My personal review of a few top Business Intelligence tools

The Business Intelligence Space changes every year but some things remain the same. Here’s my reviews of some of the most common BI software in the market; some I have used extensively.


Top Dogs: (aka expensive enterprise software)

  • MicroStrategy
  • Cognos
  • Oracle BI / OBIEE
  • SAP Business Objects

Mid-Tier: (mid-priced, BI software for mid-cap companies)

  • Tableau
  • Sql Server Reporting Suite/ Sql Server Data Tools (SSRS/SSDT/SSDT-BI) , whatever Microsoft decide to names it.
  • Looker
  • Domo
  • Qwikview
  • GoodData
  • LogiAnalytics

Free (Open Source) : (some are semi free)

  • Jaspersoft
  • Pentaho
  • Kibana
  • Druid

These are all my opinion and only how I feel based on working with the software. I’ll write this up like awards by category:

Worst BI Software Still Used by Big Corporations: 

  • Business Objects: The entirely of SAP Business Objects  software list is consisting BO buying smaller  BI companies  back in the 90’s and early 2000s’ and rebranding them. None of the products work well and many of the tools do the same thing (Webi/Crystal). It’s remarkably hard  to setup, but they sell you consulting services with the tools.
  • Cognos : gets second place. It’s a IBM owned product similar to SAP owned BOBJ in many ways. However more solid, less buggy than BO and fairly well supported. Not much innovation since company got purchased by IBM in 2008.

Best BI Software Used by Big Corporations: 

  • MicroStrategy : I’m biased because I worked at MicroStrategy. However, this tool is rock solid when setup correctly. It never crashes; they grew organically and never tried to buy other companies to incorporate features into the product. MSTR is however fairly expensive, very complex to learn,  and only affordable by large-cap corporations. It’s got a ton of features and super complex/expensive software licensing model. Great support and training teams.
  • Oracle BI: It’s not bad if you’re already on the Oracle database platform. It extends BI reporting and dash-boarding. Nothing special or spectacular by any means. It has the Oracle support enterprises need the 24/7 support feature.

Mid-Tier: Worst

  • SQL Server / PowerBI etc: If Micro$oft could decide to stick with one and not make a new BI product every 2 years. Is it SSRS? or PowerBI or what? It generally works okay assuming you’re on the MSFT boat of tools: SQL Server, Sharepoint, Excel and Azure. SSIS keeps changing which annoys ETL guys. It does not have good integration with non Microsoft products on purpose.
  • Logi Analytics : it’s not bad; but to use it well requires you need to be very familiar with Microsoft .net programming.

Mid-Tier: Best

  • Looker :  Looker is amazing. For data engineers and database developers who can architect a proper schema. Looker has some of the quickest integration path to setup a nice BI portal/embedded data product. It is however lacking in visualization libraries and UI could use more polish. It’s a well made product on the rise.
  • Tableau :  Tableau gets a close second to Looker. Tableau’s strength is it’s visualization library, data exploration and ultra ease of use for non-technicals to analyze data. Tableau Server is however, not as robust as the MicroStrategy/Cognos BI portals of the world.

Free-Tier: Worst

  • JapserSoft:  This one’s ‘free’ and open source.  But it’s not easy to use , it’s wysiwyg isn’t great to use. It’s  free and that is the highest selling point. It doesn’t do anything well. It’s really a freemium product for cheap companies to get locked in.
  • Pentaho : it’s free, it works okay. It’s not great; but it’s free. It looks pretty bad. However, it integrates well with Kettle etl. It’s super simple BI tool but slow, bloated with bad UI.

Free-Tier: Best

  • Apache Kibana : this is free(open source) as it gets.  It is used with elastic search and often clumped with the hadoop/spark to analyze big data sets. I think it’s more useful for log data. Not sure of BI slice and dice analysis yet. I am currently looking into it.
  • Apache Druid: This is another (open source free) one that I know can do slice and dice analysis. It’s an insanely fast columnar store that’s scaleable to Petabytes. Downside is I think it requires a distributed data store (Hadoop/spark) for realization the full power of Druid.


I didn’t get to evaluate or dig far enough into some of the newer BI tools that are popular:

  • Domo : I think the key feature here is data federation.
  • Splunk : large logs of data to analyze
  • Quikview: (update this later)
  • Gooddata: (update this later)
  • SiSense:  (update this later)
  • Alteryx:  (update this later)
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