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MongoDB 'Charts' a way to dashboard visualization from its database

MongoDB targets better dashboard visualization with MongoDB Charts, which adds another means for business users trying to look into their NoSQL data pools.

Better support for cloud deployment may be the first order of business for MongoDB these days, but the originator of that popular NoSQL database has an eye on better dashboard visualization support as well.

At MongoDB World 2017 in Chicago, MongoDB Inc.'s Atlas cloud data services were foremost, as the company moved to provide Google and Microsoft cloud support. But there was more, as the company also showed a glimpse of MongoDB Charts, upcoming software intended to provide self-service charting of JSON-oriented MongoDB data for business users.

Such software helps turn mountains of NoSQL data into intuitive charts and dashboard visualizations. That has been the strong suit of fast-rising Tableau, Qlik and other BI software providers, but it also is an area of interest to MongoDB Inc. as it builds a data ecosystem around its mainstay database.

For its part, MongoDB Charts is meant to provide another option for data leaders that need to deliver analytical views on data to business users. The software, as demonstrated at the company's yearly user event, offers a user interface meant to work natively with the MongoDB document model.

Charts in the pipeline

According to Eliot Horowitz, CTO and co-founder of MongoDB, Charts supports the MongoDB aggregation pipeline, which works to transform documents into aggregated results.

Tom Schenk, chief data officer, city of ChicagoTom Schenk

He said MongoDB has found strong use in operational applications, and the addition of Charts would help to make dashboard visualization an integrated part of operational processes, rather than just as a part of separate processes running against batch data.

MongoDB Charts will be part of a larger rollout of enhancements planned for later this year, he said. Charts would join MongoDB's existing BI connector, which links relational BI tools such as Tableau to MongoDB.

For Ovum analyst Tony Baer, MongoDB Charts is emblematic of an emerging trend in dashboard visualization.

"Most data platforms are now adding basic charting capabilities to dispense with the need for third-party tools like Tableau or Qlik," he said. "MongoDB is now joining the party."

The unique feature in the case of MongoDB Charts is that it will visualize the data without having to resort to flattening JSON data to make it look relational, he said. Instead, Baer continued, MongoDB Charts can query individual fields without having to merge them all into a single row, or explode the document and represent nested fields in separate relational tables.

Daily data in the Windy City

For a noted advocate of more open data, MongoDB Charts would be additive, rather than a replacement. Charts functionality would join an already wide collection of ways to access MongoDB data, according to Tom Schenk, chief data officer for the city of Chicago.

Schenk's use case, known as the WindyGrid project, employs MongoDB to underpin an analytical data warehouse that brings together data from diverse city databases on a daily basis. Schenk and his colleagues have endeavored to open up that data beyond city hall's walls, to include so-called citizen data scientists as well.

Interviewed at MongoDB World, Schenk said MongoDB has helped the effort of "getting rid of silos" that confine data to individual departments within the city government. Schenk said he sees Charts as targeted for his organization's data scientists. But he noted that integration of Tableau into MongoDB "makes sense as well."

"We are an organization of 33,000 users. So we have to have tools available to different levels of technical skill. The tools they use depend on people's skill level, and what questions they want to answer," he said. "When it comes to business intelligence, there is never one solution."

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