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Tableau Adds Subscription Pricing: Is It Good For You?

by Cindi Howson  |  April 13, 2017  |  1 Comment

Last week, Tableau announced new subscription based pricing for on-premises software.  The new model lowers the entry price for users, but is it a good deal?

Many BI and analytic vendors use perpetual licensing plus an annual support fee. Historically, SAS was one of the few vendors that only offered subscription pricing. I have always liked this approach from the customer viewpoint:  if the software is not meeting your requirements, you stop paying. It keeps the vendor continuing to engage with and satisfy you, the customer. And it takes the whole concept of “shelfware” largely out of the equation.

And yet, overtime, subscription-based pricing can be more expensive. This is a lot like the lease versus buy debate you may have with your car. If you are a new car fan (like my husband), you want to lease as you may change cars every two to three years. If you only change your car when it’s on its last legs (like me), you’d rather buy.  So as you approach these BI investment decisions: think about if you are in it for the short term or longer term. Besides the total cost of ownership over the term of the lease (or the buy plus maintenance), this is a financial decision of whether you’d rather incur an operating expense or capital expense. The move to cloud has increased the prevalence of subscription-based pricing, but many on premises BI vendors also now use a subscription-based licensing model. With some BI vendors, subscription is the only licensing option.

Beyond the subscription versus perpetual considerations, also consider named user licensing versus enterprise or server-based. Tableau does not publish their server-based pricing so has not disclosed the new subscription price for server.  In general, named user works well for smaller deployments, but every vendor has a different break even point for when server becomes more effective.

The good news for BI and analytics buyers is that you now have more flexibility, and for Tableau customers, a lower entry point. This is a fast changing market, though, so we’d recommend before signing any large deals, set up a call with one of us for a contract review. Check out these notes:

Rising Analytics Costs Warrant a Robust Monitoring and Management Process

Toolkit: Negotiating Optimal On-Premises Software License Terms and Conditions

If you attended one of our summits, or attending one of the upcoming ones, I also suggest you check out Ehtisham’s presentation, “New Data and Analytics Initiatives Demand Modern Pricing Models and Sound Negotiation Strategies.”

Have a great weekend!


Cindi Howson


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Category: business-analytics  business-intelligence  

Cindi Howson
Research VP
1 years at Gartner
25 years IT Industry

Cindi Howson is a Research Vice President at Gartner, where she focuses on business intelligence (BI) and analytics. Her work includes writing about market trends, vendors and best practices and advising organizations on these subjects. Read Full Bio

Thoughts on Tableau Adds Subscription Pricing: Is It Good For You?

  1. […] For sure, many conference presentations emphasized Tableau’s enterprise and server capabilities. It’s a delicate balance of still empowering individual users – which is the long tail of its customer base – while also appealing to IT. This shift has also put pressure on its successful land and expand model and has been part of its move to subscription based licensing. […]

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