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Posts Tagged ‘CMS’

APOS: Providing the Missing Piece

June 17th, 2008 No comments

Puzzle PieceWhen I was growing up I always enjoyed putting puzzles together. I loved the challenge of putting all those pieces together so that I could see the whole picture. Sometimes I would borrow a puzzle from a friend and as I was close to finishing the puzzle, I would discover 1 or 2 puzzle pieces were missing. The puzzle was incomplete.

From a BI perspective, APOS has been a long partner of BusinessObjects. My first opportunity to work with APOS came while I was working at Crystal Decisions. Our next generation Crystal Enterprise product was new and although it provided a great framework for the future, there were a few pieces missing from our complete BI picture. Thankfully, APOS developed a number of powerful solutions to fill those gaps so that our customers didn’t have to wait until tomorrow’s release for the functionality they needed today.

Do you feel you are missing a piece from BusinessObjects XI 3.0?APOS Logo

Business Objects has many great partners, but probably non-better than APOS. In January of this year, APOS was awarded the Business Objects Technology Partner of the Year Award for 2007. They have used the BusinessObjects SDK more extensively than any other BusinessObjects partner. They don’t just one solution. Their tools provide dozens of potential missing pieces that might fit your BI puzzle.

My Favorite APOS Tools

So what’s so great about APOS? Well, here are my top 3 list favorite solutions:

  1. InfoScheduler – mass scheduling – dead simple. Scheduling has always been one of those areas were BusinessObjects added a few new features with ever release. Unfortunately however it’s not an area that tends to get a lot of attention. It was only in XI 3.0 that we introduced native bursting within the platform. InfoScheduler provides an Excel-based report scheduling tool that allows mass scheduling of reports from an Excel spreadsheet. How easy is that? Can you say zero training? Users can copy paste, import, export data into Excel to provide scheduling for 10, 100 or 1,000s of reports.
  2. Object Manager – Although the CMC is a comprehensive administration console, administrators of large reporting environment often struggle with managing this volume of information. In XI 3.0, BusinessObjects introduced a number of new enhancements which made working with multiple objects much easier; however Object Manager takes it to the next level. You can manage users, groups, reports, security and even the report life cycle process. Object Manager provides power, ease-of-use and flexibility.
  3. KPI – One of the most common requests I hear from customers is the ability to do reporting off their CMS. BusinessObjects XI provides an auditing database to allow customers to report off of user activity, but how do administrators report off the objects within the CMS? With KPI, APOS allows you to extract all the XML metadata that is stored within the CMS to an external relational database. Now you can create reports that allow you to:
  • Analyze Business View and Universe configuration information
  • Examine Crystal and Desktop Intelligence report structure
  • See How many reports use the database field profit
  • Show CMS Statistics
  • Discover how many reports are scheduled to run tomorrow.

You can even set an automatic schedule to refresh the external metadata database on a regular basis. It’s your own mini-datamart for reporting off your BI system. You have to see it to believe it.

Southwest is using all three of these tools and several more!

Can’t Find Your Missing Piece?

If you’ve look through the APOS website and you can’t find the type of functionality that you feel is missing from BusinessObjects, call APOS anyway. Necessity is the mother of invention. Each of the solutions that APOS provides today was developed from the real-world needs of customers just like you. APOS would love to talk to you about extending BusinessObjects in a way that they may not have thought of.

Puzzle Complete

As a kid I was rarely able to find the missing puzzle piece, but in the area of extending BusinessObjects, APOS continues to deliver. Their depth of experience means they understand how BusinessObjects works today and how to make it work better for you tomorrow.

Tip: XI 3.0 Administration Best Practice

April 15th, 2008 9 comments

If you’ve had a chance to use the new BusinessObjects XI 3.0, one of the first things you will notice is that all your services are now managed by a local process called a Server Intelligence Agent. This agent is responsible for starting and stopping all the services that it manages.

After installing BusinessObjects XI 3.0, the first thing I did was start the CCM (Central Configuration Manager). I noticed I only had two services running.

New CCM

Where are my services?

They are now managed based on how the Server Intelligence Agent. I don’t want to get into the details of what the Service Intelligent Agent does. This is clearly explained in the documentation. Instead I would like recommend to you a new best practice with the SIA.

But the CMS is King right?

In the XI 3.0 system there is a bit of a catch 22. The CMS is still king. Nothing works without the CMS. When the SIA starts up, it checks to see if it has a local CMS or not. If it does, it will start the CMS. After the CMS has started, it will then read the list of servers from the CMS database that it manages. Finally, it will start all those services. If there is no local CMS for a SIA, the SIA will wait for a remote CMS to start so it can read it’s list of managed services from the CMS and start them up.

But what if the CMS won’t start? What if I only want to start the CMS?

We need to manage this potential occurence.

Recommended Best Practice

Create a new NODE with a CMS to be used for maintenance only.

I strongly recommend that you create a second NODE for each server which will have a local CMS. There may be a situation when you want to bring the system up in maintenance mode and do some work without all the other services starting.

This also gives you the opportunity to start another CMS should you have a problem with your primary CMS. Here are the steps for creating a new NODE with only a CMS.

From within the CCM choose the Add Service Intelligence Agent from the menu. The SIA, like the CMS, needs a specific port to be assigned to it. It cannot pick a random available port. For the name, use the same name as your primary NODE but add the “_MAINT” to the end. Next pick an available port. In my case I used 6501.

Add Server Intelligence Agent

Choose Next and fill out the CMS login information so that the configuration information for your new NODE can be written to the CMS database and choose Finish.

Server Intelligence Agent Wizard

Although services can be added from the web based Central Management Console (CMC) interface, let’s start the SIA now. If you look at the properties of this SIA, you will see that it is associated with a remote CMS. We want to add a new “local” CMS to this SIA. (This means the SIA will have it’s own CMS to manage).

Go to the web based CMC and navigate to the Servers screen and see the new NODE we just created. Now we are going to add a new CMS server.

There are a number of ways to add a new server. Here I have highlighted three.

Create CMS in XI 3.0

You can select the new NODE and choose the icon, drop-down menu or the new right-click menu. I love this new Web 2.0 that makes the interface work like a traditional windows environment. It provides a huge productivity gain.

Next, you are prompted to choose the server to add. We want to choose Core Services and Central Management Services. Next you will have an opportunity to add optional, additional services. The CMS supports an additional single sign-on service. I recommend you add that as well.

Now you need to tell which NODE to associate this service too. We want to chose our new _MAINT NODE.

The message is warning us that without the correct database configuration and setup, the CMS will not start. In our case, we have never set up a CMS on this NODE, so this is a warning we should heed. We will not be able to successfully start the CMS without additional setup.

Choose Create.

Unfortunately when setting up this service we don’t get a chance to change our final settings before the service is created, so after we create the service, we need to got back into the properties of the service and adjust two important settings.

Open up the properties of the new CMS and modify the listening port and the automatic start-up settings. The default port for the CMS is 6400, however my default CMS might already be running on this port, to temporarily change this to port 6401 – ONLY for testing. I will change it back to 6400 as soon as testing is complete.

NOTE: if you are ONLY going to use this SIA when the other SIA has been stopped, then you may use 6400 but understand that when you attempt to start this CMS, if another CMS is already running on port 6400, then this CMS will not be able to start. If you will want to use two CMSes at the same time, then you will need to use two different ports.

In addition, make sure and automatically start this server when the Server Intelligence Agent starts. Remember, when I manually start my new SIA, (MYXI30_MAINT) I will need a CMS to start as well.

Configuring the Database Connection for the CMS

Now there are TWO WAYS to properly configure the database connection. The fast and automatic way or the slow and manual way.

Option 1 – Fast and Automatic

The fastest way to setup the connection information for your CMS is to find an existing .dbinfo file for a working CMS and NODE combination and copy the file and rename it to the name of your new CMS.

In our case, the name of my working NODE with an associated CMS was MYXI30_ALL so the name of the associated .dbinfo file was found under: C:Program FilesBusinessObjects 12.0win32_x86 and is called _boe_MYXI30_ALL.dbinfo.

Copy this file and rename the file to the name of your new NODE with the _MAINT. In my case the node will be called _boe_MYXI30_MAINT.dbinfo.

Now when you start the CMS it will have the data necessary to connect to the CMS. Next time your new NODE starts, so will this CMS.

Option 2 – Slow and Manual (and ultimately the “right” way)

In order to manually configure the connection information for the CMS so that it will know how to connect to the CMS, you need to use the CCM. The CCM is the only tool that will allow you to configure the connection information. This cannot be done from within the CMC. From the CCM on the server, make sure the new SIA is NOT running.

Next, choose the Specify CMS Database icon so that we can define the CMS connection information for our new NODE.

You may receive an error message. This is normal.

Just choose OK to continue. Eventually you will get the prompt to configure the connection for the CMS database. We do NOT want to create or recreate our CMS, we simply want to update the data sourse settings, so choose the first option and choose OK.

You will be prompted to choose the associated database driver for your CMS and to enter the credentials.

Once this as been completed, a .new file will be created in the C:Program FilesBusinessObjects 12.0win32_x86. The file will be called _boe_NODENAME.dbinfo. In my case it is called _boe_MYXI30_MAINT.dbinfo.

If you are using an auditing database you may also wish to configure this by choosing the auditing configuration and following similar steps for that database.

When you are finished start the SIA and the CMS will start as well.

Conclusion

Remember, if the CMS does not start automatically, check the settings in the CMC for the service and make sure that the new CMS service is configured to start automatically when the SIA starts. This is a parameter that can be set for each service.

Hopefully this has been helpful in explaining some of the new best practices around XI 3.0 Administration. In addition I hope this will give you a quick introduction to the SIA and it’s relationship to the CMS. Your new “CMS-only” node will be great when you need to just bring up the CMS so you can access the CMC.

Enjoy.