New plug and play applications highlight Looker 6 platform release

BI provider Looker is kicking off their JOIN 2018 event in San Francisco with the launch of the latest version of their platform

The new use of colour in Looker 6

At their JOIN 2018 event in San Francisco, business intelligence and analytics vendor Looker is announcing Looker 6, their latest platform release. While new enterprise features have been added, the most interesting news here is likely new plug and play applications for Looker, starting with digital marketing and data analytics, and with more on the way.

It has been a big year for Looker, as the company has built considerable momentum on several fronts.

“On the business side, things continue to grow at a rapid clip,” said Daniel Mintz, Looker’s Chief Data Evangelist. “We now have over 1600 customers, and over 600 employees, and we just opened a Tokyo office. As of June, IBM is now reselling us.

“We are announcing Looker for Good, through which we are pledging one per cent of our product and our employees’ time,”Mintz noted. “We will be announcing the first recipient of our pledge at JOIN. We will be offering non-profits a discount that makes Looker very affordable for them – 40 per cent off for all non-profit licenses, and $10,000 for small non-profits.”

Mintz then reviewed the evolution of the platform.

“Looker 5 last year was all about making the platform pieces easy to use,” he said. “Since then, we have focused on embedded analytics, including  our Google Cloud BigQuery ML integration , and improving usability for business users. Looker 6 is focused on three pieces. The first is our platform. Having a single platform has a real advantage over just having tools. The second is ownership – focusing on the competitive edge by getting value from data rather than by finding IT people to keep things up and running.  The third is experiences, bringing people and relevant data together at the point of their need.”

On the platform side, the focus continues to be on helping analysts accelerate data modelling.

“We are bringing tools of software engineering to data analytics, and continue to build that out with new functionality,” Mintz said. “We have added Git folders, remote project import, more granular field permissions, and have added unit testing added to the Data validator. We have also added support for MongoDB.”

They have also strengthened their Powered by Looker embedded offering.

“We now give admins and developers more things they can do with this,” Mintz said. “The enhancement is quite significant.” Mintz indicated that Looker’s embedded business was a very significant part of their business, and is growing at a brisk rate.

“We have also enhanced the platform security with SOC 2 Type II and a revamped encryption key management, and we are moving to point where the customer can manage the key management themselves.”

As part of Looker’s global expansion, the platform will also be localized in Japanese, French or German in early 2019.

“The infrastructure for this will have been done, so adding new languages will just be a matter of translation at that point,” Mintz said. “We will then add more languages later in 2019.”

The enhancement of ownership involves making it easier for people to find what they need.

“We built a whole new set of dashboards so admins can see how the product is being used,” Mintz said. “In addition, while some customers host Looker themselves, most are hosted, so we are striving for better SLAs on response time and uptime. We have added in-language support, as well as a community element, by creating meetups in a lot of cities for folks to get together. In addition, we have revamped our documentation and user guide.”

The experiences enhancements are mainly about improved ease of use.

“We have added new custom fields for business users to add measures and logic without having to write code, and enhanced the scheduler and alerting,” Mintz said. “We also make better use of colour than we did before.”

Last, and certainly not least, are the new applications.

“They are a very big thing,” Mintz said. “An application is an off-the-shelf experience, specialized for a user or use case, within the larger Looker platform. Rather than have 100 customers all build their own version of a marketing analytics tool, we build the application for them, and prepopulated it with content.”

Mintz emphasized the plug and play nature of the new applications.

“It’s all customizable, without starting from scratch,” he said. “You can set up the marketing one in less than an hour. It doesn’t look like a BI tool. Digital marketers are huge users of data, but that data is typically very siloed. Bringing that data together and connecting it with broader data warehousing is hard, but that’s the problem we set out to solve. It will enable them to do things like see which ad words are having the most impact.”

The digital marketing application has been betaed by dozens of customers.

The other application available at launch is a Web Analytics application to enhance insights and value from Google Analytics reports.

“It can be expanded by being linked with other sales and marketing data,” Mintz said.

The pricing structure for the applications is still being worked out, but they will be separate products. Mintz indicated the complex part will be how it works for customers who have bought the whole platform, as opposed to ones who just want the application.

“There are a couple more applications in the pipeline, including sales analytics and analytics to help understand cloud spend,” he added.

Mintz indicated that they expect to see channel partners build productized applications of their own.

“Right now, we are the only ones building them, but we don’t think that will be the case in a year,” he said. “We expect to see partners building them as well.”