Managing tableau server in the cloud

Managing tableau server in the cloud

Progressively, organizations are opting to move away from hosting on-premise servers by migrating to cloud-based solutions. Flexibility and decreased initial costs are two main reasons for pushing software into the cloud.

What does it mean to be in the cloud?

Cloud-based software removes the cost and time involved in maintaining a server infrastructure.
Before discussing about cloud-based tableau server hosting options, it would be better to know what is meant by cloud-based. The term, “in the cloud” has become a catchall term in recent years for all the services that aren’t hosted by an on-premise server. This definition certainly doesn’t capture the scaling implications of the cloud. Cloud solutions are typical in hosting, but are rapidly scalable. As mentioned at the beginning of this post, tableau software has two server versions that operate in the cloud.

Tableau’s cloud-based versions of server

Tableau Public is a free service for publishing views that you can share publicly. You can create and publish views from the free Tableau Desktop Public Edition, or from Tableau Desktop Professional Edition. It does come with some forewarnings. Chief thing among these is that all workbooks and data hosted on the tableau  are completely ‘public’. This is probably a deal breaker for most of the organizations. However, if your organization wants to make data available to the public anyway, this is a great (free) solution. Other caveats with tableau public are:

  • Data sources are limited to 1,000,000 rows per data source.
  • Only file-based data sources can be used.
  • Data is limited to 50 megabytes per account.

Data extracts are the most common data sources used on tableau public.

For groups who not only wants to present reports to the public, but also wants to maintain control of their underlying data, tableau has an offering called tableau premium, a fee-based service, tableau public premium allows users to restrict access to the underlying data in a workbook and also prevent downloads of that workbook. Additionally, it removes the maximum row limit imposed by tableau public. As these two offerings can’t restrict access to reports in any way, they are clearly not for organizations with sensitive data.

Tableau online provides an added measure of control and security beyond tableau public. Tableau Online is a SaaS or hosted version of Tableau Server. It brings the power of rapid-fire business intelligence to the cloud, making analytics easier than ever. It is a cloud-based version that is licensed on a per-named-user basis with no minimum requirements for the number of licenses. The software is installed and maintained by tableau software in an environment of secure hosting. It is very easy to use tableau online. Once you have signed-up, you can start publishing workbooks for other licensed tableau online users to view.

Tableau Online and Tableau Server are complementary products that provide a way to publish, share, and distribute Tableau workbooks and data sources. There are a few differences between tableau online and tableau server. Some of them are:

  • Workbooks published in tableau online must use tableau data extract which must be refreshed regularly. Live connections to Amazon red shift are supported as well.
  • No guest access. Everyone using tableau online must be licensed to use the service.
  • No custom branding in the tableau online environment
  • Tableau software creates and maintains your site.
  • No minimum number of user requirement

At the beginning of this post, tableau’s three different server products: tableau server, tableau public, and tableau online were introduced. Currently, the majority of tableau server customers wants to host tableau server on-premise, behind their company firewall. But, an increasing number of organizations are choosing to  host tableau server in the cloud.

Putting tableau server in the cloud

Although tableau server is most frequently hosted within the company networks, it can also be hosted in the cloud by utilizing Amazon ec2 instances and most other services that provide cloud-based windows server platforms. Amazon ec2 is not currently a platform supported by tableau software, but it does work wonders. There are a few modules to consider if you want to deploy tableau server using a cloud service provider. You are completely responsible for the installation and maintenance of tableau  server deployed by this way-unless you want to farm-out this work on a contract basis to consultants.

Tableau server needs to be accessible to your users, so make sure ports are opened in any firewalls and that the server will accept traffic  from your users’ network addresses. Active directory integration can be a bit tricky with these platforms, so consider local authentication  if you encounter any issues.

Tableau Server in the cloud provides at least 3 ways to update your data:

  • Republish Data Source or Workbook;
  • Using Command-Line Tools to Schedule Batch Updates Locally and automatically
  • Refresh the Tableau Server Data Source using your Tableau Desktop as a proxy between your on-premise Data Source and Tableau Online.

When deploying tableau server in multi-node configurations, ensure that the IP addresses of the nodes are static so that node communication won’t be impaired through system restart. Also ensure that the firewall rules are in place to allow  nodes to communicate with each other. The most common issues with running tableau server in a cloud environment is related to networking. Once the tableau server is installed and accessible, it is very similar to administering a locally-installed host.


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