Looker is a web-based BI platform focused on providing a governed, standardized and trusted view on data. This consistency is achieved by using a data description language (LookML) to create a metadata layer across required data sources. Looker is particularly strong in embedding scenarios and for creating interactive visualizations.
Looker was founded in 2012 in Santa Cruz, CA, and has grown quite quickly since then. The vendor already had about 200 employees in 2015 and now employs over 550 people across eight locations. With the opening of the UK office in 2015, Looker started to grow its business in Europe. An impressive 1600 customers are already using its product. Looker is backed by nine investors with total funding of $180 mn to date.
Looker began developing its product – an integrated solution for business intelligence and embedded analytics – in 2012.
Looker pursues a direct approach to analytics as it is convinced that traditional BI approaches restrict the use of analytics within companies. With classical BI, Looker claims that only a limited group of users (e.g., analysts) have access to data and the ability to perform ad hoc analysis. Another disadvantage it sees in current BI platforms is the aggregation and lack of availability of row-level detail. As a result, Looker has designed a product which relies strongly on a central and virtual metadata layer created using LookML, its proprietary data description language (abstraction layer on top of SQL). Business users connect to data via this virtual layer, allowing them to do ad hoc analysis via a point-and-click interface.
Looker is a modern web-based application which can be deployed on premises and in the cloud. It uses Ubuntu Linux as its underlying operating system. When running the product in the cloud, customers can use the platform of their choice. Most use Amazon AWS but some opt for Microsoft Azure or Google Cloud Platform.
User & Use Cases
Lookers customer and usage profile is quite interesting. Most of Lookers respondents are rather smaller companies with a mean of 321 and median of 200 employees. With that size the customers used the change to deploy Looker quite widely throughout the company as 42 percent of employees use Looker compared to 17 percent of the whole Survey. The rather broad demographics indicate that the customers seem to use Looker as their only BI solution.
Looker strongly emphasizes its central meta data layer created with LookML which is used to access the underlying data sources. This strong centralization is reflected in rather viewing, navigating tasks performed by users. One further core principle is to give business users the access to the layer and therefore freedom for creation of own queries and reports. Detailed analyses show that 20 percent of Lookers respondents came for the IT industry which is one of the highest value for a product and this industry in this Survey. IT folks cherish standardized and governed solutions which support the single point of truth. With 80 percent of respondents compared at 52 percent of the whole Survey this seems to have worked out.
Current vs. planned use
5 products most often evaluated in competition with Looker
Percentage of employees using Looker
Number of users using Looker
Tasks carried out with Looker by business users
Company size (number of employees)