When your connecting to databases with Alteryx you are always looking to connect to ODBC drivers. While I would love to see some more custom optimised connectors which store the connection information with the connection (the SalesForce Connector is heading in that direction), the current situation is you connect by ODBC and end up with a connection List like this:
At this point it gets to be a pain trying to remember which connection goes to which database on which server, but don’t worry there is a solution!
The Alias Manager is the first step in allowing you to save your connection information and give it a name you can remember. You can use it for both standard database connections (for use with the normal input tool) or for In-Database connections. There are two main ways to access the Alias Manager, you can navigate to it via the Options Menu->Advanced Options->Alias Manager or you can get to it from an Input tool (in the Alias option)
Creating an Alias
Once you have opened the alias manager creating a new alias is pretty easy. First click on the plus icon then choose the ‘Add User’ or ‘Add System’ option (I usually just create a User alias). From there you choose your alias name and add the connection details for the database. I usually copy the connection from a previous connection (that appears in recently used list) and paste that in.
Sharing Your Alias
So now that you have your aliases you want to share the fast, easy and clean workflows you have created (using the alias “Awesome Database” in the input). You package the workflow up and share it out (either giving them the workflow or uploading it to your Alteryx Server), then sit back relax and wait for the praise to come in…
Except you start getting emails saying the work flow isn’t working and it cant connect to “Awesome Database” (your alias). Don’t panic there is a way to fix this.
When you assign an alias Alteryx creates an XML file (UserAlias.xml for a user level alias or SystemAlias.xml for a system level alias). you can go and find these XML files in your computers directory (C:UsersyourusernameAppDataRoamingAlteryxEngine). From this directory you should can copy/paste the XML to the correct directory in your colleague’s computer to have the Alias show up in Alteryx.
This process is exactly the same if you wanted to have your alias on your Alteryx Server.
Word of Caution
So you have shared the XML file your Alias workflows work on other people’s computer (and if you copied the XML to your Alteryx Server it works there too). There is a catch though. Currently the way aliases work is username and password is embedded into the XML file that you have shared.
It means that anyone you share your Alias with will use your connection details. Once the file is installed on their computer, you can edit the alias to change this but it isn’t automatic.
A Couple of Uses
So you you now know what an alias is and how to create one but what can use use it for?
Dev to Live
Many companies don’t allow the development of workflows on a live production database. What this would mean is that every time you create a workflow on the development database and publish it, you would need to get someone in IT to change the connection for you. One way around this is to manually create an alias with the same name on both your computer pointing to the dev server and on the Alteryx server pointing to the production server. As long as the two alias names are identical they will work seamlessly.
Centralised Data Connection Naming
Another useful way of using Aliases is to centralise the naming of connections so they are consistent across the organisation. What you would do is create the alias on you Alteryx Server and use a Windows Group policy to share the created XML. In addition you can use another group policy to share the ODBC connection preferences.
I hope this helps you simplify your many database connections and make sharing these with other people much simpler.