Datazen Review Summary
Datazen, as of April 2015, is a Microsoft company providing a platform for mobile business intelligence. What this means in practice is that users can build dashboards and KPIs, publish them to a central repository, and with the relevant permissions, users can view and interact with them on a mobile device or through a web browser. This is not a competitor for the likes of Tableau or Qlik Sense, but is much more focused on providing production oriented data visualizations to business users. Microsoft Power BI is the platform for data exploration, discovery and visualization.
While Datazen is to some extent data agnostic, it inevitably works very well with various SQL Server variants, and of course SQL Server Analysis Services for multidimensional analysis. Excel data is also well supported. Users connect to data sources, create dashboards and KPIs on a Windows platform , and these can then be published to the Datazen Server for distribution. Native apps are available for Android, iOS and Windows Phone. Dashboards can be viewed offline (once they have been downloaded to the mobile device), and once online they are refreshed and support drill down and through functionality. Collaboration is also supported through the ability to add comments to KPIs and dashboards.
The obvious question is where does this fit with Power BI. Some speculate that Datazen will be integrated into the Power BI ecosystem, but Microsoft has hinted that Datazen will be made to work alongside Power BI, possibly offering a platform for mobile access to Power BI visualizations. Either way, Datazen addresses a very specific need – mobile access to KPIs and dashboards in a manner that is secure, performant and user friendly.
The creation of dashboards and KPIs begins in Datazen Publisher. This allows users to design the visualizations without connection to data, and Publisher obliges by supplying simulated data. Once the design is complete the use can connect to the various data sources. Or a connection can be made to the data sources and visualizations built using real data. Once a visualization is completed it can be published to the Datazen Server, where data is encrypted and authorization and security are implemented. The server then publishes the visualizations to those authorized to see them – typically on a mobile device.
Consumers of visualizations can view either offline or online, and an activity stream is associated with each KPI and dashboard. This supports comments and an audit trail of usage and modifications. The visualizations are automatically scaled and presented in a format suitable for the viewing device, and users of Windows can tile and pin visualizations to the start screen.
KPIs can be associated with any number of dashboards, with full support for drill down and analysis of various metrics.
The Datazen Server is deployed on-premises and supports Windows authentication. Datazen Server Control Panel enables system administrators to configure the product to integrate with their IT environment. This includes user management and connections to various data source types. Dashboard publishers use Datazen Server Control Panel to create new data views, create and manage Dashboard Hubs & Dashboard Groups, as well as set access permissions for the dashboards they published.
The run-time environment uses clever caching mechanisms to ensure good performance. This means only the data needed for a particular task is loaded for processing, so that very large data sets can be used and still provide adequate response times.
The Datazen Server is installed within the IT environment. Windows Server, IIS and .NET are the prerequisites. Supported data sources include Microsoft SQL Server ,Microsoft SQL Server Analysis Services, Microsoft SQL Azure, Microsoft SharePoint Lists, Excel documents in network shares and generic ODBC data sources.