Understanding License Models and Product Keys

This topic describes the different licensing models and the product keys or subscriptions that may be associated with them. A useful visual of how product keys are represented in Tableau Server can be found in tsm licenses list. The Tableau Customer Portal(Link opens in a new window) will also display product key information including type and seat count.

When viewing product keys using tsm licenses list (Tableau Server), or in the Tableau Customer Portal (Tableau Desktop and Tableau Prep Builder), note the product specific prefixes.

Product Key Prefix Description
TC Tableau Creator product key, can be used to activate or deactivate Tableau Desktop and Tableau Prep Builder.
TD Tableau Desktop product key, can be used to activate or deactivate Tableau Desktop only. This is a legacy product key that is no longer sold or provided.
TS Tableau Server product key, can be used to activate or deactivate Tableau Server. Tableau Server product keys can be role-based, core-based, or feature-based.

Term licensing models

Tableau’s term license model is defined by the metric that permits use of Tableau Server. Term licenses are also called subscription licenses. Tableau currently sells access to Tableau Server with subscription licenses. In the subscription license model, customers pay a yearly subscription fee. If the subscription expires, the software will stop working.

Subscription licenses are either role-based or core-based subscriptions. A single license key can be purchased with all roles and features and this license is called an Updatable Subscription License (USL). Only one key needs to be activated on Tableau Server to represent the entire purchase.

Previous subscription licenses (non-USL) were provided with one role type per key and the licenses were "stacked" and activated together to obtain the purchased configuration on Tableau Server.

  • A role-based license allows you to deploy Tableau Server on a single computer or on multiple computers in a cluster. Each user that accesses Tableau Server must be licensed and assigned a role. Administrators can add users based on available licenses of each type.

  • A core-based license imposes no constraints on the number of user accounts in Tableau Server. Instead, the license specifies the maximum number of computer cores on which you can run Tableau Server. You can install Tableau Server on a single computer or across multiple computers as a multi-node cluster, as long as the total number of cores in all the computers does not exceed the total number that the license allows.

    Not all processes installed with Tableau Server impact the calculation of total number of cores used. A subset of processes is considered "licensed processes." Core licensing is calculated only on computers running licensed processes. If a computer has one or more licensed processes installed on it, the cores on that computer count toward the total cores used. For more information about licensed processes, see Licensed processes.

  • An updatable subscription license, enables you to consolidate licenses and update your Tableau Servers using a single product key. You can add new features, adjust capacity, and apply license renewals to a single existing Tableau Server license. You no longer need to add new licenses or replace existing ones. USL:

    • Simplifies key management by reducing the number of product keys that you must manage for ease of maintenance.

    • Minimizes service interruptions because you don’t have to restart Tableau Server after renewing a license, adjusting capacity, or adding new features.

For Updatable Subscription Licenses (USL), your product key in the Tableau Customer Portal does not change even when updated with new features or changes to role counts. With the non-USL subscription license model, you get a new key in your Customer Portal after each license renewal. A new product key will appear in the TSM web UI after the previous product key expires when viewing a non-USL subscription product key. For Updatable Subscription Licenses (USL), your product key does not change in the UI or Tableau Customer Portal. In the Tableau Customer Portal, USL licenses display a selected Is USL Key checkbox on the License Detail page or by true in the Is USL Key column on the Licenses tab.

In the output returned by tsm licenses list, the TYPE field describes the user license metric. In the Tableau Services Manager Web UI, hover over the Type field (or column) to verify if the key is an Updatable Subscription License (USL) product key.

Role-based license model

Tableau offers role-based term licenses that grant a range of capabilities at various price points. Four types of role-based term licenses are available: Display, Viewer, Explorer, and Creator.

  • Display licenses let users share and display Tableau content with a broad, internal audience of users who consume dashboards via shared displays with no interaction. There is no separate site role for Display licenses; when using a Display license, administrators create a dedicated login account for each licensed Display location, which is not the same as an individual user’s login account, and assign the maximum site role of Viewer.
  • Viewer licenses let users view and interact with workbooks in Tableau Server. Viewer licenses also let users access Tableau Mobile, add comments to workbooks, export visuals in various formats, download workbook summary data, create subscriptions for themselves, and receive data-driven alerts.
  • Explorer licenses are similar to the user-based licenses available in previous Tableau Server releases, and include the capabilities provided with Viewer licenses, and additional capabilities. An Explorer license allows access to workbook authoring capabilities using a web browser, as well as a full set of collaboration features.
  • Creator licenses permit a wide range of capabilities when using Tableau Server, and also grant use of Tableau Desktop and Tableau Prep Builder. A Creator license allows all of the capabilities available under the Explorer license, as well as the following capabilities when using Tableau Server:
    • Create and publish new workbooks from a new data source.
    • Edit embedded data sources in the Data pane.
    • Create and publish new data connections.
    • Use login-based license management activation on Tableau Desktop and Tableau Prep Builder.

Note: Tableau Server Administrators will always consume the highest role available. If you activate a product key that contains the Creator role, the Tableau Server Administrator(s) will take this role. If the highest role available on Tableau Server is an Explorer, the Server Administrator will take the Explorer role. If a Creator role is added to a server where no Creators are currently activated, any existing Server Administrator accounts using Explorer licenses will automatically convert to use Creator licenses.

TSM administrator accounts do not require licenses.

For non-USL licenses, product keys are used to activate and add licenses to Tableau Server. When an update to capacity or functionality is purchased with a non-USL product key, the Tableau Server Administrator can activate these additional product keys. For USL product key(s), one product key is activated that contains all roles and features. If a USL license has been updated to change functionality, features, or role counts, no additional product keys will be issues or need to be activated.

For Updatable Subscription License (USL) product key(s), when a key has been updated with a new subscription term, feature, or role count change, the Server ATR service automatically obtains these updates and no additional key(s) need to be activated. USL licenses and Server ATR activations do not require refreshes to obtain these changes. Everything will be handled by the Server ATR service. For a USL product key using the non-Server ATR activation method, refreshes need to occur to obtain the update to the USL product key. For non-USL product keys, when an update to capacity or functionality is purchased, additional product keys are provided in the Tableau Customer Portal that you need to activate on Tableau Server.

If you're using non-USL product keys, select a Tableau Server Creator product key from the Tableau Customer Portal to ensure that you can create a Tableau Server Administrator. Explorer and Viewer product keys can then be activated to add additional licenses. Once the product keys have been activated, administrators can add users and assign them site roles, which automatically consume available licenses.

In the output returned by tsm licenses list, the CREATOR, EXPLORER, VIEWER fields display the number of licenses for each role license type. For non-USL product keys, each role is governed by it's own product key. Therefore, if your organization has purchased licenses for all three roles, then you must activate three product keys. For USL product key(s), one key has all roles and features which is reflected in TSM.

Core-based license model

In a core licensing model, the license defines the number of total computer cores the server can run on, instead of how many users can be added. This means the server can support virtually unlimited users (as Explorers or Viewers; the legacy term for these types of roles was "interactors"). Core-based license also allows a Guest User account, which is not possible with role-based licensing.

However, core licensing on its own does not include Creator seats on the server (those site roles will be grayed out when adding users).

New data sources can only be added to the server by publishing from Tableau Desktop or via a browser by a user with a Creator site role on the server. Therefore, there must either be (a) a user with a Creator site role on the server, or (b) a licensed Tableau Desktop and a user with Explorer (can publish) site role. For route (b), there are two ways to license Tableau Desktop in a core-based server organization:

  • At least one role-based Creator license (which includes Tableau Desktop and Tableau Prep Builder), or
  • At least one licensed Tableau Desktop that uses a legacy Tableau Desktop product key.

Note that if a Creator license is stacked on a server with core-based licensing, that role-based Creator license will be consumed by an admin. The only way to give a Creator site role to a non-admin user is to first ensure that all admins have Creator licenses. Only then can additional Creator licenses be used to assign a Creator site role to non-admin users.

In the output returned by tsm licenses list, the TYPE field will display the number of cores that are licensed. Additionally, the GUEST ACCESS field will display true.

Embedded Analytics usage-based model

Tableau’s Embedded Analytics offering is a usage-based license for Tableau Server that’s made available to customers who want to embed Tableau Server functionality into an external facing solution to provide Tableau content and insights to clients outside of their organization.

Note: Embedded Analytics licenses cannot be used in the same environment as full-use licenses. To change to an Embedded Analytics license, first deactivate your existing full-use licenses and then activate the Embedded Analytics license.

For example, consider an organization that runs a service where they analyze consumer data and generate reports on behavioral patterns regarding different consumer demographics. In this scenario, Tableau Server acts in support of a specific proprietary application titled ‘Demographics Analyzer’ and connects with exported TXT files and a SQL database. The organization makes visualizations available to its clients in a secure portal, where clients log in to manage their account and view the results. End users are uniquely identified by the account they use to access the portal; this determines the number of User-Based Embedded Analytics Server licenses.

The Embedded Analytics license is not displayed in the output returned by tsm licenses list. To verify the license contact Customer Success(Link opens in a new window).

Perpetual license model (legacy)

In the past, Tableau sold access to Tableau Server with perpetual licenses. Although these licenses are no longer available, some customers use this licensing arrangement.

In the perpetual license model, customers paid a maintenance subscription that was renewed annually. If maintenance expires, the software continues to work, but the customer loses access to technical support and software upgrades. Purchasing annual maintenance for perpetual licenses is no longer possible.

Perpetual licenses were either sold for a specific number of users, called interactors, or for a specific number of cores:

  • Interactor licensing is a named-user model where customers purchased licenses by the seat, similar to current role-based licensing. However, unlike role-based licensing, where different access roles are priced accordingly, in interactor licensing, licenses were unbound by role. Licensed users could be Server admins, Site admins, Publishers, Interactors, or Viewers. User roles were set by the administrator only as a means to manage access to content and server configuration.

    If you activate a valid Server Interactor key on version 2020.4 or later, the Interactor count is mapped to the Explorer role.

    Interactor perpetual core licenses cannot use login-based license management. You must purchase a Creator term license, also called a Creator subscription license, in order to use login-based license management with Tableau Desktop or Tableau Prep Builder.

  • Perpetual core licensing has the same model as subscription core licensing, it specifies the number of computer cores the software can be run on and supports unlimited users and a guest account.

In the output returned by tsm licenses list, the TYPE filed displays Perpetual. Note also that the MAINT EXP date is also displayed.

Feature licenses

Feature licenses are sold differently than other licenses. Features with independent licenses must be licensed for every user (or all cores) in the deployment. A deployment includes a licensed production Tableau Server installation and licensed non-production Tableau Server installations that support the production installation.

These features are licensed annually, and in the context of licensing, the availability of these features to the user base are “all or none:”

  • Data Management
  • Advanced Management
  • Login-based License Management

Note: Updatable subscription licenses include both features and roles in one license. You no longer need to activate multiple licenses and product key(s) for different features and their associated roles.

Data Management

The Data Management license includes Tableau Catalog and Tableau Prep Conductor for a single Tableau Server deployment, which may be role-based or core-based. For more information, see About Data Management.

Data Management may require resource cores, which specifies the computing power that is used to run flows for Prep Conductor. Servers with core-based licensing are required to purchase at least four Resource Cores. See License Data Management.

In the output returned by tsm licenses list, a single product key for Data Management is indicated by the DATA MANAGEMENT field, which displays true under the appropriate license.

Advanced Management

Tableau Server Advanced Management is licensed on a per deployment basis, which may be role-based or core-based. For more information on Advanced Management and the features included, see About Tableau Advanced Management on Tableau Server.

In the output returned by tsm licenses list, a single product key for Advanced Management is indicated by the SERVER MANAGEMENT ADD-ON field, which displays true under the appropriate license.

Login-based License Management

Login-based license management (LBLM) simplifies licensing for Tableau Desktop and Tableau Prep Builder. Instead of using product keys, these products are activated when a user with a Creator's license authenticates with Tableau Server. If a customer is using Tableau Desktop or Tableau Prep Builder without Tableau Server, LBLM cannot be used.

Note: As of Tableau Server version 2023.1, LBLM is supported in offline deployments. To deploy Tableau Server with LBLM enabled, you must configure Tableau Server to use Authorization-To-Run (ATR) Service. For more information, see Activate Tableau Server Offline.

For more information, see Login-based License Management.

In the output returned by tsm licenses list, a single product key for login-based licensed management is indicated by the LBLM field, which displays true under the appropriate license.

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