Monday, April 9, 2012

Understanding WebFOCUS BI Images

If you are just buying the WebFOCUS BI product from Information Builders, you need to understand "images" and work them into the initial deal.

Organizations that build software applications will typically have multiple environments to separate different software life-cycle development tasks. Except for some minor differences, these logical work-space separations will be mirror-images of each other. 

At a minimum, companies will isolate Production from Development. Then, they implement formal processes for fully testing newly developed software features and promoting them properly into Production. This protects the business applications from failing due to improper changes. Developers are not allowed to directly monkey around with Production applications.

Being a full application development product, WebFOCUS also requires multiple images. 

In addition to Production and Development images for WebFOCUS, most companies also have Disaster Recovery images in the event of a catastrophic event that brings down Production. Should that unlikely event happen, companies switch over to their DR environments. Typically, the DR image is considered a non-used software copy and included with the Production purchase.

Many companies will also have a Sandbox image; a safe environment isolated from all other users so that the system administration team can properly test new versions and configurations of the software product. 

Instead of moving directly from Development to Production, most companies have an intermediate staging area called "Production QA" or "User Acceptance Testing" where business users can test out newly developed features before approving them into the Production environment. This separate area ensures that business testing and demonstrations will not be impacted by developers. 

Organizations without a PQA/UAT environment are forced to coordinate time between developers and users in the same environment to make sure everything remains stable (which usually means the developers must stop working on certain features or altogether). 

In summary, many companies have the following WebFOCUS images which are stand-alone:

  • Disaster Recovery
  • Sandbox 

Companies also have "promotable" images that exist in a chain for software development:
  • Development 
  • Test 
  • Production QA 
  • Production 

For very large projects (such as mainframe platform migrations and modernizations), some companies might set up multiple development images to avoid conflict between multiple IT teams. This would isolate the various development and testing work efforts being done and prevent conflict. 

Each WebFOCUS image can be configured differently. Of course, each would typically point to different code repositories and, potentially, different database images. For example, the PQA/UAT environment might point to a full version of the Production database for full volume testing while the Development environment might point to smaller test databases.

If you are using the Micro Focus Enterprise Server, you probably have multiple "regions" in that product as well. Each WebFOCUS image may be assigned to be used with a specific Micro Focus region. You could configure the Micro Focus to WebFOCUS interface differently for each environment.

If you have not yet purchased WebFOCUS from IBI, now is the time to negotiate getting these extra images as part of the initial sale. If you have already paid for WebFOCUS without images, then you may have less of a bargaining chip. 

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About Me

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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.