Back end scripting, tableau is not so strong. No buttons, No macros for out-box requirement in Tableau. I feel ratings are high for tableau. Even gartner says QV, Spot fire and then tableau. I do accept, visual UI is great in tableau. But look at performance. If you have too many parameters in tableau, report hangs. Handling of huge data always a problem. You need star schema in tableau. Having worked for 4 yrs in QV and learning both tableau and spot fire, i was not able to accept all ratings. Still lot more features has to be included which are missing.