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Google Cloud consolidates analytics tools under Looker name

The tech giant renamed Data Studio, its primary BI platform before its acquisition of Looker, and unveiled a new enterprise version of the rebranded platform.

Looker is now Google Cloud's primary analytics platform.

On Tuesday during Google Cloud Next 2022, the tech giant's virtual user conference, Google Cloud revealed a unification of its business intelligence tools under the Looker name and launched a new tool that is now part of the Looker suite.

Google Cloud acquired Looker, a data and analytics vendor 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, beginning in 2020 with full support for the Google Marketing Platform's Analytics suite.

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

Betting on Looker

One fear whenever a company gets acquired is that it will lose the vitality that made it worth acquiring in the first place. In the case of Looker, that was its semantic data modeling capability, which lets developers define their organizations' data and analytics assets to ensure consistent interpretations.

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

That reinforced concerns that Looker would eventually get lost in Google Cloud's sprawling universe.

"This is a big announcement, and Looker isn't mentioned at all," Donald Farmer, founder and principal of TreeHive Strategy, said in September. "Why isn't it there -- what's the future of Looker?"

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

On Tuesday, Google Cloud rebranded Data Studio, which was launched in 2016 and is a free tool primarily used for data visualization. The tool is now called Looker Studio, which demonstrates 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 is laying to rest, once and for all, speculation that the Looker name will go away," he said. "By moving what was 'Google Data Studio' into the Looker portfolio, the company is signaling that it is investing in analytics and intends to have a portfolio that addresses broad self-service as well as deep enterprise requirements."

Likewise, Mike Leone, an analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group, noted that the rebranding of Data Studio to carry the Looker name is evidence of Google Cloud's prioritization of Looker.

"The Looker Studio announcement highlights just how important Looker is to Google Cloud," he said. "You can't have a holistic data and analytics strategy without an offering to enable business intelligence and analytics at scale, never mind one that integrates tightly with the broad data services that are part of the Google Cloud's data cloud."

A new version

In addition to renaming Data Studio, Google Cloud unveiled Looker Studio Pro, an enterprise-grade version of Looker Studio. It includes collaboration capabilities and will soon add an integration with Dataplex -- an environment for data management -- that enables data lineage and metadata visibility.

"Looker Studio Pro is an important addition to the portfolio because it adds enterprise-focused features," Henschen said. "That's an important step up from Looker Studio for larger organizations with many employees."

Google is doubling down on the Looker brand name and is laying to rest, once and for all, speculation that the Looker name will go away.
Doug HenschenAnalyst, Constellation Research

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 an integration with Tableau. But Studio Pro has the potential to attract enterprise 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 the likes of Tableau and Power BI with the Looker semantic layer. That's consistent with Google's messaging around openness and choice."

More capabilities

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

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

In addition, Google Cloud revealed that an integration between Looker and Google Sheets is now in preview, with general availability expected during 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 for changes, explain why those changes occurred, and prescribe methods to address those changes.

And with its focus on decision intelligence -- the use of AI and machine learning to inform automation -- the partnership will give Looker customers access to capabilities that complement what Looker already provides, according to Leone.

"This partnership is also another example of Google Cloud embracing openness and flexibility by giving organizations a choice between some of Looker's augmented analytics capabilities and Sisu's decision intelligence platform," Leone said.

Meanwhile, taken in sum, the new versions of Looker and Looker Studio, along with the integrations, are part of Google Cloud's effort 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 go from data silos to an open data cloud," he said during a media session. "Going to an open data cloud … unifies working with data across 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 nevertheless significant, according to Henschen.

"This is a statement announcement that Google intends to have a credible analytics platform and portfolio for business, and it is Looker," he said.

In need of AI

The platform, however, lacks comprehensive augmented analytics capabilities, Henschen continued.

Tableau and Power BI have added capabilities such as automated data storytelling, and analytics vendor ThoughtSpot has 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 it integrates with BigQuery AutoML. But Looker lacks the comprehensive augmented analytics capabilities of its peers, according to Henschen.

"The area where Looker has been behind has been on augmented capabilities," he said. "The Ask Looker feature and Integration with BigQuery AutoML help. But they can't just rely on partnerships with the likes of Sisu for deeper augmented capabilities."

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

"If they're not prepared to acquire a Sisu, Tellius [an AI analytics specialist] or ThoughtSpot, I would expect to see 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.

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