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Looker Review - Pricing & The Best Alternative

Looker (acquired by Google) is a powerful business intelligence and analytics software that enables self service analytics. However, Looker’s target market are enterprise customers, their entry price - wwhich is around $35K/year - may not be affordable for some companies. Holistics provides an affordable alternative to Looker for SMBs and the midmarket for self-service analytics.

For more details about Looker pricing review, scroll down to the end of this article.

This article is written by ex-Looker users, for experienced Looker professionals to hash out the similarities and differences between Holistics and Looker, and shares the use-cases the two tools best fit. Set aside price dimension, here’s a feature-to-feature comparison between Holistics and Looker.

Data Modeling and Transformation Layer

When it comes to the data modeling layer both Looker and Holistics use their own modeling language LookML (Looker Modeling Language) and AML (Analytics Modeling Language) to define their transformations.

When we bring tables/views from Holistics and Looker both follow a very similar pattern but a different experience from the terminology and user standpoint. Let’s compare this terminology side by side to understand them better.

Looker Holistics
Looker Views Holistics Data Models
Looker Explore Files Holistics Datasets
Looker Derived SQL Holistics Transform Model

Looker Views vs Holistics Data Models

In Looker, we bring the metadata of our tables/views from our data warehouse with the import table option which autogenerates the basic lookML and creates the dimensions and measures for you to build on top of the view.

Looker Views

In Holistics, the metadata is imported using a similar import data table method where all the whole schema or selected tables can be imported automatically, and base dimensions are created by default.

Holistics Data Model

Looker Explore vs Holistics Datasets

When it comes to data exploration Looker and Holistics have a similar concept but a different experience for the data consumers. Looker uses a concept called Explore to provide all the subject-specific data fields for their users to explore data and create relevant visualizations.

Looker Exploration

On other hand, Holistics uses the dataset concept to curate a subject-specific dataset for the data consumers to explore and create visualizations.

In both instances, SQL is generated auto-generated and non-technical users can still create reports and dashboards without much assistance from the technical team. This user experience is even better served to non-technical users as it mimics a very similar drag-drop interface like other BI tools such as Tableau etc.

Self-service exploration

Looker Derived Tables vs Holistics Transform Model

There are times when Looker or Holistics can’t support complex use cases in their modeling language and it needs to support a custom derived SQL to structure the data in a format that is friendly for visualizing. This is possible in Looker using its sql derived table syntax in LookML, whereas this is easily achieved in Holistics using its Transform Model feature.

Looker Derived Tables

This makes it easier for any Analytics/SQL Developer to solve complex use-cases using their native Data Warehouse SQL syntax.

Holistics Transform Model

LookML vs AML

With both Looker and Holistics offering the propriety language you can perform data transformations with tons of flexibility. Let’s take a look at LookML and AML code samples here.

lookML code sample

Holistics AML tries to optimize for a better developer experience through auto-complete and instant feedback of errors. Their developer-first approach makes AML much easier to pick up and start developing than LookML. This similarity of the languages between the tool makes it easier for the developer to switch and adopt.

AML code sample

Dashboards Visualization Layer

When it comes to the dashboard visualization layer both tools offer varied chart options like a bar, line, heatmap, etc. However, Holistics provides better-looking charts and even more visualization types by default than Looker. For instance, if you want to keep all your metrics in one sheet and visualize it with sparklines, it can be visualized using their metric sheet widget type easily.

See Holistics’ Pay-As-You-Go Pricing

“We had previous experience with Looker, but we were looking for a more modern and faster tool..
Olaf Vogel, Senior Intelligence Analyst at Feeld - a Holistics customer

Initial Learning Curve

A requirement that immediately sets Looker apart from other alternatives is the need to invest time in an upfront data modeling step before any data visualizations can be done. For Looker, this means learning and preparing the modeling work in LookML first, as an abstraction on top of a SQL database.

Learning LookML is not rocket science but still takes significant effort, thus creating a fairly high barrier of entry. As a result, only analysts who are willing to invest in Looker’s approach would go through the process of learning it. Furthermore, Looker’s domain-specific language approach has a fairly long feedback cycle as analysts need to write the code, validate, save and only then can test it through exploring the resulting models. If there is an issue with the generated code, the analysts need to go back into fixing the code and repeat the cycle.

Holistics’ data modeling process, on the other hand, does not require the need to learn a new language.

The only requirement is some minimal SQL knowledge to model some advanced use cases such as custom fields. Analysts can jump right into the data modeling process and get the models out with minimal learning. Furthermore, the feedback cycle is small as the data modeling interface has integrated visualization output, making it apparent when there is some fault in the models. As the underlying models are also stored as a domain-specific language, Holistics also retains the advantages of this approach and allows more advanced users to have freedom over the modeling process.

Looker Pricing

Take a look at various community posts on Slack, Reddit, Quora, here’s what we know:

  • Looker entry price is around $35K/year (~$2900/month).
  • Add on: $30 for dashboard viewers, $60 for dashboard creators, and $120 for developer (who can write LookML)
  • The $35K threshold has been around since 2018, so it’s unlikely that the price point is any lower in 2022 (especially when you take in the inflation). Thought it’s been said that you can negotiate with Looker sales rep for a discount.

On AWS Marketplace, you can also find the “retail” pricing for Looker:

Units Description 12 Months Cost
Standard - Platform STANDARD - Looker Platform with 10 Standard Users, 24/7 Live Support $66,600
Advanced - Platform ADVANCED - Standard Looker + 100k Query API Calls & 2 Looker Servers $132,000
Elite - Platform ELITE - Advanced + 100k Admin API Calls & 8 Looker Servers $198,000
Add On - View User Platform add-on user: view, filter, and schedule pre-made reports $400
Add On - Standard User Platform add-on user: query modeled data - drill down+content creation $799
Add On - Dev/Admin User Platform add-on user: build & administrate the data model $1,665

What About Holistics Pricing?

As an alternative to Looker, Holistics provides 80% of Looker capacity at 1/5 of Looker price point. It provides a fully self-service trial process - making it easier to try out.

See Holistics’ Pay-As-You-Go Pricing

Not sure? See how this ex-Looker customer thrived with Holistics.

Final thoughts

The above apple to apple comparison makes it clear that both these tools offer a mixture of ways to transform, model, and visualize data. Looker still leads the Self Service space but when it comes to choosing a tool when a company is still in its early days of adopting a data-first culture, you are not just bound to choose from a single option. If you are a startup or a Fortune 500 company and want to adopt a self-service data-first culture, do checkout Holistics.

Another pro of choosing Holistics is its pricing structure which is way more affordable than Looker and is definitely a plus when you are a startup and implementing BI tool for the first time or trying to adopt the self-service data culture.

Because Data Team Is Not IT Help Desk

Less ad-hoc data questions. Happier data teams. All start with Holistics .