What is Looker

Many companies handle large data in their daily activities and are looking for different ways to use the business data. They use different strategies and technologies to achieve this. Some of the common tools they use include Looker, which plays an important role in business decisions. Some of the activities performed by Looker include inspecting the database schemas and generating visualizations like graphs and charts to improve decision-making effectiveness. The collected data enables the team to communicate, making them achieve the team goals. According to Enlyft, there are around 3,811 that use Looker in their operations, showing a high demand for the technology. The article will cover different aspects of Looker and some of the cons and pros of using it.

What is Looker?

Looker is a software and platform that helps in business intelligence and data analytics by analyzing, sharing, and exploring business analytics with ease. It has a web-based interface that eliminates the need to install desktop applications. It has a good user interface. It enables users to create dynamic and interactive dashboards. You can also use different parameters to create them for receiving alerts. You can also embed analytics and perform the scheduling and automation of report distribution. It is now part of the Google Cloud Platform and works well with different datasets. It uses data modeling to power different analytics usage, i.e., data management, analytics, data visualization, e.t.c.

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Why is Looker used?

Some of the reasons why Looker is used include the following:

Good insights. Looker enables users to generate good insights from data using different functions. The insights help in initiating different conversations around the data.

It increases performance and reduces costs. The Looker has many features that enable users to use them in their applications and projects to improve the performance of the machines. It reduces the costs and makes it easy to scale any deployments.

When you need to build applications faster, you use Looker. It has UI components that you can incorporate into your workflows. It speeds development and makes the data experience good. Once you improve the development processes, the revenue increases.

History of Looker

Look got started by Lloyd Tabb and Ben Porterfield in 2012 at Santa Cruz, based in California. Their companies worked with other companies like Netscape, Luminate, and Liveops in building different software. They built Looker using LookML, which helps define relationships in databases to help company teams perform different actions like exploring, downloading, and saving data without using SQL. When they built Looker for the first time, it acted as a business intelligence platform where it worked with databases like Teradata, Vertica, Netezza, and Amazon Redshift. In August 2013, they raised their SERIE A funding from Redpoint Ventures of around $18M. They raised their seed round from First Round and PivotNorth Capital $2M.

They raised their SERIE B fundings of $30M in 2015 and hired Jen Grant as the marketing manager. In 2016, they raised SERIE C funding of $48M from Kleiner Perkins and had around 400 customers. 

In 2016, the company released a book called Winning With Data, authored by Frank Bien, the Looker CEO, and Tomasz Tunguz, from Redpoint Ventures. In 2017, they raised SERIE D funding of $81.5M from Capital G. 

In 2018, they got SERIE E funding of $103M from Premji Invest. In 2019, Google later bought Looker for $2.6 billion, and the deal got finalized in 2020. Their CEO Frank Ben left the company in 2022.

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When do we use Looker?

Looker is one of the best business intelligence platforms that exist in the data science field right now. You use Looker when you need better analytics. Most of its analytics as it uses Looker Blocks to customize the company's needs using different functions. You also use Looker when your organization has many members. If you have a company that has many employees, you can try Looker for good results. When you require instant and real-time data, it is good to use Looker. It provides instant analytics, saving you a lot of time. We also use it depending on the type of infrastructure the company uses, and you have to understand how it integrates with your application.

How to Install Looker?

There are several steps one has to follow when installing Looker.

When installing Looker on your machine. It has to meet some requirements. Some of the requirements include a 1.2 GHz CPU,2GB swap file, 10 GB disk space,8 GB RAM, Linux, Java OpenJDK and OpenJDK latest versions, libssl, use of TCP PORT 9999 to allow inbound traffic, libssl, among others.

  • Ensure you enable the Network Time Protocol. Create encryption keys for the databases and data. 
  • Install the app using the sudo groupadd looker command.
  • Create a new user using the following command
sudo useradd -m  -g looker  teamse
  • Ensure you are using the looker user, not the root user, as below
sudo su - teamse
  • Create a new subdirectory under the home directory
mkdir ~/lookerjob
  • Navigate to the directory
cd lookerjob
  • Confirm you are in the right directory
pwd
  • Download the JAR Looker files, and you have to ensure they are of the same version to avoid instability.
  •  Download the startup scripts from Github and locate the Looker script and JAR looker files in the /lookerjob directory.
  • The startup and jar looker files have the same file format, i.e., looker-y.y.y, whereby y.y.y is the version number. Now, we remove the version numbers and remain with looker-y.y.y and looker-dependencies-y.y.y.jar to looker.jar and looker-dependencies.jar, respectively.
  • Most startup scripts handle how much Java memory can get assigned to Looker. You can change the settings using the memory settings.
  • To make the startup script executable, we change the permissions to 0750 using the following command:
chmod 0750 looker
  • Now you have to start the Looker process using the Shell when you are the user using the command below
./lookerjob start
  • For any startup troubleshooting, you can use the command below:
java -jar looker.jar --help or java -jar looker.jar help
  • Open your preferred browser and enter the  https://nameofhost:9999, where the nameofhost represents the DNS name of the Looker host.
  • Input the license key, your name, email, and password to create the account.
  • Create a DNS record for your application by adding Looker.[domainname].com to the DNS records of the server.
  • Deploy Looker using tools like Ansible and Chef.
  • If you use VMware guest for running Java virtual machines, you change some settings to improve performance.

Most of the Looker use HyperSQL as a database, but you can also connect your preferred database like SQL. Now, the Looker set up is  successful.

If you want to Explore more about Looker? then read our updated article - Looker Tutorial

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Pros and Cons of Looker?

Some of the Pros of looker include:

  • It has good data governance due to its workflows supporting all KPIs and making it simple to create dashboards.
  • It is easy to scale.
  • It is easy to model and enables users to change their databases.
  • It supports CI/CD and automated testing, which improves the DevOps culture.
  • It supports version control where you can use git to manage the company projects.
  • It has a good community that provides support when you have issues.
  • It has an API that you can use for several functionalities like accessing data, managing users, e.t.c.
  • You can access it on your favorite browser, which removes the hassle of installing other additional software.

Cons of using Looker include:

  • It requires a good investment, making it work for big companies, not startups, and a lot of learning to master how to use the tool.
  • When using Looker, it works perfectly when you work as a team to get the best results. Especially during the data modeling process.
  • When you want to move from Looker to another tool, for example, to Tableau, the whole process can be tough.
  • When working with visualizations, it can be tough sometimes to produce good results.
  • It can affect you, for example, if you have a startup and you use it. It requires many activities like governance and scalability, which in turn affect the performance.
  • When handling some tasks, it takes more time compared to other tools. For example, when doing some calculations, you will have to write code that you will use for those tasks, there are no functions for that.

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Conclusion
There are several emerging trends in the business aspect of data. Many companies rely on data to make decisions like setting marketing campaigns, retargeting, creating personalized messages, e.t.c. When you have a big team, you must find software that ticks all the boxes. The software must be fast, efficient, and easy to use and Looker meets all that. A business will employ people who have skills using Data Looker.
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Gayathri
Gayathri
Research Analyst
As a senior Technical Content Writer for HKR Trainings, Gayathri has a good comprehension of the present technical innovations, which incorporates perspectives like Business Intelligence and Analytics. She conveys advanced technical ideas precisely and vividly, as conceivable to the target group, guaranteeing that the content is available to clients. She writes qualitative content in the field of Data Warehousing & ETL, Big Data Analytics, and ERP Tools. Connect me on LinkedIn.

Looker is a business intelligence that scans the existing databases to provide different reports.

It depends on the level of analytics you want. If you want deep analytics with a small team and cheap cost, you use Tableau, but if you have a big organization, you want fast results and good data visualizations, you use Looker.

Looker uses LookML for handling all its data operations like calculations, dimensions, relationships, e.t.c.

Looker is a software that handles all the business analytics. It makes it easy to create graphs and charts based on customized data that you achieve using different functions and filters.