Wednesday, December 24, 2008

WebFOCUS Server Symbolic Variables

Within the WebFOCUS Reporting Server's profile logic, you can set symbolic variables that user programs can interrogate. For example, you could set a flag so that WebFOCUS programs know where they are running. This "where am I?" feature is useful when your test, development, production QA, and production environments may be slightly different and the programs must take into consideration some nuances.

Let's image putting the following statement in the WebFOCUS Reporting Server's profile (the edasprof.prf file):


Any program running on the server can now check this global variable to see what value the server has put there. In the example above, the programs could look at &&SYS_SERVER and know that they are on the development server.

Here is an example -- common code that programs could call to find the names and locations of company logo images:


- 'http://localhost/approot/baseapp/co_logo.jpg' ELSE

- 'http://localhost/approot/baseapp/co_logo_small.jpg' ELSE

- '/reports/images/co_logo.jpg' ELSE

- 'co_logo_small.jpg' ELSE
- IF &WFFMT IS 'HTML' THEN '/prod/images/co_logo.jpg' ELSE
- IF &WFFMT IS 'PDF' THEN 'co_logo_small.jpg' ELSE ' ';

By default, this common logic assumes reports run on the production server. If this is not the case, the server lets the program know that is on (in this example, anyway) the development server or on an developer's machine (using the default LOCALHOST name).

Here is another good idea for symbolics on the server.  Developers like to include debugging comments in their programs and often forget to remove them when promoting to production.  Using a WebFOCUS server symbolic, we can dynamically turn on and off debug commands depending upon which server is being used.  When running on the test server, turn on debugging.  When running production, however, turn those commands off.

On the production server, put this command in its profile:


On the test server, change it slightly to be this:


Inside all of your WebFOCUS programs, you can always have this command:


When running production, debug echos are turned off; in the test environment, they are turned on.

If you have any questions about WebFOCUS symbolic variables, let me know.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Tracing BI Dashboard Activity

Turning on traces for the WebFOCUS BI Dashboard involves tinkering with an XML configuration file on the Java application server. Like the WebFOCUS server traces, use caution -- play with a test server before trying this in production.

On a Windows box running WebFOCUS 7, you will find this BID configuration file at drive:\ibi\webfocus7x\worp\conf\bid-config.xml. It contains a parameter telling WebFOCUS whether or not to trace dashboard activity.

Within < > brackets, you will see:

trace-option trace-flag="false" trace-level="DEBUG"/

To start tracing, change the "false" to "true" and restart the Java app server. WebFOCUS will then create trace files for each person logging into the dashboard. On a Windows box, WebFOCUS 7 stores the logs in a folder called: drive:\ibi\webfocus7x\logs.

WebFOCUS names the output log files with a prefix of a unique number and "DashboardTracing." It also adds a suffix of the userid and date-time stamp. The naming format is: #####_DashboardTracing_userid_yymmdd_hhmmss.trace.

When you are done tracing BID activity, change the configuration setting back to "false" and restart the app server.

Below is an example of a Windows WebFOCUS BI Dashboard log-in failure:

Gen Date: Mon Apr 2 16:31:57 EDT 2007
Gen Number: 4
Gen Label: branch761
Server Info: Apache Tomcat/5.5.17
2 11/26/2007 11:29:44:937 INFO WORP_RM.logDefaultTraceInfo
2 11/26/2007 11:29:44:937 INFO WORP_RM.logDefaultTraceInfo ###########################################
2 11/26/2007 11:29:44:937 INFO WORP_RM.logDefaultTraceInfo Request type: WORP_LOGIN
2 11/26/2007 11:29:44:937 INFO WORP_RM.logDefaultTraceInfo Is valid session: false
2 11/26/2007 11:29:44:937 INFO WORP_RM.logDefaultTraceInfo ************************************
2 11/26/2007 11:29:44:937 DEBUG WORP_RM.logDefaultTraceInfo Request Parameters:
2 11/26/2007 11:29:44:937 DEBUG WORP_RM.logDefaultTraceInfo WORP_REQUEST_TYPE=WORP_LOGIN
2 11/26/2007 11:29:44:937 DEBUG WORP_RM.logDefaultTraceInfo IBIWF_language=en
2 11/26/2007 11:29:44:937 DEBUG WORP_RM.logDefaultTraceInfo WORP_USER=doug
2 11/26/2007 11:29:44:937 DEBUG WORP_RM.logDefaultTraceInfo WORP_PASS=******
2 11/26/2007 11:29:44:937 DEBUG WORP_RM.logDefaultTraceInfo ************************************
2 11/26/2007 11:29:44:937 DEBUG WORP_RM.logDefaultTraceInfo Request Attributes:
2 11/26/2007 11:29:44:937 DEBUG WORP_RM.logDefaultTraceInfo ************************************
2 11/26/2007 11:29:44:937 DEBUG SignonAdapter.createWFMRSession Created WFMRSession
2 11/26/2007 11:29:44:937 DEBUG WORP_SignonManager.singon() Signing on to Dashboard
2 11/26/2007 11:29:44:937 DEBUG WORP_SignonManager.singon() Doing form authentication: doug
2 11/26/2007 11:29:44:937 DEBUG WORP_SignonManager.singon() Doing single signon
2 11/26/2007 11:29:44:937 ERROR WORP_RM.doPost Exception
ibi.worp.util.WORP_Exception: (19105) Invalid user ID or password. Please try again.
at ibi.worp.mrapi.WORP_SignonAdapter.signon(
at ibi.worp.WORP_SignonManager.signon(
at ibi.worp.WORP_RM.doPost(
at javax.servlet.http.HttpServlet.service(
at javax.servlet.http.HttpServlet.service(
at org.apache.catalina.core.ApplicationFilterChain.internalDoFilter(
at org.apache.catalina.core.ApplicationFilterChain.doFilter(
at org.apache.catalina.core.StandardWrapperValve.invoke(
at org.apache.catalina.core.StandardContextValve.invoke(
at org.apache.catalina.core.StandardHostValve.invoke(
at org.apache.catalina.valves.ErrorReportValve.invoke(
at org.apache.catalina.core.StandardEngineValve.invoke(
at org.apache.catalina.connector.CoyoteAdapter.service(
at org.apache.coyote.http11.Http11Processor.process(
at org.apache.coyote.http11.Http11BaseProtocol$Http11ConnectionHandler.processConnection(
at org.apache.tomcat.util.threads.ThreadPool$
at Source)
Caused by: ibi.webfoc.wfmre.mrutil.WFMRError: The User ID or Password you have entered is incorrect.
at ibi.webfoc.wfmre.mrutil.WFMRUtil.throwMRError(
at ibi.webfoc.wfmre.repos.htm_bd.WFMRFileUserHandler.getAuthenticatedUser(
at ibi.webfoc.wfmre.repos.core_bd.WFMRRouterUserHandler.getAuthenticatedUser(
at ibi.webfoc.wfmre.repos.WFMRUserHandlerProxy.getAuthenticatedUser(
at ibi.webfoc.wfmre.mrobj.WFMRRepository.getAuthenticatedUser(
at ibi.webfoc.wfmre.WFMRSession.getAuthenticatedUser(
at ibi.webfoc.wfmre.WFMRSession.authenticateUser(
at ibi.worp.mrapi.WORP_SignonAdapter.signon(
... 18 more
2 11/26/2007 11:29:44:937 DEBUG WORP_SessionUtil.doDispatch forwarding to: /bid-login
2 11/26/2007 11:29:44:937 DEBUG Opening file for reading=C:/ibi/WebFOCUS76\config\basedir-config.xml

Monday, December 22, 2008

Summit 2009 (June 7-11)

Mark your calendar for Information Builders' 2009 users’ group conference held on June 7th through the 11th. Like last year, we are going to the Gaylord Opryland Resort in Nashville, Tennessee.

Take advantage of this opportunity to network with WebFOCUS professionals from other companies and learn about their BI projects. If you are interested, I can coordinate breakfast, lunch, or dinner get-togethers to help you connect with the right people.

Summit is the place to increase your WebFOCUS knowledge -- listen to excellent speakers, attend workshops, and talk one-on-one with product managers and technical gurus. If you have a difficult BI problem at work, visit the Expert Room where top-quality vendor representatives (field technical managers, corporate technical support, and product managers) will dig in to figure out and resolve your issues.

To learn more about the Summit, visit IBI's website. I hope to see you there!

WebFOCUS on zLinux for Enterprise BI

On my general BI blog, I wrote about the State of Oklahoma Department of Human Services (OKDHS) moving their legacy FOCUS applications to WebFOCUS on zLinux. For more information, click here.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Dude! Where's my Trace?

While an administrator can turn on traces, it's also possible for a developer to put some tracing commands in his or her WebFOCUS code.

When WebFOCUS traces are turned on, you can display them as comments within your output's HTML -- something called "client-side tracing." If you pick an output that does not generate an HTML page (e.g., PDF) then you will not be able to see the trace.

While most WebFOCUS environmental settings are basically toggle switches with ON and OFF settings, traces are different. There is a TRACEON setting as well as one for TRACEOFF. For each, you identify the trace component that you want to turn on/off. For example, I may want to see the SQL statements being generated from the 4GL commands; I need to TRACEON that particular SQL component (called STMTRACE -- comparable to the FSTRACE4 for FOCUS).

If you want to query the current environmental settings, you can use "?" for the trace component value. There is one setting to see the trace options turned on (SET TRACEON = ?) and another for those turned off (SET TRACEOFF = ?). With a syntax inconsistent with other settings, the WebFOCUS tracing feature is less than intuitive.

See the WebFOCUS Server Console diagnostics custom-filtering page for a full list of the trace components. Relational data adapter traces include:
  • SQLDI (like FSTRACE) - SQL physical layer (BX, BY messages)
  • SQLAGGR (like FSTRACE3) - optimization information (BR messages)
  • STMTRACE (like FSTRACE4) - SQL statements (AE, AF messages)
  • SQLCALL - exchange between physical and logical layers of the data adapter (BW messages)
For non-relational interfaces, you have:
  • ADBSIN (Adabas) - has 4 trace levels
  • IDMS - has 2 levels
  • IMS - has 4 levels
  • M204
  • Others (Nomad, Millenium, Supra/Total, CA-Datacom)
  • Proprietary traces for IBI developers (IBITROUT)

Some components do not seem to be made for HTML tracing -- their messages are not formatted properly for HTML standards. For example, NWH, NWH2, and CEH components may corrupt your HTML output. The R1H communications component may have a glitch -- it starts two WebFOCUS agents which never end. So, do not tinker with traces on the production server.

Also, instead of identifying a specific trace component, you can say "ALL" -- that is fine for turning OFF all traces, but you probably should not turn ON all traces.

In addition to the trace component, there is an optional parameter (separated by a forward slash) for the "Trace Level" as some components can display different levels of details. If you omit the trace level, you get all traces for that component. Setting the trace level to 1 will give you the top level of the details; 0 will turn it off. For the STMTRACE, you can specify the RDBMS adapter as the trace level, e.g., "STMTRACE/DB2/CLIENT"

Another optional parameter (again separated by a forward slash) is the location of the trace output. Frankly, I question the quality of this feature -- traces are okay going into the HTML comments, but do not seem to go to physical file locations properly (there is an additional setting of TRACEUSER to identify the filename). To send the trace output to the HTML in your browser, use "CLIENT" for this parameter.

Here is the syntax:
SET TRACEON = component [/tracelevel [ /filename]]
SET TRACEOFF = component [/tracelevel [ /filename]]

Here are some examples of the trace settings:
SET TRACEOFF = ALL(turn all the traces off)
SET TRACEOFF = ?(show the inactive trace settings)

SET TRACEON = MFP//CLIENT(MFD parsing; displays FG messages)
SET TRACEON = PRH//CLIENT(FEX parsing; displays AG messages)
SET TRACEON = STMTRACE//CLIENT(SQL calls; displays AE, AF messages)
SET TRACEON = SQLDI//CLIENT(SQL physical layer; displays BX, BY messages)
SET TRACEON = SQLCALL//CLIENT(exchange between SQL physical & logical layer; displays BW messages)
SET TRACEON = SQLAGGR//CLIENT(SQL optimization messages; displays BR messages)
SET TRACEON = ESSBASE//CLIENT(Essbase calls; displays CE, CF, CG, CH messages)
SET TRACEUSER = ON(turn on the user tracing)

In FOCUS, to see your generated SQL and optimization messages, you would have allocated some FSTRACE files and looked at the contents afterwards. To do something comparable in WebFOCUS, you use these commands and look in your HTML output:

Note: The XRETRIEVAL setting turns off the actual execution of the procedure, so you can see the SQL without actually running it and waiting for the answer set.

So while this WebFOCUS tracing feature may test your nerve and skill, it can be very useful to see what is going on under the covers.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Free BI for Higher Ed

For over five years, Microstrategy has been part of an educational service from Teradata allowing universities free access to an online learning portal focused on business intelligence and data warehousing technology. In November of 2008, Microstrategy expanded this offering and announced a new program to give BI software and courseware, free of charge, for use in university curriculum.

MicroStrategy has provided its software for teaching BI courses to numerous universities in the U.S. and Europe, including University of Colorado Denver Business School, RWTH Aachen, University of Bamberg, and HTWK Leipzig.

Universities can build or augment their business intelligence course offerings with MicroStrategy and teach students about BI in a tangible way, providing hands-on experience that students can take directly into the workplace. By incorporating MicroStrategy software into a BI curriculum, students can learn valuable skills, such as designing business intelligence reports, performing data analyses, and monitoring business metrics.

Barbara Wixom, Associate Professor and Director MSMIT at the University of Virginia commented, “Companies want to hire students who can hit the ground running – they want students with an understanding of both foundational skills and contemporary tools that exist in the workplace. Having the ability to teach my students business intelligence using software like MicroStrategy is incredible. It means students experience business intelligence in a relevant, real-world way. And, it means that my students can be productive as soon as their careers begin.”

Microstrategy is making a smart move. Companies that have already implemented a BI product often struggle to find knowledgeable resources; being able to employ college students with formal BI training reduces the hiring challenge. That is good for Microstrategy as well - they are planting seeds in organizations that may not have their products yet. Plus, it is difficult to sell products that nobody knows how to use.

An Indiana company selected WebFOCUS as their BI product. However, before buying and implementing it, they wanted to hire a BI developer. Unfortunately for Information Builders, the software vendor, the would-be customer searched unsuccessfully for months trying to find a local professional with the right skills.

The two parties found themselves in an old-fashioned barter stand-off: "I'd give you that wagon wheel if you had a cow to trade fer it." Except it was: "I'll give you money for your BI software if you can introduce me to an experienced WebFOCUS developer." Yikes -- there were no available BI Hoosiers to be found.

Eventually, the organization settled on a quality person experienced with a different web-based BI tool and invested time and money training him in WebFOCUS. While Information Builders was able to make the sale, they should have also recognized the red flag being waved in their face. It is worth repeating -- it is difficult to sell products that nobody knows how to use.

If you are attending higher-education courses, ask your university if they offer business intelligence topics -- important skills needed by today's information-intensive firms. If you work for a software vendor, make sure that you are developing talent pools for your client base (sorry, offering $250-per-hour vendor consultants does not count). If you are a customer in the market for BI products, make sure one of your selection criteria is being able to easily hire technical resources.

About Me

My photo

I am a project-based software consultant, specializing in automating transitions from legacy reporting applications into modern BI/Analytics to leverage Social, Cloud, Mobile, Big Data, Visualizations, and Predictive Analytics using Information Builders' WebFOCUS. Based on scores of successful engagements, I have assembled proven Best Practice methodologies, software tools, and templates.

I have been blessed to work with innovators from firms such as: Ford, FedEx, Procter & Gamble, Nationwide, The Wendy's Company, The Kroger Co., JPMorgan Chase, MasterCard, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Siemens, American Express, and others.

I was educated at Valparaiso University and the University of Cincinnati, where I graduated summa cum laude. In 1990, I joined Information Builders and for over a dozen years served in regional pre- and post-sales technical leadership roles. Also, for several years I led the US technical services teams within Cincom Systems' ERP software product group and the Midwest custom software services arm of Xerox.

Since 2007, I have provided enterprise BI services such as: strategic advice; architecture, design, and software application development of intelligence systems (interactive dashboards and mobile); data warehousing; and automated modernization of legacy reporting. My experience with BI products include WebFOCUS (vendor certified expert), R, SAP Business Objects (WebI, Crystal Reports), Tableau, and others.