This page provides you with instructions on how to extract data from Google Cloud SQL and analyze it in Tableau. (If the mechanics of extracting data from Google Cloud SQL seem too complex or difficult to maintain, check out Stitch, which can do all the heavy lifting for you in just a few clicks.)
What is Google Cloud SQL?
Google Cloud SQL is a managed database service that lets DBAs set up, maintain, and administer MySQL and PostgreSQL databases on Google Cloud Platform.
What is Tableau?
Tableau is one of the world's most popular analysis platforms. The software helps companies model, explore, and visualize their data. It also offers cloud capabilities that allow analyses to be shared via the web or company intranets, and its offerings are available as both installed software and as a SaaS platform. Tableau is widely known for its robust and flexible visualization capabilities, which include dozens of specialized chart types.
In addition to its business software, Tableau also offers a free product called Tableau Public for analyzing open data sets. If you're new to Tableau, this offering is a great way to experience Tableau's capabilities at no cost and share your work publicly.
Getting data out of Google Cloud SQL
In most cases, the easiest way to retrieve data from relational databases is by writing SQL queries.
Google also provides a REST API for administering databases, instances, and other objects in Cloud SQL. So, for example, to retrieve a resource containing information about a database inside a Cloud SQL instance for a particular project, you could call
If your underlying database is PostgreSQL, you can use the
pg_dump command to export data as a CSV-format flat file or a script that you can run to restore the database on any Postgres server. If your underlying database is MySQL, you can use the
mysqldump command to export entire tables and databases in a format you specify (i.e. delimited text, CSV, or SQL queries that would restore the database).
Sample Google Cloud SQL data
The GET call we mentioned would return a database resource, which contains seven properties. Other API calls return different resources.
For data you export via SQL query, pg_dump, or mysqldump, you need a matching table in your data warehouse to receive the data from Cloud SQL. The information_schema database contains all of the metadata information you need to recreate your tables in another environment.
Preparing Google Cloud SQL data
If you don't already have a data structure in which to store the data you retrieve, you'll have to create a schema for your data tables. Then, for each value in the response, you'll need to identify a predefined datatype (INTEGER, DATETIME, etc.) and build a table that can receive them. Google's documentation should tell you what fields are provided by each endpoint, along with their corresponding datatypes.
Complicating things is the fact that the records retrieved from the source may not always be "flat" – some of the objects may actually be lists. This means you'll likely have to create additional tables to capture the unpredictable cardinality in each record.
Loading data into Tableau
Analyzing data in Tableau requires putting it into a format that Tableau can read. Depending on the data source, you may have options for achieving this goal, but the best practice among most businesses is to build a data warehouse that contains the data, and then connect that data warehouse to Tableau.
Tableau provides an easy-to-use Connect menu that allows you to connect data from flat files, direct data sources, and data warehouses. In most cases, connecting these sources is simply a matter of creating and providing credentials to the relevant services.
Once the data is connected, Tableau offers an option for locally caching your data to speed up queries. This can make a big difference when working with slower database platforms or flat files, but is typically not necessary when using a scalable data warehouse platform. Tableau's flexibility and speed in these areas are among its major differentiators in the industry.
Analyzing data in Tableau
Tableau's report-building interface may seem intimidating at first, but it's one of the most powerful and intuitive analytics UIs on the market. Once you understand its workflow, it offers fast and nearly limitless options for building reports and dashboards.
If you're familiar with Pivot Tables in Excel, the Tableau report building experience may feel somewhat familiar. The process involves selecting the rows and columns desired in the resulting data set, along with the aggregate functions used to populate the data cells. Users can also specify filters to be applied to the data and choose a visualization type to use for the report.
You can learn how to build a report from scratch for free (although a sign-in is required) from the Tableau documentation.
Keeping Google Cloud SQL data up to date
At this point you've coded up a script or written a program to get the data you want and successfully moved it into your data warehouse. But how will you load new or updated data? It's not a good idea to replicate all of your data each time you have updated records. That process would be painfully slow and resource-intensive.
Instead, identify key fields that your script can use to bookmark its progression through the data and use to pick up where it left off as it looks for updated data. Auto-incrementing fields such as updated_at or created_at work best for this. When you've built in this functionality, you can set up your script as a cron job or continuous loop to get new data as it appears in Google Cloud SQL.
And remember, as with any code, once you write it, you have to maintain it. If Google modifies its API, or the API sends a field with a datatype your code doesn't recognize, you may have to modify the script. If your users want slightly different information, you definitely will have to.
From Google Cloud SQL to your data warehouse: An easier solution
As mentioned earlier, the best practice for analyzing Google Cloud SQL data in Tableau is to store that data inside a data warehousing platform alongside data from your other databases and third-party sources. You can find instructions for doing these extractions for leading warehouses on our sister sites Google Cloud SQL to Redshift, Google Cloud SQL to BigQuery, Google Cloud SQL to Azure Synapse Analytics, Google Cloud SQL to PostgreSQL, Google Cloud SQL to Panoply, and Google Cloud SQL to Snowflake.
Easier yet, however, is using a solution that does all that work for you. Products like Stitch were built to move data automatically, making it easy to integrate Google Cloud SQL with Tableau. With just a few clicks, Stitch starts extracting your Google Cloud SQL data, structuring it in a way that's optimized for analysis, and inserting that data into a data warehouse that can be easily accessed and analyzed by Tableau.