Tableau and Snowflake on AWS: Introduction to the Accelerated Analytics Quick Start

In partnership with Snowflake, we built the Accelerated Analytics Quick Start with Tableau and Snowflake on the AWS Cloud to solve for this by streamlining the process of deploying and configuring Tableau Server and Snowflake.

Why we built the Accelerated Analytics Quick Start with Tableau and Snowflake on the AWS Cloud

Cloud-based data warehouses enable businesses to enhance performance and scale quickly, making them attractive—and often necessary—architecture for companies as they grow. As more and more organizations deploy these environments, it’s not always clear exactly how IT and engineering professionals can stand up all of the necessary environments at the pace in which growing companies need, while simultaneously providing valuable business intelligence.

In partnership with Snowflake, we built the Accelerated Analytics Quick Start with Tableau and Snowflake on the AWS Cloud to solve for this by streamlining the process of deploying and configuring Tableau Server and Snowflake. We’ll share with you how the Quick Start delivers on performance and scalability, saves time by eliminating manual deployments, and makes configuration easy and accessible. Read on to learn how to use this Quick Start and the best practices for deployment.

"The Accelerated Analytics Quick Start with Tableau and Snowflake on the AWS Cloud will help customers quickly and confidently deploy our integrated solution. With automated configurations vetted by our technology experts, we are lowering the barrier to entry for our customers, helping them get more value from their data faster."

Built for the cloud, Snowflake’s flexible, multi-cluster architecture allows clients to scale their data warehouse based on usage, leading to cost savings and better efficiency with data all in one place. Using AWS cloudformation templates to initialize a standalone instance of Tableau Server, this Quick Start establishes a connection to your new or existing Snowflake account.

The Quick Start also creates a new virtual warehouse within in the Snowflake account, uploads 19.5 GB of sample data to Snowflake storage, and publishes connections to that data and sample dashboards to the Tableau Server instance. Sharing, distributing, and collaborating on business intelligence on AWS becomes impactful, driving value across your business.

For people who are new to either Tableau or Snowflake, this solution jump-starts your evaluation of the combined platforms, requiring little IT expertise. Skip the manual setup and configuration and start analyzing your data at lightning-fast speeds.

Performance and scalability builds confidence in your architecture and analytics

The Accelerated Analytics Quick Start removes common configuration challenges to improve backend performance and make scaling easier. Since this Quick Start is powered by AWS, you can have confidence in the infrastructure of your platform just like the many other Tableau Quick Starts on AWS. Snowflake provides the ability to easily add virtual warehouses to scale computing power without requiring regular management. This intelligent “auto-scaling” helps you plan more efficiently for your company’s growth as the application of business intelligence spreads.

Figure 1: Quick Start architecture for Tableau and Snowflake on AWS.

Use the Quick Start to stand up a cloud-based, analytics platform in minutes—regardless of skill-level

In developing this Quick Start, it was important to make this process easy and accessible for IT and DBA professionals, lowering the barrier to entry for those unfamiliar with standing up an instance of Tableau Server with Snowflake as the backend data warehouse. Snowflake and Tableau technology experts worked together to provide deployment best practices that have been vetted to fulfill your company’s security and data-driven requests.

Manual implementation of a Tableau Server and Snowflake environment on AWS can often take several days or more—depending on the complexity of your data and organizational requirements. Migrating to the cloud offers organizations agility and speed and your first step in cloud deployment should as well. This Quick Start creates holistic data storage, eliminates extended implementation time, and stands up an analytics platform in under 30 minutes. Accelerated analytics with Tableau and Snowflake can move your proof of concept forward by days or even weeks, allowing you to focus on empowering people with quality data and lightning-fast analytics.

The added benefit of transparency provided by the Quick Start helps you save time and money. When you deploy Accelerated Analytics, it comes with pre-built cost usage dashboards in Tableau that show you how you’re using your Snowflake compute and storage resources. For example, there might be a spike in users accessing a certain data source in the middle of the day. These dashboards display the usage spike to help you understand how to allocate your resources appropriately. Delegate your compute power for that period of the day to avoid unnecessary costs and so that your business users do not become stagnant in their work.

How to use the Accelerated Analytics Quick Start

Begin by deploying the Quick Start from the AWS website and refer to the provided deployment guide for more specific implementation details.

As part of the automated deployment process, this Quick Start also publishes several account management dashboards to your new Tableau Server instance, built on top of an account usage schema supported by Snowflake (see figure 2 below). Once you start interacting with your Snowflake instance—whether directly or via the provided Tableau connections and content, this schema will store performance, cost, and usage information. Read this blog about how these dashboards show you how you’re leveraging your Snowflake environment.

Figure 2: Pre-built utilization dashboard that shows your Snowflake compute and storage resources.

During deployment, the Quick Start initializes a new instance of Tableau Server in the region of your choice and installs a version of SnowSQL which can be used to programatically interact with your Snowflake account. The SnowSQL client runs a script to instantiate two new data warehouses in your Snowflake account. The Load_WH warehouse is a large warehouse used specifically for uploading the 19.5 GB—approximately 133 million rows—of sample data from S3 to Snowflake. (The BI_WH warehouse is a medium warehouse used for querying the data in Snowflake.)

Once the data is uploaded to Snowflake, the Quick Start uploads live connections and a Snowflake driver to your Tableau Server instance, using the data server to maintain a single source of truth for all of your stakeholders. These data sources power a sample New York City taxi data dashboard and several account monitoring dashboards that live in the Snowflake_Sample and Snowflake_Admin projects respectively.

Figure 3: Dashboard of sample NYC taxi data provided with Accelerated Analytics Quick Start.

Best practices for deployment

Leveraging AWS for your cloud infrastructure allows you to specify where your data and your analytics platform should reside. We recommend placing both Snowflake and Tableau Server in the same region to reduce latency. If possible, this should also be the same region that your user base is in.

This Quick Start creates four live connections to Snowflake and publishes them to Tableau Server. When you access these data sources—either by opening and interacting with a dashboard, creating new content using web editing, or connecting to Tableau Server’s Data Server—you are directly leveraging the compute capacity of your Snowflake virtual warehouses.

Tableau also gives you the option to create extracts of your Snowflake databases and store them locally. We find that most customers prefer a hybrid approach: using live Snowflake connections to support lightning-fast analytics and up-to-the-second monitoring and leveraging Tableau Data Extracts for data that doesn’t change as frequently.

Expanding your platform

Once your environment is deployed you can begin to leverage additional features that set Tableau and Snowflake apart. The Quick Start is intended to provide a replicable template for programmatically uploading data to Snowflake and content to Tableau Server. You can follow the instructions in the AWS deployment guide to customize the Quick Start by uploading your own data instead of the sample NYC taxi data we provide.

As your implementation grows, people can manually connect to Snowflake and use web editing to create content directly in Tableau Server.

Figure 4: How to connect to data in the Accelerated Analytics Quick Start with Tableau and Snowflake on AWS.

In addition to connecting from the Tableau Server UI, people can also connect to hosted live connections via Tableau Desktop. By hosting your data sources on Tableau Server, you can easily preserve single sources of truth for your business users, containing logic and data that you trust and have validated. If you’re looking to tune your connections and content, read this whitepaper to get the best results from your Tableau and Snowflake investment.

With the confidence of being powered by the AWS Cloud, the Accelerated Analytics Quick Start with Tableau and Snowflake delivers powerful computing performance and the opportunity to scale at a pace fast enough to match business growth. The solution lowers the barrier to entry, streamlining deployment and configuration for all IT and DBA professionals, regardless of skill-level. With a cloud-based analytics platform and virtual warehouses in place, the ability for you to drive valuable business intelligence to stakeholders is easier than ever.

To learn more about how Snowflake and Tableau are facilitating flexible database environments and revolutionizing the speed of analytics, visit the Snowflake Solutions page.