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Customer-Hosted Looker: Benefits, Installation and Open Source Alternatives

Demystifying Customer-Hosted Looker: A Comprehensive Guide

As the world of business intelligence (BI) evolves, organizations are constantly searching for powerful tools that can make data-driven decisions easier. One such tool that has gained significant traction is Looker, a BI and data analytics platform. With the option for customer-hosted Looker, companies can now maintain control over their data while leveraging Looker's features. In this essay, we will explore the ins and outs of customer-hosted Looker, from its benefits to its installation process. Along the way, we'll also discuss RATH, an AI-powered, Open Source alternative that you might want to consider.


Understanding Looker BI and Its Benefits

Looker is a modern, web-based business intelligence tool that helps organizations analyze, visualize, and share insights from their data. It is a cloud looker platform that enables you to create custom, interactive dashboards and reports with ease. Looker is owned by Google and offers a unique approach to data modeling using Looker SQL (also known as LookML), allowing users to transform raw data into actionable insights.

Customer-hosted Looker, also known as Looker self-service, refers to the option of hosting Looker's software on your organization's servers, giving you complete control over your data and infrastructure. With customer-hosted Looker, you can benefit from:

  1. Enhanced security: Hosting Looker on your own servers means that your data never leaves your network, reducing the risk of unauthorized access.
  2. Greater customization: Customer-hosted Looker allows for more flexibility in customizing the platform to suit your organization's unique needs.
  3. Reduced reliance on SaaS: Self-hosting Looker eliminates the need for a Looker SaaS subscription, potentially saving costs in the long run.

Setting Up Customer-Hosted Looker

To install Looker on your own servers, follow these steps:

  1. Acquire a Looker license: Reach out to the Looker sales team to discuss your organization's requirements and obtain a Looker license. The Looker license cost will depend on your organization's size and needs.
  2. Prepare your infrastructure: Ensure that your servers meet Looker's hardware and software requirements, which can be found in their documentation.
  3. Install Looker: Follow the official Looker installation guide to set up and configure the Looker application on your servers.
  4. Configure Looker: Connect Looker to your data sources, create Looker projects, and define your data models using LookML.
  5. Train your team: Utilize Looker's training resources, such as free Looker training and Looker software training, to get your team up to speed on using the platform effectively.

Sharing Dashboards and Reports with Looker

Once you've set up your customer-hosted Looker, you can start creating and sharing dashboards and reports. To create a dashboard in Looker, follow these steps:

  1. Navigate to the Looker dashboard: Log in to your Looker instance and navigate to the "Dashboards" tab.
  2. Create a new dashboard: Click on the "New Dashboard" button to start building your dashboard.
  3. Add tiles: Populate your dashboard with tiles, which can contain visualizations, text, or other content.
  4. Customize your dashboard: Arrange and style your tiles, and configure any necessary filters or settings.

To share your Looker dashboard, simply click the "Share" button on the top-right corner of the dashboard page. You can share the dashboard via a direct link, embed it in a webpage, or even schedule recurring email deliveries of the dashboard or specific Looker reports.

Exploring the Looker Ecosystem

The Looker ecosystem offers a wide array of features and resources that cater to users with different levels of expertise in data analytics. Here's an overview of some of the most notable offerings:

Looker Marketplace

The Looker Marketplace is a hub for pre-built applications, visualizations, and data blocks designed to help users jump-start their analytics projects. By leveraging the Marketplace, you can save time and effort in creating custom solutions from scratch.

Looker Desktop App and Looker Studio

The Looker Desktop App is a standalone application that provides a more streamlined experience for working with the Looker platform. This app includes Looker Studio, a powerful development environment for creating and managing LookML projects. While Looker Studio is not available for free, it is included in some Looker subscription plans.

Looker Trial and Demo

If you're interested in trying out Looker before committing to a purchase, you can request a Looker trial or attend a Looker demo session. The trial offers a hands-on experience with the platform, while the demo provides a guided tour of its features and capabilities.

Free Resources for Learning Looker

To help users make the most of the platform, Looker offers a variety of resources, including free Looker training and documentation. You can access webinars, video tutorials, and interactive lessons that cover everything from getting started with Looker to advanced topics like performance optimization.

Considering RATH: An AI-Powered, Open Source Alternative

While Looker is a powerful tool for data analysis and visualization, it's important to consider alternative solutions that might better suit your organization's needs. One such alternative is RATH (opens in a new tab), an AI-powered, Open Source data analysis and visualization tool.

RATH offers many advantages over traditional BI tools, including:

  1. AI-driven insights: RATH uses AI algorithms to automatically discover patterns and trends in your data, helping you make more informed decisions.
  2. Open Source: RATH is completely open source, which means you can customize the tool to fit your organization's unique requirements without any restrictions.
  3. Automated data preparation: RATH simplifies the data preparation process by automatically cleaning and transforming your raw data, saving you time and effort.
  4. Ease of deployment: RATH offers a seamless self-hosting deployment process, making it easy to set up and maintain the platform. To learn more about deploying RATH, refer to the RATH Self-hosting deployment guide.

RATH, AI-powered Next Generation Data Analytics (opens in a new tab)

For those who are experienced in data analytics and looking for additional resources, you can explore articles like ChatGPT-4 Data Analytics and Tableau Open Source Alternatives.


In conclusion, customer-hosted Looker is a powerful and flexible BI solution that allows organizations to maintain control over their data and infrastructure. It offers an extensive ecosystem of resources and features, including the Looker Marketplace, Looker Studio, and various training materials. However, it's important to explore alternative solutions like RATH to find the best fit for your organization. With a range of options available, you can make data-driven decisions that will drive your business forward.