Thursday, 21 July 2016

Bizare Tableau server behaviour

We were looking at using Excel sheets as a data source with Tableau server. The idea is that we have a central repository that mirrors the Tableau server project structure, one folder per project per reporting team. People can then place their Excel, csv etc into their folder, create a dashboard and publish it to the server. This is going to be very popular once Tableau 10 is released as we will be able to use cross database joins to enable joining MySql databases and Excel sheets into one single datasource. What we would then encourage people to do is not only publish their workbooks but also publish their data sources, so that they can be used by other people to build their own dashboards. 

As part of a test to check that this all works i have come across a very very strange issue. 

I have an Excel workbook that contains a sheet called Title, with two rows of data


This is used to create the title of the Tableau workbook when it gets published. 
I create a simple viz just to check that its able to find the file, ensuring that i used the correct UNC path name.
I then published this to the data server, ensuring i unticked the "External file" checkbox and gave the data source a completely new name. 

I then connected to the newly published data source, and looked at the data from it, and to my surprise, its different to the original 


Now this is very strange, by publishing and then connecting to the new source the data has changed some how. To check this i got someone else to try it on their machine and got the same results. Then I opened up Tableau and used the web editor to connect to the published data source and do the same thing, and guess what, i got a different result


Now it says June 2018, not June 2019, or June 2016 - Original as it should do. 

Very odd i thought, so the next step was to create a local copy of the published data source and see what that did, maybe that would show me where the data in the published datasource was coming from. 

So, the local copy of the published datasource has the correct UNC path, and pulls back the correct information. So the information contained within the published datasource must be correct, else the local copy would be wrong, but its not. 

This means that i no longer trust Excel sources published as a data source outside of a workbook, which is a real bummer as thats one thing we planned on doing. I haven't yet looked to see if this still breaks if we use an extract, but we want to have live connections to the Excel sheets so people can see their updates in real time without having to wait on a schedule. 

Matt Francis

Author & Editor

Tableau Zen Master, Social Ambassador, Wrangler of Data, Vizzer of Data

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