Tableau is a powerful and fastest growing data visualization tool used in the Business Intelligence Industry. It helps in simplifying raw data into the very easily understandable format.

Data analysis is very fast with Tableau and the visualizations created are in the form of dashboards and worksheets. The data that is created using Tableau can be understood by professional at any level in an organization. It even allows a non-technical user to create a customized dashboard.

The best feature Tableau are

  • Data Blending
  • Real time analysis
  • Collaboration of data

The great thing about Tableau software is that it doesn’t require any technical or any kind of programming skills to operate. The tool has garnered interest among the people from all sectors such as business, researchers, different industries, etc.

How does Tableau work?

Tableau connects and extracts the data stored in various places. It can pull data from any platform imaginable. A simple database such as an excel, pdf, to a complex database like Oracle, a database in the cloud such as Amazon webs services, Microsoft Azure SQL database, Google Cloud SQL and various other data sources can be extracted by Tableau.

When Tableau is launched, ready data connectors are available which allows you to connect to any database. Depending on the version of Tableau that you have purchased the number of data connectors supported by Tableau will vary.

The pulled data can be either connected live or extracted to the Tableau’s data engine, Tableau Desktop. This is where the Data analyst, data engineer work with the data that was pulled up and develop visualizations. The created dashboards are shared with the users as a static file. The users who receive the dashboards views the file using Tableau Reader.

The data from the Tableau Desktop can be published to the Tableau server. This is an enterprise platform where collaboration, distribution, governance, security model, automation features are supported. With the Tableau server, the end users have a better experience in accessing the files from all locations be it a desktop, mobile or email.

Tableau Server Architecture

The various layers used in the Tableau server are given in the following architecture diagram

Let’s study the different components of Tableau Architecture

  1. Data Server

The primary component of Tableau Architecture is the Data sources it can connect to it.

Tableau can connect to multiple data sources. These data sources can be on-premise or remotely located. It can connect to a database, excel file, and a web application all at the same time. Tableau can connect data from heterogeneous environments. It can blend the data from multiple data sources. It can also make the relationship between various types of data sources.

  1. Data Connectors

The Data Connectors provide an interface to connect external data sources to Tableau Data Server.

Tableau has in-built ODBC/SQL connector. This ODBC Connector can connect to any databases without using their native connector. Tableau has an option to select both live and extract data. Based on the usage, one can be easily switched between extracted and live data.

  • Live Connection or Real time data: Tableau can connect to real time data by linking to the external database directly. It uses the infrastructure of existing database system by sending dynamic MDX (Multidimensional Expressions) and SQL statements. This feature can link to the live data with Tableau rather than importing the data. It makes good the investment done by an organization on a fast and optimized database system. In many enterprises, the size of the database is huge and is updated periodically. In those cases, Tableau works as a front-end visualization tool by connecting to the live data.
  • Extracted or In-memory data: Tableau has an option to extract the data from external data sources. We can make a local copy in the form of tableau extract file. It can extract millions of records in Tableau data engine with a single click. Tableau’s data engine uses storage such as RAM, ROM and cache memory to store and process data. Using filters, Tableau can extract few records from a huge dataset. This improves the performance, especially while working on massive datasets. Extracted or in-memory data allows the users to visualize the data offline, without connecting to the data source.
  1. Components of Tableau Server

The different components present in a Tableau server are:

  • Application Server
  • VizQL Server
  • Data Server

A) Application Server:

The application server is used to provide the authentications and authorizations. It handles the administration and permission for web and mobile interfaces. It assures security by recording each session id on Tableau Server. The administrator can configure the default timeout of the session in the server.

B) VizQL Server:

VizQL server is used to convert the queries from the data source into visualizations. Once the client request is forwarded to VizQL process, it sends the query directly to data source and retrieves information in the form of images. This image or visualization is presented to the user. Tableau server creates a cache of visualization to reduce the load time. The cache can be shared across many users who have the permission to view the visualization.

C) Data Server:

Data server is used to manage and store the data from external data sources. It is a central data management system. It provides metadata management, data security, data storage, data connection and driver requirements. It stores the relevant details of data set such as metadata, calculated fields, sets, groups, and parameters. The data source could extract data as well make live connections to external data sources.

  1. Gateway

The gateway channelizes the requests from users to Tableau components. When the client makes a request, it is forwarded to external load balancer for processing. The gateway works as a distributor of processes to various components. In case of absence of external load balancer, gateway also works as a load balancer. For single server configuration, one primary server or gateway manages all the processes. For multiple server configurations, one physical system works as primary server while others are used as worker servers. Only one machine can be used as a primary server in Tableau Server environment.

  1. Clients

The dashboards and visualizations in Tableau server can be viewed and edited using different clients. The Clients are Tableau Desktop, web browser and mobile applications.