Simplified on-premises mapping with Tableau
What does this solution do?
In May 2019, Tableau released version 2019.2 of their flagship Desktop and Server products. One of the core features of this release was the switch from raster maps and vector maps, powered by Mapbox rendering technology and geographic data. Vector maps are smoother, more detailed, and highly customizable, empowering authors with ultimate creativity and flexibility in their visualizations. As with all Tableau maps, these visualizations need to access mapbox.com via the open internet in order for these maps to render correctly.
There are common security and compliance scenarios (particularly in the government, financial, utilities, telecommunications, and healthcare verticals) that limit internet access to core analytics services such as Tableau. In these scenarios, Tableau Desktop users will often experience additional latency when rendering maps, or may be unable to render maps at all.
To address this challenge, Mapbox has developed Atlas, a completely offline, on-premises solution for mapping. Shown below is a demo of Tableau Desktop losing connectivity to the Internet and switching over to Atlas.
While deploying and configuring Atlas is a well-documented process, connecting this service with Tableau users has historically been a manual and error-prone process that relies on hand-written XML. To simplify this configuration process, Mapbox has created tabAtlas. This command-line interface uses a single command, generate, to create the files necessary to make Atlas the default mapping service for Tableau. Using existing Tableau features, users can use these newly-created files to make Atlas their default mapping service. Server administrators can also use this process to connect Tableau Server to Atlas or build custom installers as part of their maintenance and upgrade pathways.
Every organization approaches security differently, so is tabAtlas available via two channels. First, it is included in the Atlas Toolkit, providing all Atlas users immediate access to the tabAtlas source code and binaries behind their firewalls. Second, tabAtlas is available via a public Github repository in both source and compiled binaries for Mac, Windows, and Linux. All Tableau users are free to clone, fork, and tweak the tool to ensure it precisely fits their needs.
tabAtlas accepts a single command: generate -n #
The user is then prompted for the following information.
- Location of Tableau Repository (or they can select the default)
- Style URL (from Studio “Share” menu)
Style URL and Name are paired, and this pairing repeats based on the value of -n passed to generate.
Upon confirmation, the CLI compiles an Atlas.tms file, validates the URL, and places it in the specified Tableau Repository. This file will now be visible to Tableau Desktop. Once the process is complete, the CLI exits and the user must open Tableau Desktop to set Atlas.tms as the Default map file. Once confirmed, all future Desktop sessions will use Atlas as the default mapping source.
Detailed technical instructions and source code can be found in the repository. The fastest way to get started is to use the compiled binaries found in the Releases tab. You only need to download or interact with the source code hosted on Github if you wish to modify the tool or inspect the internals.
What you’ll need:
To use this solution you will need the following:
- Tableau Desktop
- Mapbox Atlas: This must be installed, configured, and available within your network. Atlas must be configured with HTTPs to comply with Tableau requirements. Self-signed certificates are supported; please consult your system administrator for instructions on configuring trust.