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Amazon QuickSight: Simple, Low-cost, Powerful Business Analytics?

Companies analyze mounds of data to make informed business decisions on a daily basis. Even small businesses are using data-driven dashboards to analyze business intelligence (BI) metrics to help boost company performance. When more people are able to access this data, every department can benefit, from HR to Accounting to Sales and more.

Now, for the latest twist: Many software companies are moving to lock you into monthly or annual subscriptions -- regardless of how much or how frequently you consume the subscription services. But once again, Amazon is taking a different approach -- this time with a BI tool for AWS called Amazon QuickSight. In fact, the cloud giant now offers  company pay-per-session pricing for BI platform.

Amazon QuickSight dashboards start at $0.30 per 30-minute session -- up to a maximum of $5 per user per month, and is available in Amazon QuickSight Enterprise Edition in all supported AWS regions. There are no upfront costs, no annual commitments, and no charges for inactive users.

What Is Amazon QuickSight Business Analytics?

Amazon QuickSight is a cloud-powered, business analytics service that makes allows all users within an organization—regardless of their technical skill—to build visualizations, perform ad-hoc analysis, and obtain BI from the available data.

QuickSight features, according to Amazon, include:

  • Ability to choose your data source - You can upload CSV or Excel files; ingest data from AWS data sources such as Amazon Redshift, Amazon RDS, Amazon Aurora, Amazon Athena, Amazon S3, and Amazon EMR (Presto and Apache Spark); connect to databases like SQL Server, MySQL, and PostgreSQL, in the cloud or on-premises; or connect to SaaS applications like Salesforce, ServiceNow, Adobe Analytics, and JIRA, Amazon says.
  • SPICE – The Super-fast, Parallel, In-memory, Calculation Engine - Built from the ground up for the cloud, Amazon QuickSight’s so-called Super-fast, Parallel, In-memory, Calculation Engine (SPICE) uses a combination of columnar storage, in-memory technologies enabled through hardware, machine code generation, and data compression to allow users to run interactive queries on large datasets and get rapid responses. SPICE supports calculations that help customers derive insights from their analysis without provisioning or managing infrastructure. SPICE automatically replicates data for high availability and also enables Amazon QuickSight to scale to thousands of users who can all simultaneously perform analysis across numerous AWS data sources, Amazon claims.
  • Smart visualizations - Amazon QuickSight comes with a built-in suggestion engine that provides you with recommended visualizations based on the properties of the underlying datasets. Suggestions serve as possible first or next steps of an analysis and remove the time-consuming task of interrogating and understanding the schema of your data. As you drill into your data, Amazon QuickSight provides the most appropriate graph types to visualize your data using AutoGraph, a collection of algorithms that learn over time the best visualizations that match your analytical patterns, Amazon asserts.
  • Sharing and collaboration - QuickSight allows you to share business insights by packaging them up as interactive stories that you can share with others. Using the Story feature in QuickSight, you can combine visualizations into business dashboards and share in a secure manner with individuals or broad groups in your organization, Amazon says.

Smaller IT service providers already leverage multiple tools to bolster business and technology performance. Offerings like BrightGauge, MSPCFO and numerous PSA (professional services automation) platforms come to mind. We'll be watching to see if enterprise-class cloud services extend additional BI tools into the midmarket and small business partner sectors.

Additional insights from Joe Panettieri.