Salesforce takes on Tableau

Published on the 18/06/2019 | Written by Heather Wright

Marc Benioff_salesforce acquires Tableau

On the back of Google lapping up Looker, the power plays are under way in data and analytics land…

Salesforce and Google are betting big on analytics, snapping up Tableau and Looker, respectively in multi-billion dollar deals, in what Gartner has dubbed a game changing week for the modern analytics and BI market.

Salesforce’s US$15.7 billion acquisition of Tableau is the SaaS CRM provider’s biggest ever deal – more than double the $6.5 billion it paid for enterprise software vendor Mulesoft last year – and came just a week after Google Cloud acquired cloud agnostic data analytics startup Looker – which it was already an investor in – for US$2.6 billion.

In a blog post, Gartner research vice president Rita Sallam dubbed the week of announcements ‘the week the modern analytics and BI market changed forever’.

“Salesforce and Google are capitalising on the market momentum and also responding, in part to Microsoft’s success at penetrating the enterprise with their own organically developed and Magic Quadrant leading platform, Microsoft Power BI,” Sallam says.

Salesforce and Google are capitalising on the market momentum and also responding to Microsoft’s success at penetrating the enterprise with Power BI.

Salesforce’s lack of sophisticated tools for data analytics has long been noted. Tableau is data agnostic and can be deployed on-premise or run in the cloud. The deal enables Salesforce to expand its portfolio beyond CRM software and into data visualisation, bolstering its ability to compete alongside one-stop shop giants such as Google and Microsoft.

The deal follows its purchase of Mulesoft last year, followed by its acquisition of AI-powered marketing intelligence platform Datarama (at a mere $800 million). Those two acquisitions fed into the company’s release last week of new AI-powered forecasting tools.

The company has already talking up expansion of its Einstein AI platform and Customer 360 omnichannel sales and marketing offering in the wake of the deal.

Liz Herbert, VP and principal analyst at Forrester, says the move came as no surprise, given Salesforce’s clearly stated vision to be ‘a more integrated, insights-driven solution portfolio’.

“Longer term, this has great potential for Salesforce to create more cross-cloud data visualisation aligned to its Customer360 strategy.

“In the shorter term, however, the status quo is likely to remain as Tableau customers are still only partially in the cloud and as this introduces another platform into the mix.”

Sallam, however, is less convinced, saying the rationale and strategic synergies of the Salesforce acquisition of Tableau are ‘less clear at this time’.

“Salesforce said it will announce specific product integration plans after the deal closes, but there is obvious duplication in the Salesforce Einstein Analytics and Tableau product stacks.

“This can cuase customer confusion if the two platforms remain completely separate, and potentially painful product rationalisation if they are combined. This will require careful navigation by Salesforce.”

“Data is the foundation of every digital transformation and the addition of Tableau will accelerate our ability to deliver customer success by enabling a truly unified and powerful view across all of a customer’s data,” Keith Block, Salesforce co-CEO, says.

Meanwhile, Thomas Kurian, Google Cloud CEO, says the combination of Google Cloud and Looker will enable customers to harness data in new ways to drive their digital transformations, and furthers the company’s multi-cloud commitment.

“The addition of Looker to Google Cloud will help us offer customers a more complete analytics solution from ingesting data to visualising results and integrating data and insights into their daily workflows,” he says.

“It will also help us deliver industry specific analytics solutions in our key verticals, whether that’s supply chain analytics in retailing; media analytics in entertainment; or healthcare analytics at global scale,” he says.

The companies share 350 joint customers, but Kurian says Looker customers won’t be forced to Google Cloud.

“While we deepen the integration of Looker into Google Cloud Platform (GCP), customers will continue to benefit from Looker’s multi-cloud functionality and its ability to bring together data from SaaS applications like Salesforce, Marketo, and Zendesk, as well as traditional data sources.

“This empowers companies to create a cohesive layer built on any cloud database, including Amazon Redshift, Azure SQL, Snowflake, Oracle, Microsoft SQL Server or Teradata, as well as on other public clouds, and in on-premise data centres.”

Sallam notes Google’s acquisition of Looker fills a gap in the Google analytics stack with a clear set of synergies and architectural alignment.

“CIOs will watch the combined roadmap closely for evidence that Google will continue to support and invest in Looker’s multi-cloud optimisations as promised by Google at the time the acquisition was announced.”

The Salesforce Tableau acquisition, which has been approved by both boards, is expected to close during Salesforce’s third quarter, ending October 31, subject to customary closing conditions, with the Google Looker acquisition also expected to complete later this year.

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