Tableau widens developer play -- what is a writeback extension?

It’s always a funny thing with enterprise technology firms, isn’t it?

A company that you imagine to be laser focused on upper-tier ‘presentation layer’ technologies hits you with a message set peppered with developer-centric programming messages.

Tableau Software Inc. isn’t of course just focused on the presentation layer, although admittedly its data analytics offering is heavily aligned to graphically presented dashboards.

The firm’s latest developer-related news sees it offer Tableau 2018.2 as a release that introduces a new Extensions API (Application Programming Interface).

This function enables users  to drag and drop third party functionality directly into a dashboard.

Publicly available extensions can be found in the new Extension Gallery at tableau.com/extensions.

As an example, with the new Tableau extension built by partner DataRobot, users can drag and drop advanced predictive models on top of their existing dashboards. Customers can also build their own extensions to create custom functionality. This means IT can use the API to create a custom writeback extension, allowing analysts to update an inventory management system, for example, without leaving Tableau.

TECHNICAL NOTE: A writeback extension describes the action of opening up a data channel for modified data to be ‘written back’ to the database. In the case of Tableau or any other analytics engine, it allows the user to view, modify, act, connect and otherwise integrate the data and have its writeback functionality executed so that all further dashboard views reflect the now progressed data intelligence created.

Related news sees Tableau customers offered the chance to administer Tableau Server directly in the browser, through the new Tableau Services Manager.

Chief product officer at Tableau Francois Ajenstat says that the 2018.2 release also includes the ability to join data sources based on spatial data and new mobile dashboard formatting tools to improve mobile consumption of analytical content.

“From custom visualisations and write-back, to advanced and predictive analytics, the possibilities are endless and only limited by a developer’s creativity,” claims Ajenstat.

Developers can create new functionalities using the Extensions API available at tableau.com/developers, extending and customising as they wish. But regardless, IT administrators will still have full control of which extensions are allowed to run, preserving best practices for data governance and security.

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