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SQL and Spreadsheets: Bringing Them Together in the Cloud

Sigma = A Better Analytics Cloud

Nearly everyone who works in an office environment works with a spreadsheet. The vast majority of those users are not programmers.

Sigma makes Cloud Data Warehouse Analytics as accessible and approachable as a spreadsheet. Built for the cloud, Sigma is optimized for the modern cloud data warehouse. In Sigma the data is always live, never an extract or download, while still allowing line by line visibility of the data. Rather than forcing data to be pre-digested into aggregates and visualizations, we expose all of the data and allow users to perform their own analysis without forcing them to learn an extra language. And It’s is much more than a chart building or SQL query generation tool. By providing live, interactive access to your data warehouse through a familiar visual interface, Sigma makes business analysts as effective as any SQL Expert; their queries are correct, efficient, and maintainable, all without the expensive overhead of learning the ins-and-outs of SQL.

The Ubiquitous Spreadsheet

Spreadsheets are interpreted programming environments, similar to Python or R. However, they are missing some key capabilities typically found in general-purpose programming languages: support for complex data structures and types; rich APIs for accessing data on disk or over the network; and a rich ecosystem of open-source, community-supported libraries and extensions.

Also, the most popular spreadsheet products (i.e. Google Docs, Excel) have limits on the volume of data they can efficiently process, whereas programming languages are typically bounded by a combination of code quality, compiler optimizations, and physical hardware.

Best of Both Worlds

Sigma provides the best of both worlds:

  • Users interact with a variant of the Spreadsheet model
  • Sigma generates virtually any SQL query and expresses the results either in the Spreadsheet-like view or as a visualization.

Sigma’s dynamic translation compiler, called Qwill, is designed like a modern database compiler, rather than a query generator for simple reports or charts. This means queries generated are limited by the inputs, rather than the compiler itself. This is important because it is our mission to build a product that can fully leverage the expressive power of SQL, and thus amplify an analyst’s capabilities without concerning them with any details beyond Sigma’s visual interface.

At a basic level, spreadsheets and databases serve the same purpose – both are tools that ease the storage, retrieval, analysis, and sharing of datasets. Diving deeper, spreadsheets are more forgiving, and optimize for flexibility and usability, whereas databases are more rigid, and optimize for performance and normalization.

We are rewriting the rules of analytics. Sigma empowers domain experts to join the data conversation, answer the toughest questions, and drive insights.