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Hi Chris. Yes you can connect tableau live to your data source without importing data to tableau or can do it by importing too. You also have option of custom SQL. Not sure of HFS or impala as I have no idea on that.
Is extracting and ingesting the preferred method for high perfromance analytics? Or, asked another way - are there limitations to what you can do in terms of analytical flexibility and performance with the direct connection approach?
I would say both extraction and live connection works depending on your requirement. Most people use extract technique since performance will be better as the dashboard will be saved as packaged workbook. If you need to use direct connection, you can go ahead with it and test it out. It depends on the amount of data you are using in your dashboard.
Look into below links, you would get better idea and more insight.
Hope this helps you.
Thanks, those links are very helpful - just what I was looking for.