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Server Administrator Overview

Tableau Server integrates with a number of components in your IT infrastructure to provide a unique self-service data analytics culture for your users. It's important that you, as a server administrator, understand how Tableau Server fits into your IT infrastructure.

The topics in this section provide information on planning, deploying, tuning, and managing Tableau Server.

If you are new to Tableau Server, and you want to deploy it in your organization, we encourage you to deploy Tableau Server as a single server in a test environment first. The easiest way to do a single-server installation and to understand the essential requirements is to follow the steps in Everybody's Install Guide.

This topic provides a brief overview of how to think about Tableau Server and how it interacts with your existing IT infrastructure.

Architectural overview

Tableau Server is a collection of processes that work together to provide a full self-service analytic platform for your users. The following diagram shows a high-level architectural view of Tableau Server.

Multiple server processes (shown in blue above) work together to provide services at various tiers. The Gateway process is the component that redirects traffic from all Tableau clients to the available server nodes in a cluster.

Data Services is a logical grouping of services that provide data freshness, shared meta data management, governed data sources, and in-memory data. The underlying processes that power Data Services are the Backgrounder, Data Server and Data Engine processes.

Analytics Services, composed of the VizQL and Cache Server processes, provide user-facing visualization and analytics services and caching services.

Sharing and Collaboration, and Content Management Service are powered by the Application Server process. Core Tableau Server functionality such as user login, content management (projects, sites, permissioning, etc.) and administration activities are provided by the Application Server process.

All of the above services use and rely on the Repository process, which contains structured relational data like metadata, permissions, workbooks, data extracts, user info, and other data. The File Store process enables data extract file redundancy across the cluster and ensures extracts are locally available on all cluster nodes. Under heavier loads, extract files are available locally across the cluster for faster processing and rendering.

Tableau’s architecture is flexible, allowing you to run the platform just about anywhere. You can install Tableau Server on-premises, in your private cloud or data center, on Amazon EC2, on Google Cloud Platform, or on MS Azure. Tableau analytics platform can also run atop virtualization platforms. We recommend you follow the best practices for each virtualization platform to ensure the best performance from Tableau Server.

Tableau and your data

When you install Tableau Server into your organization, it becomes a core component of the analytics pipeline to the data your users need. It's important to understand how Tableau Server interacts with your business data. Specifically, Tableau Server can store extracts of data in your organization. It can also connect to live data sources. How you choose to provide the data to your Tableau users is informed by a number of variables: data source type, user scenario, performance and access requirements, and infrastructure conditions.

Tableau Server has not been architected as a data warehouse server where static, native data files are housed. In fact, using Tableau Server as a traditional data warehouse is a poor use of your investment. Rather, when it comes to data storage, we recommend hosting optimized data extracts on Tableau Server. While a data extract is often a subset of a larger data source in your organization, you can also create extracts for data sources that are overtaxed during work hours by scheduling the extract refresh for off-hours.

Extracts are also useful for modeling data or to enable highly-performant visualization authoring. For example, to improve visualization authoring and interaction performance you may optimize extracts by filtering the source data to the essential fields for a given department or project. Extracts can be resource intensive. If your organization plans to make heavy use of extracts, review the topic, Optimize for Extracts.

Tableau Server also provides direct, authorized access to live data sources, allowing users to build and run complex filtered queries against a variety of connected data sources. For this scenario, Tableau requires highly performant network access to the data sources in your organization and to those in the cloud. Tableau Server and the target data sources also need to be properly sized to handle the processing load required by high-volume, complex data operations. You can optimize performance for live data connections with caching configurations and specifying initial SQL commands.

User access

Tableau Server is also a web-based collaboration platform, where users connect to share, view, and interact with data visualizations and data sources from a variety of devices. This means that Tableau Server must be accessible to Tableau users within your local protected network. You can also extend access to data visualizations to desktop, mobile, and authenticated web users outside your organization.

Tableau Server integrates with the following user authentication solutions: Active Directory, SAML, OpenId, and Kerberos.

Where should I install Tableau Server in my network?

Because of the highly-sensitive nature of most data that organizations manage with Tableau Server, and because Tableau Server requires access to internal data stores, Tableau Server must be run inside a protected network. Authenticated access from the internet is configured to connect to Tableau Server through a reverse proxy or a VPN solution.

Some organizations embed Tableau views in public webpages, or, for internal users, on generic web servers on the internal network.

Tableau Server can be configured to support such scenarios with either authenticated or anonymous access. For authorized access, where users can only view underlying data to which they have permission, you can configure trusted tickets with a generic web server. In this scenario, Tableau Server authorizes access to the underlying data in an embedded view. This scheme enables you to host interactive data visualizations on a web server in a DMZ or outside the protected network.

Anonymous access to embedded Tableau views requires that you enable "guest user" for Tableau Server. Guest user also requires that you license Tableau Server according to the number of cores you are running, rather than a named-user (interactor) model.

Sizing and scalability

Depending on the size and data usage in your organization, you can scale Tableau Server up or out. As you scale your server, you can also selectively allocate resources to meet your data needs and user needs.

When you scale up Tableau Server, you add hardware resources to a single server. For example, you might increase the memory and processing power of the computer running Tableau Server.

When you scale out Tableau Server, you add computers (or nodes). To create a highly available deployment with failover, you need at least three nodes. For example, you might run most CPU-intensive server processes on two nodes and use the third node for the gateway and coordination controller services.

Whether you scale up or scale out, you can selectively allocate resources by configuring the number and type of server processes that run. If your organization has a lot of data and creates a lot of data extracts, you can increase the number of processes that are dedicated to refreshing and storing extracts. Alternatively, if your organization wants to optimize for heavy user loads, you can increase the number of processes dedicated to responding to user requests. Additionally, you can integrate Tableau Server into industry-standard network load balancers to further optimize your server for user requests.

Tableau Server management model

Tableau Server has been designed to support a management scheme with two high-level administrators: server administrator and site administrator. In small organizations, these roles may be assumed by the same person or team, but in larger organizations, the roles often diverge.

In this model, server administrators are IT professionals who maintain and deploy heterogeneous server solutions. Essential areas for server administrators may include networking, hardware tuning and maintenance, security and access, and managing users and directory services. The tools and documentation that we deliver with Tableau Server for the server administrator support these core server IT areas.

Site administrator, on the other hand, is an administrative role specific to Tableau Server or Tableau Online deployments. The Tableau site administrator is fundamentally concerned with data content. The site administrator manages users and their access to projects, workbooks, and data sources. To learn about sites and how to plan your deployment for them, see What is a Site?

Management tools

Tableau Server includes a number of toolsets for managing the system:

  • Tableau Server administrator page: This is the web-based administrative site that is installed on each Tableau Server instance. Tasks performed on the administrator page are day-to-day tasks for both server and site administrators. Server-related tasks include creating sites and site administrator accounts, optionally importing users, setting up synchronization with directory services, setting up extract refresh schedules, monitoring server performance and usage, and other global settings.

    Site-related tasks include managing content and assign permissions, running extract refreshes, create groups and projects, monitoring site activity, optionally adding users, and other content-related tasks.

    Permissions required for the Tableau Server administrator page are role based. The roles are generated and managed by Tableau Server.

  • Tableau Server Configuration Utility: This is the primary utility for server-wide configurations. The configurations made with this utility are rarely revisted after initial configuration. For example: SSL, subscriptions, data caching, service account, SMTP alerting, user authentication, and single-sign on configuration are all performed with the utility. You must use an account with local server administrator permissions to run the Tableau Server Configuration Utility.
  • tabadmin: This is a command line tool that allows you to configure multiple components of Tableau Server. tabadmin installs with Tableau Server by default.
  • tabcmd: You can use the tabcmd command-line utility on a Windows computer to create scripts to automate administrative tasks on your Tableau Server site. For example, use tabcmd for creating or deleting users, projects, and groups.
  • REST API: With the Tableau Server REST API you can manage and change Tableau Server resources programmatically, via HTTP. The API gives you simple access to the functionality behind the data sources, projects, workbooks, site users, and sites on a Tableau server. You can use this access to create your own custom applications or to script interactions with Tableau Server resources.

Security

As an application server connecting to data that may be highly-sensitive, Tableau Server supports and implements a number of industry security standards. Our server admin documentation includes best practices and implementation for user authentication, authorization, data security, and network security. While our default installation is secure by design, we also recommend following the security hardening checklist to further lock down your deployment.

For more information about security audit compliance, vulnerability reporting, and other security resources, visit http://www.tableau.com/security.