Google Cloud consolidates analytics tools as Looker

Looker is now Google Cloud’s primary analytics platform.

On Tuesday at Google Cloud Next 2022, the tech giant’s virtual user conference, Google Cloud revealed that it was unifying its cache of business intelligence tools under the name Looker and launched a new tool that now makes part of the Looker suite.

Google Cloud acquired Looker, a data and analytics provider founded in 2012 for $2.6 billion, in June 2019, just days before Salesforce bought Tableau for $15.7 billion.

Since then, the tech giant has slowly integrated Looker with other Google tools, starting in 2020 with full support for the Google Marketing Analytics suite.

More recently, Looker has been integrated with Data Studio and Connected Sheets, which are also analytics platforms under the Google Cloud umbrella.

Betting on Looker

A fear every time a business is acquired is that it loses the vitality that was worth acquiring in the first place. In Looker’s case, this was its semantic data modeling capability, which allows developers to define their organization’s data and analytics assets to ensure consistent interpretations.

Last month, Google added three new features to the Google Cloud Platform (GCP) data management and analytics portfolio. Looker was never mentioned in conjunction with the general availability of BigLake and Analytics Hub, which were both in preview, and the introduction of Log Analytics in Cloud Logging, which is now in preview.

This reinforced fears that Looker would end up getting lost in the sprawling world of Google Cloud.

“It’s a big announcement, and Looker isn’t mentioned at all,” Donald Farmer, founder and director of TreeHive Strategy, said in September. “Why isn’t he here – what’s Looker’s future?”

But now, rather than losing its identity and vitality, Google is not only integrating Looker with other Google Cloud features, but the tech giant is also signaling that Looker will be the face of its business analytics suite.

On Tuesday, Google Cloud renamed Data Studio, which launched in 2016 and is a free tool primarily used for data visualization. The tool is now called Looker Studio, demonstrating that Google Cloud is prioritizing the Looker brand, according to Doug Henschen, analyst at Constellation Research.

“Google is doubling down on the Looker brand name and ending, once and for all, speculation that the Looker name will disappear,” he said. “By transferring what used to be ‘Google Data Studio’ to Looker’s portfolio, the company is signaling that it is investing in analytics and intends to have a portfolio that caters to broad self-service as well as deep requirements of the company.”

Similarly, Enterprise Strategy Group analyst Mike Leone noted that Data Studio’s rebranding to the Looker name is evidence of Google Cloud’s prioritization of Looker.

“Looker Studio’s announcement underscores how important Looker is to Google Cloud,” he said. “You can’t have a comprehensive data and analytics strategy without an offering to enable business intelligence and analytics at scale, let alone a solution that integrates tightly with big data services. which are part of the Google Cloud data cloud.”

A new version

In addition to renaming Data Studio, Google Cloud unveiled Looker Studio Pro, a professional version of Looker Studio that includes collaboration features and will soon include integration with Dataplex – a data management environment – which enables data lineage and metadata visibility.

“Looker Studio Pro is an important addition to the portfolio as it adds enterprise-focused functionality,” Henschen said. “This is a significant step up from Looker Studio for large organizations with many employees.”

As Google Cloud adds functionality to Looker Studio Pro, the tool could become an option for users of competing platforms such as Qlik, Tableau and Microsoft Power BI, Henschen added.

Looker, which has always touted the openness of its platform, works in concert with other data and analytics platforms and even has integration with Tableau. But Studio Pro has the potential to draw business customers away from some of Looker’s competitors.

“As Studio Pro matures, I could see it presenting an alternative to today’s self-service BI incumbents,” Henschen said. “At the same time, Google is reinforcing with these announcements that customers will be free to use products like Tableau and Power BI with the Looker semantic layer. This is consistent with Google’s message about openness and choice.”

More capabilities

Beyond the renaming of Data Studio and the introduction of Looker Studio Pro, Google Cloud launched Looker (Google Cloud core) as a preview.

The new version of Looker is available in Google Cloud Console and is designed to be integrated with other GCP infrastructure services such as security and system administration.

Additionally, Google Cloud revealed that an integration between Looker and Google Sheets is now in preview with general availability expected in the first half of 2023, and unveiled a new partnership with analytics startup Sisu Data..

Sisu uses augmented intelligence and machine learning capabilities to monitor key metrics of change, explain why those changes occurred, and prescribe what to do to address those changes.

And with a focus on business intelligence – using AI and machine learning to inform automation – the partnership will give Looker customers access to capabilities that complement what Looker provides. already, according to Leone.

“This partnership is also another example of Google Cloud’s openness and flexibility in giving organizations the choice between some of Looker’s augmented analytics capabilities and Sisu’s business intelligence platform,” said Leone.

In the meantime, in summary, the new Looker and Looker Studio releases and integrations are part of Google Cloud’s efforts to create a connected ecosystem for data, according to Gerrit Kazmaier, vice president and general manager of databases, data analytics and Looker at Google Cloud.

“It’s really important that we move from data silos to an open data cloud,” he said during a session with the media. “Moving to an open data cloud…unifies working with data in all data formats, across all clouds, for all possible workloads, and for all styles of analysis. An open data cloud enables a connected ecosystem.”

Individually, however, while neither the launch of Looker (Google Cloud core) nor the integrations with Google Sheets and Sisu represent cutting-edge innovation, they are nonetheless significant, according to Henschen.

“This is a statement that Google intends to have a credible enterprise analytics platform and portfolio, and that’s Looker,” he said. .

Need AI

The platform, however, lacks comprehensiveness when it comes to augmented analytics capabilities, Henschen continued.

Tableau and Power BI added features like automated data storytelling, and analytics provider ThoughtSpot built its entire platform around natural language processing.

Looker now has a feature called Ask Looker that lets users ask questions in natural language and integrates with BigQuery AutoML, but Looker lacks the full augmented analytics capabilities of its peers, according to Henschen.

“The area where Looker has lagged is in augmented capabilities,” he said. “Ask Looker functionality and integration with BigQuery AutoML helps, but they can’t just rely on partnerships with companies like Sisu for deeper augmented capabilities.”

As a result, an acquisition or concentrated investment in AI and ML development is likely, Henschen continued.

“If they are not ready to acquire a Sisu, Tellius [an AI analytics specialist] or ThoughtSpot, I would expect to see a more organic development of augmented capabilities,” he said. “It’s Google, after all, so customers will expect a healthy slice of AI with their BI and analytics.

Editor’s note: Enterprise Strategy Group is a division of TechTarget

About Bradley J. Bridges

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