Comparing Connectivity to Salesforce.com Data in Tableau



In this article, we compare the performance and functionality of two different solutions for working with Salesforce.com data in Tableau Desktop: using the native support included in Tableau Desktop and using the CData Software ODBC Driver for Salesforce.

The connectivity offered by each solution, while allowing for the same reports, vary both in terms of performance and in terms of functionality:

Solution Connections Time to Load
~600k Records
Live Extract
Native Tableau 144 seconds
CData Software ODBC 12 seconds

We will walk through the steps of connecting using each solution and compare the two solutions at the end of the article.

The Data



For sample data, we populated a Salesforce sandbox with approximately 600,000 tests accounts. To compare the performance for each solution, we simply walked through the process of connecting to the data. To compare the features, we analyzed the way(s) each solution can connect and created a simple chart to display the data.

You can read about the process required to connect using each solution, and a more in-depth comparison of the solutions, below.

Using Native Tableau Support



Tableau Desktop 10.3 includes native support for working with Salesforce data. The steps below describe the process of connecting to your Salesforce data using the native functionality.

  1. Choose to connect to a server and select Salesforce.
  2. Enter your username and password to authorize Tableau to connect to your Salesforce data. Tableau requires users to authenticate with each new connection to Salesforce.
  3. Drag the Account table to the dashboard. Tableau only supports Extract connectivity to Salesforce data, so all of the data from the Account table must be imported into Tableau. Because the connection is an Extract, reports and dashboards will be based on static data extracted at the time of the connection. To refresh the data, users will need to retrieve all of the data.
  4. Click Sheet 1 to connect to and begin working with your Salesforce data in Tableau. In our tests, this process took approximately two minutes and twenty-four seconds to complete (Tableau imports all data from the Account table before opening the sheet).

Using the CData ODBC Driver for Salesforce



Tableau Desktop 10.3 includes native support for working with data in ODBC data sources. With the CData Software ODBC Driver for Salesforce, you get ODBC connectivity to Salesforce. The steps below describe the process of connecting to your Salesforce data in Tableau using the CData ODBC driver.

  1. Configure the ODBC DSN (this is also the last step of the installation of the driver) and click Test Connection to authenticate the driver with Salesforce.
  2. Choose to connect to a server, select Other Databases (ODBC), and choose the DSN you configured previously. The CData ODBC Driver will connect silently based on the credentials stored in the DSN.
  3. Drag the Account table to the dashboard. The CData ODBC Driver supports both Live and Extract connections. With Live connections, reports and dashboards can be dynamically refreshed to include the most recent Salesforce data.
  4. Click Sheet 1 to begin working with your Salesforce data in Tableau. In our tests, this process took approximately twelve seconds (the accumulated time for Tableau to determine the available features of the ODBC driver and the Account table metadata).

Comparing the Solutions



Performance Comparison

You can see the approximate accumulated time it took for each solution to connect to the data. The native solution creates an Extract connection, meaning all of the Account data must be imported before moving forward. The CData ODBC driver is capable of creating an Extract connection, but is also able to create a Live connection, meaning only the data needed in the report(s) is imported.

Connect to ~600k Salesforce Accounts
Solution Time (seconds)
Native Tableau (Extract) 144
CData Software ODBC (Live) 12

Feature Comparison

We will start the feature comparison by looking at the data as it is presented within the Tableau sheet. Below are screenshots of empty sheets based on connecting natively and using the ODBC driver.

Using Native Connectivity

Using the CData ODBC Driver

As you can see, both solutions provide the same Dimensions and Measures, so you are able to produce the same reports and dashboards with either solution. The major difference will be the speed with which you are able to build those reports and dashboards.

Native Solution Features

Because the native solution only allows for Extract connections, Tableau must request all of the data for a given table before it can begin building reports, meaning that time can be lost waiting for Tableau to import data that may not even be needed. The native solution also requires users to authenticate with their Salesforce account for each new connection/workbook, adding another step in connecting to your Salesforce data in Tableau.

CData ODBC Driver Features

The CData ODBC Driver supports Live and Extract connections. When using a live connection and opening a sheet, the ODBC driver requests only metadata for the table (information about the dimensions and measures). The ODBC driver only requests actual data when you build a report, chart, or graph. The ODBC driver also manages all of the authentication, so will only need to authenticate a particular DSN once and then you can use that authenticated DSN in as many sheets and reports as you need. To connect to different Salesforce accounts, simply create a separate DSN for each needed account.

Sample Chart

To build the chart pictured below (the sum of account annual revenue by country) using the native support, you are required to wait for Tableau to extract and process data from all 40+ dimensions and measures for each row of data before you can begin building the chart. On the other hand, the CData ODBC Driver sends a request for only the data you are working with to Salesforce, including the summation of the annual revenue by country. The precise query means that you only have to wait for a minimal amount of data to be returned and that you can rely on the processing power of Salesforce to aggregate your data. And, because the connection is live, the data will be updated on-the-fly whenever the report is updated or refreshed.

Conclusion & Next Steps



While Tableau natively supports connectivity to Salesforce data, that connectivity is limited to extract only and can be slow. By contrast, connecting to Salesforce data using the CData Software ODBC Driver offers a live connection that is convenient, fast, and reliable. With CData Software, you gain similar access to 90+ data sources through our suite of ODBC drivers. If you wish to see the difference for yourself, you can download a free, 30-day trial of any of our drivers. As always, our world-class Support Team is available to help you with any questions you might have.

 
 
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