We live in an app economy where every business is a software business. While this is exciting, it also presents an array of unprecedented challenges. The need to maintain product version currency via solid upgrade strategies has never been greater.
Up to 40% of administrators don’t prioritize updating their Tableau Server. So, it’s no big surprise that the average user doesn’t upgrade as often as they should either.
However, with the worldwide release of so many large ransomware attacks in the last few years, we should all take upgrading more seriously. All risks aside, there are some great benefits to upgrading the Tableau Server when new versions are released. Often, bugs that you didn’t even realize were slowing you down will be fixed, and new features could be added.
In this blog, we will understand the need for regular Tableau Server upgrades. We will also go through a brief process involved in the Tableau Server upgrade.
What are Tableau Server Updates, and Why Does it Matter?
Tableau Server update, or simply Tableau software update, refers to updating/upgrading your Tableau Server and its related components to the most stable latest version. The upgrade isn’t only confined to your Tableau Server. The upgrade may also involve its related components like Tableau Desktop, Tableau Prep, etc., as per your business needs.
Most organizations think this upgrade is part of Tableau Server Maintenance activity. However, updating your software is more than just a maintenance task. Updating the Tableau Server will make sure to keep it up to date with the latest features, security compliance, bug fixing, etc.
At times you may notice that the performance starts degrading of your Tableau Server with an older version installed. This happens mostly because some of the internal application files become too old to handle new security standards set by other dependent components. This leads to slowing down the communication between them and further degrading your Tableau Server performance.
The world is getting driven more and more by AI (Artificial Intelligence). As a company, Tableau will soon start looking for AI in all areas, including Tableau Server. Early AI features have already been introduced in Tableau Server, such as the “Ask Data” or “Explain Data” features. Newer AI advancements, such as Tableau Pulse, are expected to launch in Tableau Server updates this year. If you do not keep up with regular updates, your business might miss these technologically advanced features.
The Risk and Issues With Older Versions
You must have seen a lot of organizations that have faced cyberattacks. These cyberattacks are mostly performed for data breaches, leading to financial loss for those organizations. Data breaches occur due to unknown hardware, software, or security infrastructure vulnerabilities or unforeseen risks.
Cybercriminals use vulnerabilities in your tech to exploit it. All identified vulnerabilities must be mitigated to reduce the risk of data breaches and cyberattacks. One can mitigate this risk by continually updating outdated software and immediately installing security patches or updates.
A recent example is the Log4j vulnerability identified in the Tableau Server. The Log4j vulnerability allows for remote code execution in the products. It means everyone who has network access to your Server can gain admin access to the application and Tableau service user access to the underlying operating system.
Tableau must work diligently and resolve this in its upcoming maintenance releases. If you do not update your Tableau Server with newer maintenance versions, then there’s a high chance that your Tableau Server will get exploited, and a data breach can happen.
How to Upgrade Tableau Server
Before you start the actual upgrade activity for Tableau Server, you will need to plan/prepare for the same.
Let’s jot down some points here.
If you are running an in-place upgrade (you’re not updating hardware as part of your upgrade), then nearly all the configuration data is preserved. You do not need to gather all the configuration information in this case. In the worst-case scenario, should the upgrade fail, then you will have a record of all configuration information you need to restore.
SAML certificate file
SAML key file
SAML IdP metadata file
LDAP Kerberos keytab file
LDAP Kerberos conf file
Mutual SSL certificate file
Mutual SSL revocation file
Customization header logo file
Customization sign-in logo file
Customization compact logo file
Prior to upgrading Tableau Server, review the product keys that are currently installed and compare them to the product keys, maintenance expiration, and license expiration end dates that are listed in the Tableau Customer Portal. It is important that all expiration and end dates associated with product keys are up to date before you upgrade.
Before you upgrade the Tableau Server, verify that you have passwords for two accounts:
An account that is a member of the local administrator’s group.
A Run As service account.
We strongly recommend that you fully back up your installation of Tableau Server before beginning the upgrade process. A backup made before you start the upgrade provides data that you’ll need to set up a test version of the upgraded environment, and it also gives you the ability to recover if the upgrade process fails.
tsm maintenance backup -f
tsm settings export --output-config-file
You must download and copy the Tableau Server Setup program to the computer running Tableau Server. If you are running a multi-node deployment of Tableau Server, copy the Setup program to each node in the cluster.
Once you have planned and prepared for your upgrade activity, you can begin the upgrade process. The upgrade process can be visualized with the following flow chart.
Let’s try to briefly understand each step of the flow as part of the Tableau Server upgrade.
Though not strictly required, we recommend disabling scheduled tasks before you perform the upgrade.
Once all the scheduled tasks are disabled, you need to run the new version Tableau Server installer file on your Initial/Primary Node. You need to make sure that you are logged in to the node with the user having local administrator privileges.
If you have a multi-node setup for Tableau Server, you must install the new version on every node before you run the upgrade script.
After you have installed the new version on every node in the cluster, run the upgrade script on the initial node. If the Tableau Server is running, the script will let you know and offer to stop it. Tableau Server must be stopped to run the upgrade script.
When the upgrade script is complete, start Tableau Server.
Now you can start your post-upgrade validation process. At this stage, you can enable subscriptions & schedules (if disabled at the beginning), verify TSM global settings, user access, workbooks, data sources, extract refresh jobs, API functionality, etc.
Now that the upgrade is complete and verified, you can remove the older version of Tableau Server to free up disk space. This is an optional step.
Tips and Reminders for Staying Current
When it comes to staying current with your Tableau Server versions, you should always remember two specific points.
When to upgrade
Which version to upgrade
In an ideal scenario, you should plan for your Tableau Server upgrade twice a year. You can plan for your Tableau Server upgrade every second and fourth quarter of the year.
It is also recommended to go for the
n-1 version for your Tableau Server upgrade,
n being the latest version available. This is advised to ensure that you are on a stable version instead of a recently released version that may have some unidentified bugs/issues.
In brief, the upgrade plays a vital role in keeping your Tableau Server performance up to the mark. Being on the more current and stable version of Tableau Server is always recommended. It’s not just about updating your Tableau Server every now and then with every new release that comes along because that will occupy almost all your time in planning, preparing, and upgrading the Tableau Server. The business users will also be affected by this.
If you have more questions about this and want to dive deep into different strategies involving Tableau Server upgrade, then don’t hesitate to contact our Tableau experts.
It completely depends on the size of your Tableau Server and the version to which the upgrade is happening. On average, your complete Tableau Server upgrade activity should not take more than 7-8 hours. This excludes your preparation and planning for the upgrade. The preparation and planning vary depending on the object count & size, user base, etc.
Tableau Server will have a significant (major) release every eight months. Tableau Desktop will be released every four months.