Tableau can connect to a huge number of data sources out-of-the-box. This includes pretty much any database, flat file, excel, and more. However, there are some cases where companies and users are looking to connect Tableau to a data source that is not included in that long out-of-the-box connections list. For those cases, Tableau provides the ability to connect to “custom” data sources through several APIs, SDKs and approaches that can be put to use to provide a seamless Tableau user experience. To demonstrate this, my colleague Scott Briden and I set out to create an embedded Tableau dashboard that leverages a government web service which provides information on government spend via XML data.
The US government publishes spend information on its public web site: https://www.usaspending.gov/Pages/Default.aspx
The site also provides a web services APIs (https://www.usaspending.gov/DownloadCenter/API/Pages/api.aspx) to allow programmatic data extraction.
To leverage these web services, we chose to use the Tableau Extract API. We created a web page with some selectors that allow the user to select which state, year and how many records to retrieve from the web service. Then we embedded a Tableau dashboard in the page that uses an extract connection hosted on our Tableau server. The web page allows the user to not only select the variables, but also to “refresh” the extract file the dashboard uses.
That is done by invoking a program that retrieves the web service XML data, converts it to a Tableau extract using the Tableau Extract SDK and then re-publishes the extract to the server. Finally, once the dashboard page is refreshed, it alerts the user to view the new data in the dashboard. Enjoy…