AWS QuickSight

by | Dec 8, 2016

Ben-Lee-MagnetLast month Amazon Web Services (AWS) have made their Business Intelligence (BI) solution QuickSight generally available for all customers. They describe it like this:

“QuickSight is a fast, cloud-powered business analytics service that makes it easy for you to build visualizations, perform ad-hoc analysis, and quickly get business insights from your data.”

I had an opportunity this week to try it out for a proof of concept. Like all things AWS, you can get to it from the AWS Console.
At the time of writing this product is only available in N Virginia, Oregon and Ireland. I’m sure like other AWS products it will eventually be released everywhere.
Like all good users, I jumped in without reading the documentation properly, below are my initial observations:

  • There is reasonable support for data sources at the moment. Biggest omissions are; no Oracle, JSON and XML. The supported data sources are below:
    • Amazon Redshift
    • Amazon Aurora (Amazon RDS only)
    • MariaDB 10.0 or later
    • Microsoft SQL Server 2012 or later
    • MySQL 5.1 or later
    • PostgreSQL 9.3.1 or later
    • Microsoft Excel files (.xlsx files) on your local network
    • Delimited text files (for example, .csv and .tsv files) on your local network or in Amazon S3
    • Common log format (.clf) and extended log format (.elf) files on your local network or in Amazon S3
    • Salesforce
  • The data limits currently imposed on QuickSight should not cause issues in most situations, they are:
    • File imports limited to 1GB
      • Files can have up to 200 columns, with up to 25400 characters per row
    • Field length limitation of 511 characters
    • Max DB table import limit 10GB
    • Supported data types are below, one interesting point, however, is that if the data for a field is invalid then it is omitted from the data loaded into memory, for example:
      • Date (In a supported format)
      • Decimal (Only 4 decimal places is supported the rest truncated)
      • Integer
      • String
  • User & Access Management is very basic. Everything is done on a per-user basis using IAM users.
  • The UI needs a lot more polish, for example:
    • It lacks the intuitive feel a lot of other tools seem to have.
      • It feels like the drive to keep the UI simple has actually complicated things.
      • Tooltips would be handy to improve the experience.
    • There were general bugs in the UI. A couple examples below
      • I could not see values that I had converted to a measure as the allocated space to display them was too small
      • When previewing data if you have more columns than could fit on a page there is no obvious way to view what fit on the screen
  • Graph Customisation options are limited
  • Data Filter abilities are limited
  • You can not join across different data sources
  • You can connect to remote databases not hosted by AWS which is a very rare feature for a cloud offering
  • There is capability to create dashboards

Based on the observations above, AWS still have a lot of work before I would consider it for a real project.
All the code, all the fun – Ben

About Ben

Ben writes blogs about the technical side of Business Intelligence and the code behind the scenes. 
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