Apache Superset as a Chart.io Alternative
Open Source as in Freedom
Recently, Atlassian acquired the proprietary BI platform Chart.io, started to downsize the Chart.io team, and announced their intention to shut down the platform.
This isn’t a new phenomenon. Given how mature and dynamic the BI market is, consolidation has been accelerating over the past few years:
- Tableau was acquired by Salesforce
- Looker was acquired by Google Cloud
- Periscope was acquired by Sisense
- Zoomdata was acquired by Logi Analytics
- Redash was acquired by Databricks
While consolidation is likely to continue, these concerns don’t arise when your BI platform is open source. Whether you're using a commercial vendor or self-hosting, you have immense flexibility with open source.
Superset vs Chart.io
Apache Superset is the most popular and mature open-source business intelligence platform out there. In this post, I'll make the case for why Superset is the most compelling alternative to Chart.io.
No-code Query Builder
|Support common SQL operations (Select, Filter, GroupBy, etc)||✅||✅|
|Preview visualization during iteration||✅||✅|
|Preview generated SQL query during iteration||✅||✅|
|View data transformation results as a table||✅||✅|
|Use virtual datasets to build charts||✅||✅|
|Ability to join tables||✅||➕ In Development|
Chart.io was known for pioneering visual SQL, a no-code interface for preparing data for visualization. Superset has Explore, a no-code interface that unlocks the same capability.
Rich Set of Visualizations
|Common charts (pie, line, bar, etc)||✅||✅|
|Ability to add custom charts / visualizations||❌||✅|
|Number of default charts||17||60 (and growing 📈)|
|Number of geospatial visualizations||1||10|
Chart.io has a limited set of chart types (only 17). Superset ships with more than 40 charts and this list is quickly growing). More importantly, Superset lets you develop and add new custom visualizations.
SQL Editor and Semantic Layer
|Export query results as CSV||✅||✅|
|Database metadata explorer||✅||✅|
|Linting and auto-complete||✅||✅|
|Save query for re-use||✅||✅|
|Semantic layer: save queries as virtual datasets||✅||✅|
|Semantic layer: define custom metrics||❌||✅|
|Semantic layer: calculated columns||❌||✅|
Both Chart.io and Superset ship with a powerful SQL editor for more SQL-savvy analysts. Unlike Chart.io, Superset has a powerful semantic layer that you can use for data modelling.
- Aggregate values across multiple columns and publish as Metrics.
- Metrics can be certified as authoritative by a specific user.
- Transform specific columns and publish as Calculated Columns.
- Write arbitrary SQL queries and publish as a Virtual Dataset.
In the no-code chart builder (Explore), metrics, columns, and virtual datasets all inherit the power that physical database tables have in Superset.
|Basic datetime, value, and range filters||✅||✅|
|Dashboard can contain charts from multiple data sources||✅||✅|
Superset is widely known for the beautiful charts and dashboards you can create quickly. Here's an example that's a community favorite:
|SSO (single sign-on)||✅||✅|
|Usage and audit logs||✅||✅|
|Row level security||✅||✅|
|Chart or dashboard level permissioning||✅||✅|
|Workspace level RBAC (role-based access control)||✅||✅|
|SaaS Cloud option||✅||✅|
|Self-hosted / On-prem deployment||❌||✅|
Superset was developed with the following constraints in mind, which enable the features above:
- modern languages (Python, TypeScript, & ReactJS) and modern UX (web-based)
- scalable (incubated at Airbnb, designed to scale with cloud-native best practices )
- API should support and mirror what can be done in the UI
- highly customizable (open source!)
Preset Cloud vs Superset
At Preset, we're proud to be a vendor offering Apache Superset as a cloud hosted service. In addition to all of the features that Superset has out of the box, we add the following:
- Preset Manager: our admin layer that lets you create multiple Superset workspaces and manage permissions using role-based access control (RBAC)
- Documentation & Training: we maintain high quality end-user focused documentation and also offer training
- Compliance & Security: Preset is SOC2 Type 1 & Type 2 compliant and we offer single sign-on (SSO) for paid teams
- World-class Support: teams on a paid tier get access to our dedicated email and chat support
Preset Cloud is now generally available for anyone to use and we're excited to launch with a free-forever tier. Unlike Looker, we're highly transparent about our pricing.
If you're currently a Looker user that wants to try out Preset Cloud, you can get started for free!