Q&A: What is Alteryx Server? Who needs it and why? Plus a technical FAQ!

Before we get into the details of Alteryx Server, we’ll begin with a brief overview of Alteryx. 

Alteryx gives organizations the ability to access, manipulate, analyze, and output data. The Alteryx Designer product allows people to build workflows that step through complex processes logically. Some workflows are performed once to answer a question; some are performed many times to automate processes like reconciliations. Other workflows are built to refresh complex dashboards built with Tableau, Power BI, or other platforms. Here’s an example of a simple workflow: 

Once a workflow is built, users want to share, secure, schedule, and monitor the assets that have been built. Alteryx Server allows users to publish their workflows to a central location where the workflows can be stored, shared, and controlled in a safe and “enterprise-grade” solution. 

In the rest of this article, we will examine the Alteryx Server and Gallery offering. If you’re looking to answer the question, “What is Alteryx?” please see our introductory blog post here: https://capitalizeconsulting.com/qa-what-is-alteryx/ 

What is Alteryx Server? 

Alteryx Server is a software offering that allows Alteryx Designer workflows to be published, scheduled, administered, secured, and monitored. It also provides a way for users to run and interact with workflows built by other users. 

What is Alteryx Server used for, specifically? 

  1. Publishing workflows
    • Provides a safe location for storing the important processes built in Alteryx Designer. 
    • Includes version control to ensure mistakes or overwriting has an “undo” option.
    • Workflows will use the server/cloud resources instead of the user’s desktop. 
  2. Sharing and scheduling workflows and processes
    • Power users create workflows, but team members run the workflow.
    • Users need the ability to select dates, prompts, or provide files and run the workflow.
    • Workflows need to be scheduled to run at all hours of the day/night.
  3. Building workflows collaboratively
  4. Sharing and securing data connections
  5. Change control, disaster recovery, and asset management
    • Workflows can automate vital organizational processes like system integrations, journal entries, tax compliance, and regulatory filings. It is essential to test changes before publishing something that may not be correct.

Why would a company need Alteryx Server?  

  • Most organizations have power users who build workflows and consumers who need to run the workflows. 

If a department of 50 accountants use Alteryx, it is likely that 10-20% of them are very strong with technology and data, and enjoy working with technology solutions. Those five to ten people can automate the month-end close processes, reconciliations, consolidations, and monthly reports. The rest of the team can run the processes anytime without ever having to learn how to build workflows. 

  • Companies want to move from a “desktop” productivity tool to an “enterprise” solution. 

Alteryx Designer will transform the way teams work with data. Users who spend their days in Excel or SQL will become exponentially more efficient and powerful. They’ll quickly accumulate dozens of automated processes. Some will run in seconds, and some will run in several minutes, and those workflows will save hours or days of effort. 

At some point, the users will create a new set of challenges: 

  1. Their computers are always processing workflows, which bog down their computers.
    • Alteryx Server uses the server or cloud resources, NOT your computer.
    • Unlike your desktop, Alteryx Server can run dozens or hundreds of workflows at the same time.
  2. People often ask them to run workflows interrupting the workday and, if the request is time-sensitive, they may not be available in time to run the workflow.
    • Alteryx Server allows the users to run the workflows, answer prompts, and provide data without requiring the person who built it to assist.
  3. A workflow needs to run in the evening, every hour, or whenever a specific event has occurred.
    • Alteryx Server provides scheduling and API access, allowing workflows to run anytime and be called by nearly any other process.
  • Multiple users own, edit, and utilize workflows in their company or department. 

When people use Alteryx Designer without Alteryx Server, sharing and working on workflows with multiple people becomes difficult. The files may only exist on one user’s computer. They may reference databases or Excel files in locations that only one user has access to. One user may overwrite what another user has built without the ability to “rollback” the changes. 

Alteryx Server provides a central location to store workflows and built-in version control that tracks changes, who made the changes, when the changes were made, and grants users the ability to download any prior version. Version control adds a level of safety and security required by organizations scaling Alteryx across groups of users. 

  •  The workflow requires access to sensitive data during the process that must be kept secure, requires compliance, and must not be seen by users running the workflow. 

Once a process is published to Alteryx Server, strict access requirements can be placed on the workflow. Some users may not see it, others may run it but not see the data, and certain users can modify the process. Authentication and authorization are built into Alteryx to ensure only the designated people have access and capabilities to interact with the workflows. 

  •  Many organizations automate vital processes and must confirm changes are tracked, results are certified, and access is limited. 

 Alteryx Server creates a central and secure location for data sources, workflow publishing, and running processes. Change control and change management can easily be handled, ensuring a process doesn’t change without the proper oversight from management, IT, compliance, or whichever department needs to sign off on the process. 

If an employee leaves the organization, their processes are saved in a safe location and their access can be turned off. Other users can find, open, and edit the processes in the well-documented and easily understood platform of Alteryx Designer. 

Like the customer relationship management system or the general ledger (which could be sources or targets), companies shouldn’t make changes without multiple levels of testing and approval if the process could affect mission-critical systems, processes, or results. 

  •  The Alteryx platform is central to processes that must access other resources and systems at all hours, securely, with 99.999% uptime, and with disaster recovery available. 

Alteryx Server is built on an architecture that can scale across many servers with far more resources than a single desktop. When companies build workflows that access critical systems and automate critical processes, Alteryx Server becomes a “no-brainer.”  

Alteryx Server can be deployed on-premises, on virtual servers, or within virtually any cloud hosting provider. That scalability provides virtually unlimited resources, enterprise security, removes the risk of downtime, and provides the ability to document, plan for, and recover from any disaster. 

Does Capitalize Analytics recommend Alteryx Server? 

If your company has multiple workflows that need to be scheduled, run by multiple users, and/or have become critical to the business, Alteryx Server is an absolute must. 

How could Alteryx Server be used in a real “enterprise” example? 

An analyst needs data from the CRM. She runs three reports from Salesforce and exports them to Excel to build out a workflow to forecast sales for the next three months. 

Saving the workflow to the server, she realizes it will be cumbersome to tell everyone they need to run reports before they run the workflow. She reaches out to IT to see if there’s a solution. 

The IT person opens the workflow and sees connections to Excel files with Salesforce data. Salesforce is a published and secured connection in Alteryx Server/Gallery already. A quick change and some testing enables access to Salesforce in real-time. 

The IT user saves the workflow back to Alteryx Server, creating a new version. If the analyst wants to compare the new one to her original version, it’s always available. 

The analyst isn’t happy with the basic weighted average pipeline-to-revenue calculations used to forecast the next three months. She calls her colleague on the data science team to see if there’s a more accurate way to forecast. 

The data scientist opens the latest version from the server and sees all the data and business logic. Being careful not to put too much load on the Salesforce connection, he pulls a 10-year historical pipeline and sales dataset from the company’s data lake. Then he combines it with the YTD data from Salesforce. 

Using a few advanced Alteryx functions and a little Python, the data scientist is happy with the forecast accuracy and saves the workflow as a new version. All three versions are available if they need to roll back or compare the results. 

The analyst is thrilled! Her workflow results can now be placed into their department or company’s Snowflake data mart to power their Tableau dashboard! 

Once everything is built, tested, and approved for production, the workflow can be moved to the production Alteryx Server and scheduled to run every night to keep the dashboard as fresh as the CRM! 

Technical FAQ 

Where does Alteryx Server get installed? 

Alteryx Server is not software-as-a-service, hosted, or managed by Alteryx. The client (or an authorized 3rd party) installs the software in their chosen environment. It can be on-premises, AWS, Azure, or anywhere the client has access to a Windows Server environment. 

Alteryx Server is licensed based on the number of server cores used, so it’s important to ensure your environment is compliant with what you’ve licensed. 

Where can I find the Alteryx Server documentation? 

You can find the complete documentation for Alteryx Server here: https://help.alteryx.com/current/server 

What are the Alteryx Server system requirements? 

Alteryx Server system requirements can be found here: https://help.alteryx.com/current/server/system-requirements 

How do I install Alteryx Server? 

For those brand new to Alteryx Server, we recommend working with an Alteryx expert. Getting everything done correctly will be critical to the success of your Alteryx implementation. We rarely, if ever, find two clients exactly alike. Setting up load balancing, fault tolerance, single sign-on, and security may not be “hard,” but many detailed steps are involved. 

Alteryx Server installation documentation can be found here: https://help.alteryx.com/current/server/install 

What is the architecture behind Alteryx Server? 

Alteryx Server requires the following parts: 

  1. Alteryx Designer: This Windows application allows users to create and publish workflows. 
  2. Alteryx Gallery: This web-based portal allows users to access, run, schedule, secure, and administer the Alteryx Server. Most, but not all, of the administration happens within the Gallery. 
  3. Alteryx Controller: This Alteryx Server service orchestrates the execution of workflows. 
  4. Alteryx Worker: The Controller assigns the execution of specific workflows to a “Worker” which uses the core Alteryx engine to perform the tasks associated with the workflow run. As Alteryx implementations get larger, the Alteryx Worker is the first thing we scale. It does the bulk of the processing for Alteryx Server, and multiple Workers are required to process many workflows simultaneously. 
  5. Alteryx Persistence Layer (Database): This layer contains the saved workflows, schedules, folder structure, user configuration, database configurations, and other information critical to the operation of the Alteryx Server. The database can be SQLite or MongoDB, but we highly recommend MongoDB.  

Can Alteryx Server be load-balanced, fault-tolerant, and scale for my enterprise as the usage grows? 

Yes. Alteryx Server can be scaled vertically or horizontally by adding more processing power, separating, or duplicating the components above. This topic becomes very environment-, goal-, and license-specific. We recommend reaching out to alteryx@capitalizeconsulting.com to discuss your unique situation. You can also find information in the server documentation and on the Alteryx Community. 

Is there an Alteryx Server API or SDK? 

Yes. The Alteryx Server API documentation can be found here: https://help.alteryx.com/developer-help/gallery-api-overview 

Multiple APIs, an SDK, and a MongoDB database can help you build your custom application. Capitalize Analytics has created a solution to help with documentation, maintenance, and governance of Alteryx called Workflow Admin Manager (WAM) using the API, SDK, and by accessing the MongoDB database. If you would like guidance, we would be happy to assist! 

Where can I see what Alteryx licenses I have? 

Your Alteryx licenses can be found by logging in here: https://my.alteryx.com/licensing 

Your license administrator will have the credentials.  

What if I can’t log into the Alteryx Licensing portal? What if the license administrator is no longer with the company? 

If you can’t find your license administrator and need assistance, you can reach out to alteryx@capitalizeconsulting.com, and we’ll help you get to the right person or help you change your license administrator. 

Do you have questions we didn’t answer, or would you like to discuss your unique situation? Email the Capitalize team at alteryx@capitalizeconsulting.com and let’s discuss your struggles, goals, and vision! 

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