This is Big Brother: Tableau Desktop Usage

Big Brother
Recently I had the pleasure of sitting down with the CAPtain, himself – Mark Evans Tableau’s one and only APAC Customer Advocacy Program Manager. Mark knows how large enterprise customers can struggle with license management, and he’s helped me to understand how Tableau 10 will save the pain of trying to manage costs of licensing and making sure that people are getting the most out of your environment.



Customers spoke, and Tableau listened! You won’t need the Desktop users to be licensed any of your Tableau Servers to capture the information. It’s enabled by Desktop using an unauthenticated call to Server in your environment every 8 hours. Tableau Desktop just needs to be open on the users’ laptop/pc to send the information.



Some Tableau customers choose to co-term their licenses, which makes it easy to understand and forecast the budget for renewals.  If you have a decent number of Desktop licenses you should discuss the option to co-term with your Account Manager, and you’ll only need to go through the renewal process once a year – it’s great to have fewer tasks with procurement!  If co-terming isn’t for you, life is about to get a whole lot easier forecasting your maintenance renewals with the help of an easy view on Server, plus there’s some great info on who has downloaded trial licenses and what has expired:

Tableau Desktop Maintenance Viz

Plus, here’s the really exciting piece of news… You’re now going to be able to see the latest date that someone is opening Desktop:

Tableau Desktop Latest Open Date


This means you can up the ante with Tableau Desktop usage using these easy views:
1. Ask the people who aren’t using Desktop if there’s anything you can do to help them get back into it! Try to re-engage and inspire them. Seek to understand why they haven’t used it in a while.  If you manage an internal community you can do some funky blends behind the scenes and see if there are people who haven’t signed up, that are now licensed!
2. And if that doesn’t work recycle your license keys, giving someone else in your organization the ability to get to insight faster using Tableau.  Demonstrate to your management team that you’re saving costs for the business, and include any of the benefits you’ve realised by bringing new users on board – ROI is so important!

I’m going to take it one step further, and start to extract this table with Alteryx and run incremental loads into the data warehouse.  This will help me to see more than just the latest date, but also the frequency of use as I start to build up historical data so I can mine it to my heart’s content! Alteryx is incredible when it comes to imitating Big Brother, and keeping an eye on the PostgreSQL database. I’ve found that it can extract the information in the blink of an eye, and save all of those performance-hungry Custom SQL queries. I’ll use the information gathered on trial licenses to see if there are people who have had trials, but haven’t gone through to purchase, and then recycle the keys that haven’t been used.  Optimising as we grow and build the environment, it’s a great story for your reviews!



Everyone has different requirements for how they use Tableau, from simple to complex environments. Here’s a few details on how the reporting can be configured across different landscapes.

Scenario 1: Access Single Tableau Server

Scenario 1

In this example all Tableau Desktop users are connecting to a single Tableau Server to view and publish.  The Desktop License Reporting would be configured to report on the single Tableau Server instance

Scenario 2: Mixed Access Single Tableau Server

Scenario 2

In this example some Tableau Desktop users connect to the Server – Group A, and there are some stand alone users Group B (who are on the same network).  Like Scenario 1, the Desktop License Reporting would be configured to the one server.

Scenario 3: Multi Tableau Server Environment

Scenario 3

Here we have two Tableau Servers on the same network, but with distinct users who use each environment. There are multiple options dependent on your requirements. If you’d like them to report to just one Server so you get a consolidated view, then you’d setup the configuration pointing to just one of the servers, you could even have Group A and Group B reporting on both TS#1 and TS#2. Desktop can be configured to send the reporting information to three separate servers.

Scenario 4: Multi Tableau Server Environment on Segmented Networks

Scenario 4

In this example Group A are connected to the TS#1 Retail Server, and Group B are on a different network connecting to the TS#2 Finance Server.  Group A’s Desktops would be configured to report to TS#1 and Group B to TS#2, so there would be two sets of reports. If a consolidated view is required you will need to extract the data, and append it together, then create your viz.

Scenario 5: All of the Scenario’s 1-4 Together!

scenario 5

For those folks that have every complexity possible, there’s still an answer!  Configure the standalone Desktops in the Retail network to  TS#1,  likewise do the same for Group A.  For the second Finance network, configure the standalone Desktops to TS#2, along with Group B. Again, if a consolidated view is required you will need to extract the data, and append it together, then create your viz.



The new Desktop License Reporting is disabled by default. There are a few steps required to use the feature:
Step 1: Enable Desktop License Reporting on Tableau Server
Use the following commands on each server that Tableau Desktop will be reporting to:
tabadmin set features.DesktopReporting true
tabadmin config
tabadmin restart
Step 2: Configure Tableau Desktop for license reporting
You configure Tableau Desktop for license reporting by adding a Windows registry key (ReportingServer) or a Mac .plist file value (com.tableau.ReportingServer.plist) with the address of one or more Tableau Servers that the information should be sent to. You can configure the Tableau Desktop instance to send license reporting information to up to three different servers.

All of the instructions will be listed in the Tableau Server online help documentation.



Q: What if there is an error and Tableau Desktop cannot talk to the Tableau Server for whatever reason?
A: The end user is not informed (it is recorded in the log file)

Q: What generates the 8 hour time frame for reporting?
A: The 8 hour timer resides inside the Tableau Desktop application

Q: Tableau Desktop has to be active / open on the Desktop to send the report?
A: Yes! So if it’s not open it won’t register that it was active for that period.

Q: If I use Tableau Desktop all day, leaving the application open for 10 hours, will Tableau Desktop report twice (each 8 hours)?
A: Yes, but the Server will only record the last reporting time / date stamp, not all of the historical records of the reporting from the Tableau Desktop over time

Q: Tableau has created a new table in PostgreSQL in the Tableau Server DB to record in information?
A: There is a new table called “DesktopReporting” that you will be able to access and build custom reports if you more than the standard reports built on Tableau Server

So folks, that’s the down low on Desktop License Reporting.  Enjoy playing Big Brother and getting the most out of your Tableau investment. A MASSIVE THANK YOU to Mark Evans from Tableau for giving me the heads up on the new features. It’s really going to help customers get the most out of Tableau Desktop! Be sure to connect with Mark on Twitter  and LinkedIn  you’ll be the first in the know with great new Tableau content he curates, and shout out if you have any questions!!

xoxo VizChic



Add yours
  1. 1
    Mark Evans

    A much more professional presentation than how I conveyed it 🙂

    This is a game changer for all Tableau License Managers and is very little burden to implement either in a new or mature Tableau 10 environment!

    Combine this with a Master key implementation and through an IT automated rollout you’ll wrap it up in no time!

    Thanks VizChic!

  2. 2
    Donna Coles (@donnacoles30)

    Great article Fi & Mark – thanks! A couple of q’s which I’m hoping you can answer – 1) does the Tableau Desktop user have to have v10 installed as well as server being v10 (I’m assuming yes, but just double checking)…not all my users upgrade when requested! 2)The usage is captured via a ping to server every 8 hrs providing Desktop is open…is there any way to configure this eg set the time/increase the frequency…I’m concious that we have users who don’t use Deskop for any longevity but do use it frequently… I’m thinking there is a chance we miss capturing them using the product as they don’t happen to have it open at the right time. The ideal is if the ‘ping’ could happen on open. I want to be in a position where I can confidently say ‘you’re not using Desktop so I’ll have the licence back please’ , and am a bit unsure whether I’m going to be able to do that at this point in time – its certainly going in the right direction though, so very positive!

    • 3

      Hey Donna!
      First off, I’m by no means an expert.. so hopefully Mark will chime in 🙂
      1. I’m not 100% on this, but reading the instructions on the web I think you can use it on older versions of desktop – BUT! somehow you’re going to need to get the registry key/.plist updated. Looks like it’s possible for some automation, but there are manual workarounds. That could prove tricky though. Have you considered packaging the software so you can control the upgrades? Here’s where I found the info:
      2. Wish granted! The ping happens when Desktop is opened as it is Desktop that pushes the info to the server, not the other way around 🙂
      Cheers! Fi

      • 4
        Donna Coles

        Thanks Fi! Your know I read that article but like you, it isn’t clear whether it will support older versions – hopefully Mark will be able to answer. Have had a brief chat to our sytems guys, and getting that reg key rolled out ‘automatically’/silently’ shouldn’t be a problem, so we’ll look at setting it on everyone whether they already have Desktop or not (means we can monitor those downloading trials etc too). Great news on Q2 – ta!

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