Governed Self-Service Analytics: Multi-tendance (5/10)

Tableau has a multi-tendance strategy which is called site.  I heard many people asking if they should use site, when should use site. For some large Tableau deployment,  people also ask if you have created separate Tableau instances. All those are Tableau architecture questions or multi-tendance strategy.


How do you approach this? I will use the following Goal – Strategy – Tactics to guide the decision making process.screenshot_42

It starts with goals. The  self-service analytics system has to meet the following expectations which are ultimate goals:  Fast, Easy, Cost Effectiveness, Data Security, Self-Service, Structured and unstructured data.

Now keep those goals in our mind while scale out Tableau from individual teams to department, and then from department to enterprise.


How do we maintain self-service, fast and easy with solid data security and cost effectiveness while you deal with thousands of users? This is where you need to have well-defined strategies to avoid chaos.

First of all, each organization has its own culture, operating principles, and different business environment. Some of the strategies that work very well in one company may not work for others. You just have to figure out the best approach that matches your business requirement. Here is some of food for thoughts:

  1. Do you have to maintain only one Tableau instance in your organization? The answer is no. For SMB, the answer may be yes but I have seen many large organizations have multiple Tableau instances for better data security and better agility. I am not saying that Tableau server can’t scale out or scale up. I have read the Tableau architecture white paper for how many cores one server can scale. However they are many other considerations that you just do not want to put every application in one instance.
  2. What are the common use cases when you may want to create a separate instance? Here is some examples:
    • You have both internal employees and external partners accessing your Tableau server. Tableau allows both internal and external people accessing the same instance. However if you would have to create a lot of data security constraints in order to allow external partners to access your Tableau server, the same constraints will be applied to all Tableau internal users which may cause extra complexity. Depends on the constraints you will have, if fast and easy goals are compromised, you may want to create a separate instance to completely separate internal users vs. external users – this way you have completely piece of mind.
    • Network seperation. It is getting common that some corporations have separate engineering network from the rest of corp network for better IP protections. When this is the case, create a separate Tableau instance within engineering network is an easy and simple strategy.
    • Network latency. If your data source is in APAC while your Tableau server is in US, likely you will have some challenges with your dashboard performance. You should either sync your database to US or you will need to have a separate Tableau server instance that sits in APAC to achieve your fast goals.
    • Enterprise mission critical applications. Although Tableau started as ad-hoc and exploration for many users, some Tableau dashboard start to become mission critical business applications. If you have any of those, congratulations! You have a good problem to deal with. Once some apps become mission critical, you will have no choice but tight up the change control and related processes which unfortunately are killers to self-service and explorations. The best way to resolve this conflict is to spin-off a separate instance with more rigors on mission critical app while leave the rest of Tableau as fast, easy self-service.

What about Tableau server licenses? Tableau server have seat-based license model and core-based license model. If you have seat-based model, which goes by users. The separate of instance should not have much impacts on total numbers of licenses.

Now Let’s say that you have 8 core based licenses for existing internal users. You plan to add some external users. If you will have to add 8 more cores due to external users,  your separate instance will not have any impacts on licenses.  What if you only want to have a handful external users? Then you will have to make trade-off decision. Alternately you can keep your 8 core for internal users while get handful seat-based license for external users only.

How about platform cost and additional maintenance cost when we add separate instance? VM or hardware are relatively cheap today. I will agree that there are some additional work initially to setup a separate instance but server admin work is not doubled because you have another server instance.  On the other side, when your server is too big, it is a lot of more coordinations with all business functions for maintenance, upgrade and everything. I have seen some large corp are happy with multiple instance vs. one huge instance.

How about sites?  I have blog about how to use site. As summary, site is useful for better data security, easy governance, employing self-service and distributing administrative work. Here is some cases when sites should not be used:

  • Do not create a new site if the requested site will use the same data sets as one of the existing sites, you may want to create a project within the existing site to avoid potential duplicate extracts (or live connections) running against the same source database.
  • Do not create a new site if the requested site overlaps end users a lot with one existing site, you may want to create a project within the existing site to avoid duplicating user maintenance works

As summary, while you plan to scale Tableau from department to enterprise. you do not have to put all of your enterprise users on one huge Tableau instance. Keep goals in your mind while deciding the best strategy for your business. The goals are easy, fast, simple, self-service, data security, cost effectiveness. The strategies are separate instance and sites.


Please read next blogs about release process.

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