Accelerate your Looker dashboards with BigQuery BI Engine

Joel McKelvey, Looker Product Management, Google Cloud

Feb 25, 2021

At Looker we’re constantly working to help you leverage the power of your database for greater performance, efficiency, and functionality. That’s why we’re so excited to have worked with the BigQuery team on the launch of Google’s new preview of BigQuery BI Engine — an in-memory analysis service that makes Looker running on BigQuery faster than ever. With BI Engine, queries in Looker not only have faster response times, but also have higher concurrency to help you provide more people with the insights they need to make better, more data-driven decisions.

Companies using Looker often need to analyze large data sets and streaming data where speed and data freshness are important. With BI Engine, Looker dashboards load faster. And faster dashboards means happier, more productive users.

Director of Engineering and Analytics at Sunrun, Harish Ramachandraiah, saw the positive impact of BI Engine first-hand:

“Our business users are hungry for data and expect a lot from our team, so as soon as we had the opportunity to turn on BI Engine for BigQuery and Looker, we did and the performance-matched to the speed of business expectations and greatly improved the load times for dashboards. This fast in-memory analysis service allowed the marketing, sales, and operations business users to analyze large and complex datasets interactively in Looker and Data Studio.”

How to enable BI Engine

One great feature of BI Engine is that it essentially requires no management. It’s amazingly easy to enable via the Google Cloud Console (you’ll find it in the BigQuery submenu, right above Looker).

Once enabled, BI Engine automatically accelerates queries. Should it be unable to do so (for instance, not enough capacity reserved), performance will revert automatically to the already fast speed of a typical BigQuery query. This means there’s no need for a Looker administrator to tune or modify their Looker queries to accommodate BI Engine.

Kiran Manne, GCP Architect on Sunrun’s BI team, describes working with BI Engine as an administrator: "It helped the development team too, with its simplified architecture for getting started quickly without managing complex, post-ETL transformations and data pipelines. We saw 40% performance increases and we have 1000+ users interacting with the data daily via Looker and Data Studio, so this was a very effective way to improve their data experiences, save them time, and positively impact the data culture at Sunrun."

Combine BI Engine with Looker capabilities for even better speeds

For the fastest queries and rapid dashboard loading, try using BI Engine in conjunction with Looker aggregate awareness. Looker’s aggregate awareness capabilities complement BI Engine’s in-memory approach, and materialized views located in-memory provide exceptionally fast query response times.

BI Engine joins the suite of tools that help Looker administrators control and improve query efficiency, including aggregate awareness, Persistent Derived Tables (PDTs), caching, and more. If you’d like to know more you can consult the BI Engine documentation. To request access to this preview, simply submit the preview enrollment form with your project details and during the 60 day preview period there will be no charge for using BI Engine. Additional details about this preview of BI Engine are in the launch blog. For more information on accelerating queries in Looker, check out our aggregate awareness docs, too!

Want to know more about Looker and BigQuery? You can request a Looker demo to learn how Looker uses an in-database architecture to get the most out of your database investment or register for our upcoming webinar, “Delivering fast and fresh data experiences with BigQuery BI Engine & Looker”.