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Connect OBIEE with Tableau

Connect OBIEE with Tableau


The How to connect to Oracle BI server using ODBC article discusses an approach that uses Oracle ODBC driver to connect from Tableau to OBIEE. However, this approach poses several challenges in an enterprise deployment.

This article discusses the pitfalls of using ODBC driver and explains how BI connector, a purpose built Tableau to OBIEE connector, makes it easy to Connect to Oracle BI Server with Tableau.

Tableau and OBIEE

1.Tableau allows developers to bypass the metadata design and go directly into the report building phases. In other words, there is no equivalence of Admin Tool in Tableau. You develop your SQL or PL/SQL, you then create reports and views based on this SQL. This allows the development to be very flexible because there is no needs for dimensional modeling. You can join as many tables, create as many self-joins, making as many snowflake or normalizations of dimensions as you want, as long as your query is giving you the right data, you can put it in tableau and it becomes the report you want. The same thing in OBIEE would probably have to be done through custom views or materialized views, which will still need to be migrated across the 3 layers in Admin tool.

2.Tableau makes mapview much easier to build. All you need is spatial data in your table: latitude and Longitude and city. Once these fields are in your query, it will show up in tableau with different Icons letting you know they are available. You can then putting in the mapview and the map will be generated with every city in your table on the map. This process is much simpler than doing the same in OBIEE.

3.The latest versions of Tableau provides your calender for any date filters (I am surprised it took this long for such important feature to come up ). The date filter has some pretty cool features that it allows users to not only filter based on dates, but also provides other filtering options such as ‘last 2 weeks’, ‘last 2 months’, ‘between each Monday’ with all just a click away. This can also be done in OBIEE but will require the use of variables, which will table some engineering.

4.Tableau report allows users to pick their own filters while viewing the report. In OBIEE, the user will normally have to contact the report developers if they want to change filters and prompts.

5. The common features that OBIEE has, such as agents and navigation among reports and views can also be found in tableau.

6. Tableau is less complicated in its server architecture compared with OBIEE and weblogic.

On the other hand, there are some downside of tableau as well compared with OBIEE:

1.One of the main thing about Tableau is that it doesn’t seem to have a query engine. This means it will try to query the entire DB first before applying any filters. This will cause a lot of overheads and oftenly at a enterprise level of reporting, the Tableau server is less stable than OBIEE because of the size of the Data they are dealing with.

2.For enterprise reporting, there might be reports that has to go through auditing to meet certain compliance based on the formatting and other things. OBIEE reporting has been tested for this purpose while Tableau will still have to be trialed and tested. What’s the use of having all of the fancy reports that don’t pass the auditing?

3.Another disadvantage of Tableau, which can be major for some companies, is that it doesn’t allow writebacks. We all know that OBIEE has a writeback feature, which allows report users to update records on the dashboard without having to go to DB. This can be important in a lot of the financial reporting that the users typically would want to update certain records during their month-end closing. This feature is absent in Tableau.

ODBC driver requires extensive changes to OBIEE

Connecting using the ODBC driver requires the OBIEE team to make extensive changes to expose key fields in all the required folders(tables) at the business layer and the presentation layer. This is a time consuming, cost-prohibitive effort and difficult to maintain on an ongoing basis.

BI connector does not require any changes to OBIEE. You can connect to OBIEE with Tableau in just a few minutes and maximize the value of your Tableau and OBIEE investment.

Not scalable

Each subject area in OBIEE requires a separate DSN (ODBC connection) to be set up in the PC or server with Tableau. This is not a scalable approach if you have tens or hundreds of subject areas in your OBIEE environment.

BI connector requires only one DSN for all the Subject Areas. You can securely connect to any Subject Area that you have access with a single DSN connection.  Optionally, you can create a separate DSN to connect to OBIEE reports.  Oracle BI Server_9.0_FINAL.pdf

Difficult to install and maintain

ODBC driver requires the creation of a Tableau data source customization (.tdc) file in each PC or server using Tableau. In addition, it requires the installation of a copy of Oracle Business Intelligence Developer Client Tools in each machine. Each version of OBIEE will require a separate installation. Installing and maintaining .tdc files and OBIEE client tools is cumbersome and an additional headache for IT and users.

BI connector does not require either the .tdc file or OBIEE Developer Client Tools to be installed. Installation, configuration, and maintenance is extremely simple. BI connector works seamlessly with OBIEE 10g, 11g, and 12c.

Performance and feature constraints

Tableau makes a discovery query (Select * from table) when you drag and drop a folder into the join area. With ODBC driver, this could lead to performance issues since Tableau would query millions of records from OBIEE when a large folder/table is selected. In addition, ODBC driver does not offer all the query features.

BI connector has several built-in optimizations that eliminate performance issues when you connect to OBIEE with Tableau. For example, it will automatically prevent any performance intensive “Select * from table” queries. Furthermore, it offers feature parity when connecting to OBIEE from Tableau.

Connectivity to Oracle Reports

Finally, organizations would have developed hundreds of reports in OBIEE over several years. Oracle ODBC driver does not provide connectivity from Tableau to Oracle reports which often have outdated visualization.

BI connector connects Tableau users to Oracle reports catalog enabling them to perform ad-hoc analysis and create modern visualization with OBIEE reports data.


BI connector effectively addresses the shortcomings of the Oracle ODBC driver approach suggested in How to connect to Oracle BI server using ODBC. BI connector provides an effective solution for organizations looking to connect to OBIEE with Tableau for ad-hoc analysis of highly valuable enterprise data. For more information regarding BI connector, please visit www.biconnector.com and try it free for 30 days.

Overall, Tableau is more of a point solution rather than enterprise-wise solution like OBIEE. But Tableau is way less costly than OBIEE and much more flexible in it’s design, which also means that the level of SQL Programming for Tableau is much higher than in OBIEE.

We could also explore https://unify.ritt.md to connect OBIEE RPD with Tableau.




Posted by Zafar Ali / Posted on 12 Oct
  • BI, BIP, Business Intelligence, Data Visualization, OBIEE, obiee11g, tableau
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