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The Twelve Days of Christmas from HIPPO: No.1 – A Happy DBA!

December 7, 2011 | By | No Comments

The latest version of HIPPO has just gone on general release and it is packed with new and unique features to manage, optimize and control your Informatica environment. In the run up to Christmas I’m going to choose twelve of my favorite new benefits.

So, for the first day of Christmas, let’s start with something special for the DBA in your life! Version 3 of HIPPO has a unique feature which enables a DBA to trace an individual execution of a SQL statement, in seconds, all the way back from the database to the Session and Workflow that is responsible for it. And why will your DBA rate this their best Christmas gift ever? Well DBAs see Informatica from the database end. It isn’t straightforward to find the Session owners of long-running SQL statements initiated by Informatica processes, or worse still, orphan SQL executions spawned by long-cancelled Sessions. So they have a tough call to make: made all the harder when they cannot identify the responsible Session, Project or Developer. And what about tuning advice? Your DBA wants to be pro-active; they can see how the SQL can be improved but whom should they call? Now they can simply open HIPPO, copy and paste the SQL from their Management console straight into HIPPO’s Search screen and the responsible workflow and session are returned. Armed with this information from HIPPO, a call is made and a decision taken about the SQL process. The result – one happy DBA!

Check back tomorrow for number 2 in the series!

Footnote: it is a tradition in many parts of the world to celebrate the twelve days of Christmas and we have a Christmas carol here in the UK that associates each of the twelve days with a gift. I acknowledge that the twelve days of Christmas occur after Christmas and not before but I hope that you will allow me a little poetic license here!

Everything That You Wanted To Know About HIPPO But Were Too Polite To Ask…..

November 2, 2011 | By | No Comments

It’s great when you get asked a challenging question which actually really helps you to explain what’s unique about your product. Shailesh Chaudhri did this yesterday in a related Informatica Group. Shailesh asked “Mark, I believe HIPPO is a great product but then does it just not fetch all this information from the Informatica Repository? Why invest so much when Informatica Reporting services, connected to the repository gives nearly similar results. A few tweaks here and there and you get Dashboards created which give you the necessary information.”

In my reply I agreed with Shailesh that Informatica has some great tools and let him know that  this question arises quite regularly during webex demonstrations and conversations with prospective customers. I think that one of our existing customers from a major global bank put it best when he said that the Informatica solution and HIPPO are like two sides of a coin: the Informatica tools focus on the Informatica repository and the HIPPO solution looks outward from the Repository to what is happening in the infrastructure around Informatica.

And you know what? I think he hit the nail on the head. Only 25% of the information that HIPPO provides comes from Informatica and the remaining 75% comes from the Host CPUs, Memory, I/O, Storage and the databases that your Powercenter processes interact with. The unique thing about HIPPO is that it puts this information into the context of Informatica and of your own projects. Let’s take an example; if you have an application called Finance Data Warehouse which is made up of various Informatica processes, stored procedures and scripts then HIPPO allows you to create a logical grouping of these processes, Informatica and non-Informatica alike, and then produce a deep-grained analysis of the performance, cost and efficiency of this project and the trends of all of these key metrics. This isn’t available in the Informatica Reporting Services tool because its focus, good though it is, is  on the Informatica repository.

All of the information that HIPPO stores is held in an open data model in a database of your choice so if you would like to use Infa Reporting Services to build your own reports rather than use our browser-based reports then that’s great. We are completely open about our data model so anyone who use Reporting services on HIPPO’s Repository gets our full support!

So, thanks Shailesh, yours was a really perceptive question that gets to the heart of what’s different about HIPPO!

02 Nov

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HIPPO at the Nordics Informatica Day, October 11th, Stockholm

November 2, 2011 | By | No Comments

This is the HIPPO stand at the Informatica Day in Stockholm on October the 11th. It was great to meet so many people from the Nordic region and to receive so much positive feedback about HIPPO. Thanks to everyone who stopped at our stand to find out about HIPPO and our malt whisky competition, congratulations to the four people who each one a bottle of the finest malt and commiserations to all those who lost out! Hope to see you all again next year!

02 Nov

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“There’s an Abundance of Data but a shortage of thinking about Data”.

November 2, 2011 | By | No Comments

This is a line from Monday’s presentation by Steve Levitt, the author of FREAKONOMICS, at TeraData Partners 11. His presentation has been a real hit if the Twitter traffic is anything to go by. The flow of tweets on #TDPUG11 dried up for a while and then there was a deluge.  This is the new metric of a quality presentation; when a presentation is so good that it ‘stops the traffic’ on Twitter!Steve’s presentation is worth a whole article in it’s own right but let’s focus on that one line – ‘there’s an abundance of Data but a shortage of thinking about Data’. I’d been reading recently about Process BI: the marrying of Business Process Management techniques and BI. It’s an idea that has been around for a while but what struck me was the thought that IT gladly helps the business develop these types of applications to improve business operational efficiency by identifying unnecessary costs or to find ways to increase customer satisfaction.

However in IT we rarely use the same techniques on our applications and processes. Yet, by doing so, we can achieve a host of direct and indirect benefits through the streamlining of information to analysts and decision makers and readying the ground for high latency, information-rich BI.

OK, I hear you say, but we can barely keep up here never mind stand back and survey what we’re doing. But before you dismiss the idea, just how far away are from being able to realise this? We have the data; an abundance, as Steve put it, in the Informatica Repository and elsewhere in the infrastructure. So how can we think about the data? Fortunately in the Informatica world, we have the tools to interpret this data.

Consider this, Fred Hargrove, who writes about these matters for Information Management, identified that to achieve and maintain successful execution of process-oriented BI, five key things are needed:

  • End-to-end business process knowledge
  • Continuous improvement mindset
  • BI capabilities of operations
  • Data governance discipline
  • Data latency reduction.

What does this mean for those of us at the Data Integration coalface? Well, put simply, we must:

  • Understand the end to end process from source system(s) to the BI reports, data feeds and the other outputs from your Data integration
  • Be committed to making things work better
  • Give operational owners the user-friendly reporting and analysis tools they need to assess problems and issues without getting lost in the data
  • Put an effective data governance program in place since if there is no assurance of the quality of the data then it cannot be made actionable
  • Right size how quickly the information is produced and how relevant it is to the current business situation by the time it is used.

Now if you’re still wondering what all of this has to do with you, your organisation, or even Informatica; or if you suspect that I might just be day-dreaming of some ideal world; let me map these pre-requisites to the toolsets of Informatica and my own company, Assertive:

  • MetaData Manager gives us the end-to-end process view
  • The Lean Integration, or Factory model, gives us the methodology and justification to implement a continuous improvement process
  • HIPPO from Assertive provides the Operational BI reporting capabilities
  • Informatica’s Data Governance tools are second to none
  • Informatica’s tools provide whatever Data Latency level you can justify

“Well, OK” I hear you say, “we accept that we have the data in the Repository, and elsewhere, and that we can have the toolset but how do we justify spending time and effort analysing how we can optimise performance when we are struggling with ever increasing workloads as it is”.

In Data Integration standing still is not an option. As I’m sure you are only too aware, data volumes are growing for all kinds of reasons, not least to support current BI trends like Predictive Analytics or social network traffic. Yet IT budgets are under challenge like never before and increasingly the business, the pre-eminent commissioner of IT initiatives, sees their internal IT department as just one of several competing options for delivery.  To even stay in the race we must keep getting better at what we do!

The challenge then is to improve our Data Integration productivity – in terms of volume, latency and quality. To do so, we need to make sure that daily routine and conventional wisdom don’t blind us to what’s in the data – we need Process BI to inform some clear thinking about our own processes. Just as importantly, we must put this Process BI into the hands of the operational process owners to action the changes needed. Otherwise significant operational improvement simply cannot be achieved within constrained budgets.

As Steve Levitt said, there’s an abundance of data but a shortage of thinking about data. We can change that in our Data Integration corner. We have the tools from Assertive and from Informatica.  We have an abundance of data and we have never had a more pressing imperative to take action. I think that it’s time to get those thinking caps on!

02 Nov

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Do you run, or use, a shared Informatica Grid environment and does your company charge projects & programs to use that Grid? If so then I have a question for you: is your recharge model fair & accurate?

November 2, 2011 | By | No Comments

This isn’t an academic question; this has a real bottom line impact. The setup and operation of a shared Grid environment involves considerable cost. When these costs are recharged then the Grid Administrator needs to be sure that projects are being billed for their actual share of these costs. Likewise the project teams who get recharged for their consumption need to be sure that they are getting a fair deal. When the monthly bill arrives the Project/Program managers need to be able to see the empirical evidence to back up the charges: what percentage of CPU did my project actually consume, how much of my data was processed as a percentage share of the Grid total in that time period and what are the I/O, network and storage metrics for my project vs. the project next door which is paying a different amount for their Grid usage?

The question is just as pressing for new IT projects planning to use the Grid. They need solid metrics to estimate projected ETL costs: how much Grid resources will their project consume, what will their usage costs are? Is there spare, and therefore cheaper, capacity available on the Grid or must additional capacity be purchased? And they need to know if their estimated costs match the reality after go-live.

This is a COSTLY business. At a time when cost sensitivity has never been higher it seems that sharing costs across a Grid remains a black art. Often, not only do projects not pay their fair share but also a lack of understanding of Grid resource consumption causes a fear-driven approach to capacity planning where potentially unnecessary or inappropriate expansion costs are incurred as an insurance policy against under-capacity. These are significant costs that feed all the way through to the profitability of the products and services that your business sells to its customers

Well, I have good news. We have unlocked a proven method to give an accurate share of costs across a Grid; we can enable you to price total resource usage from an individual workflow all the way to an entire project’s resource consumption and we can tell you where you have unused capacity or when & where you need to invest. There is no longer an excuse for over- or under-charging, no more lack of visibility of spare capacity on your Grid and for the biggest saving of all, no more fear-driven Grid investment decisions!

HIPPO’s hub management module gets your recharge model 100% right, 100% of the time. We produce summary reports of project usage by your chosen timeframe to enable you to aggregate project recharge totals, we produce detailed reports to enable you to drill down to the individual workflows and sessions to view their usage as an overall percentage of the whole. We can even summarise the critical failure picture for the month to help you identify which projects consume most out-of-hours support costs.

Whether you are a Grid Administrator or a member of a project team who relies on a shared Grid environment or an analyst estimating the Informatica costs of a new business initiative then consider HIPPO’s unique Hub Manager functionality to optimise your recharge process and get the most out of your Grid environment. See Hippo at  https://community.informatica.com/solutions/1433

02 Nov

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Solving the Metadata jigsaw puzzle

November 2, 2011 | By | No Comments

Recently Roger Nolan from Informatica wrote an interesting piece on the importance of metadata to the development process and highlighting how we can use great tools within Informatica like Metadata Manager and the Informatica Business Glossary. I’d like to extend this by considering the benefits of linking other kinds of metadata.

We’re seeing Informatica’s latest product developments helping to support a movement: a shift from IT to self-service Data Integration where the business positions itself as the driver of technology solutions.

So can we go even further with metadata to support this? Can we link the metadata sources and the tools that Roger discussed to the wealth of operational metadata from Informatica and the technology layers that surround our Data Integration workflows, sessions and mappings? This metadata would tell us more than just last night’s successes & failures but about trends in performance, resource usage, volumes processed and rejected data. Can we go further still and add the metadata about the development process itself? Can we add the ICC metadata, the ”Integration Factory”, into the mix and enable these new metadata sources to be linked to Metadata Manager’s understanding of sources, targets and mappings and their business context stored within Informatica’s Business Glossary. If we can achieve this then we’ll be rewarded with a 360-degree perspective on our Data Integration environment.

But where’s the business benefit? Let’s consider how this metadata could be used: take an everyday example of an overnight workflow running slowly at month-end. The Ops analyst is alerted. They recognize that it’s a DW process and this probably means that someone in the business is going to receive their reports late. But which reports are affected, which business users does this affect and has this overrun happened before making this problem part of a trend, perhaps caused by underlying infrastructure issues?

These questions can be answered by solving the Metadata jigsaw. This means linking operational metadata to those all-important metadata sources – Metadata Manager and the Business Glossary.

That’s why we are building a new version of HIPPO, for release at the end of 2011 to act as the linkage to enable a breakthrough in the use of metadata which extends its value beyond the design and development processes to include real time and historical operational information.

The IT department and the Business units which they serve will be linked by means of an operational metadata bridge between the two: the Business know which Informatica processes are critical to their daily reports and can monitor their activity trends via HIPPO. They can check if last night’s run was successful and what the trends for their daily report processes look like; will they overrun if data volumes continue to grow?

Likewise, when IT is faced with an overnight incident they can prioritise those failures with the most business impact and keep the relevant business consumers informed. They will do this by using the bridge between HIPPO’s Operational metadata and Informatica’s Metadata Manager and Business Glossary tools.

So if we have Informatica’s Business Glossary view linked to the Metadata Manager view of metadata about sources, targets and mappings, and with both now linked to Operational metadata by HIPPO, what’s missing?  Well what remains is the ICC, the “Integration Factory”, metadata. By doing so we will be able to link a mapping to the developer and analysts who produced it (Factory) through to the reusable components, sources and targets that it uses (Metadata Manager) to the business units and processes that rely upon it (Business Glossary) and on to the operational metadata on its performance profile and infrastructure dependencies (HIPPO).

This is what we are prototyping at the moment and we plan to release these features in the new release of HIPPO at the end of this year. Contact me to find out more.

02 Nov

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Are we, the Informatica community of Developers, Architects, Planners and Hub Administrators, ready to make the Factory model of Data Integration work?

November 2, 2011 | By | No Comments

John Schmidt and David Lyle have successfully made the case for the Factory method as the key Data Integration model for this decade in their book ‘Lean Integration: An Integrated Factory approach to Business Agility’ and it is clear that Informatica have firmly aligned their methodology with this approach. So what about the wider Informatica community? Are we ready to make the step to the Factory model? Well yes, I believe we are, but first we need to consider how our mindset and working practices need to change. Every one of the nine principles of Toyota’s Lean model, which lies behind the Factory model, challenges the working practices of the average Data Integration team and asks what they can change to make things better. Take #7, for example, the ‘Visual Management’ principle, which states that system operations should be transparent so that everyone can see and understand what is happening. Is this common practice in the average Data Integration environment? Sadly no. Until now much is left un-monitored until system failures or schedule overruns occur.  Lets consider Principle #6, ‘Go See’; this probably falls into the same category for the same underlying reason of poor information flow. Many of the other Principles, such as #3 ‘Value Streams’ demand a constant striving for improvement to existing information flow processes that would challenge any hard-pressed Data Integration team.

 

So how do we move forward? Well, thankfully the world hasn’t stood still. With these new challenges have come new enabling technologies. New tools have emerged that enable the Factory aims of continuous improvement. Informatica’s Application ILM Solution is a major step forward. So too are the new generation of Informatica-specific quality and performance visual monitoring tools that vitalise the publishing of real-time metrics to Informatica development teams, support staff and Hub administrators. By putting the tools and the targets together then we produce the kinds of automated feedback loops that enable information to be shared, problems to be anticipated and process improvements to be achieved.  Rather than wait for failure you can proactively seek the improvements and address the problem before it happens, just as Lean challenges you to.

 

HIPPO is the first tool of this new generation of applications to bring an Informatica focus to the monitoring of entire Data Integration processes, environments and resource usage using data visualisation techniques. More tools are emerging which focus on code quality and testing each sharing the same principle: unless we measure then we cannot improve and unless we measure constantly then continuous improvement is not possible. If you are considering implementing a Factory model then include HIPPO’s performance monitoring and trending strengths to reach your goals of controlling costs and gaining maximum value from your Data Integration environment.

02 Nov

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It’s time to face facts; PowerCenter is now so good that trying to make a mapping go faster by performance tuning the mapping alone isn’t worth it.

November 2, 2011 | By | No Comments

OK, if a mapping is poorly written to begin with then it needs to be fixed but that’s not performance tuning: that’s correcting what should have been right first time around. So since Big Data is bound to mean bigger performance challenges, just what DO you do when all of the obvious gotchas are eliminated and the mapping is still not fast enough?
That’s the issue we faced recently. We had squeezed every last drop of inefficiency out of the code but it still wasn’t enough to meet the SLAs on the biggest CRM implementation, at the time, in Europe. We had to look outside Informatica but where should we begin? Pointing the finger at Network or Database or Storage performance is an unpredictable and dangerous sport, never more so when a huge amount of money has already been spent on the infrastructure, as it had here. And anyway, who’s to say it’s any one thing: it could be a combination of factors? And the infrastructure teams often start from the principle that performance issues are the application’s fault, right? The very least they will do is to question our competence to question them. But there was nowhere else to go: we needed to find a way to present evidence, not opinions, that performance might be improved. Otherwise it was goodbye to our SLAs.

We needed something that spoke ‘both languages’: a trusted performance monitoring tool that could present results based on proven knowledge of every part of the infrastructure and how they interacted with PowerCenter when we ran our schedule. But was there a tool out there that fitted the bill? Yes, if you wanted generic Infrastructure information but no if you wanted to view this information in the context of PowerCenter. There was nothing out there could tell us, for example, exactly which mapping of the four running simultaneously at 2 am was consuming most CPU, how were their parent workflows being distributed across the grid and was network or storage latency varying over time and which workflows suffered most? We needed to be able to speak to the Network, Database, Server and Storage Administrators using statistics that were generated by those parts of the infrastructure that they know and trust. We knew that it wasn’t a dense report we needed but easily communicable graphs of infrastructure performance in the context of the PowerCenter workflows, sessions and mappings that we were running. And we needed them in near real time, not two weeks later.
Does this sound familiar to you? Don’t you agree that it is time to rethink what Informatica Performance Tuning should actually mean? PowerCenter is mature enough to enable us to design and write mappings for optimal performance first time around making performance a given, not something we retrofit. That done, if you have performance challenges then you can start by looking outside of PowerCenter and engaging the other people involved in meeting the challenge: your infrastructure colleagues.
We did just that and we never looked back; we even became a trusted partner of Informatica along the way. So what changed? Well, we never found that elusive tool, it didn’t exist, so we wrote our own and called it HIPPO. Now we could share a view of Informatica performance that the infrastructure folks recognized and accepted. They could help us meet our SLAs because they could literally see our problem. The steps we took from there backed up our conviction that real progress in tuning means finding a common language to share an understanding with infrastructure teams of how PowerCenter interacts with the infrastructure that it sits within. Finding a common viewpoint unlocks their insight and expertise and helps everyone understand the real problem areas.
Big data means bigger performance challenges for everyone across IT’s great divide so if you want to be ready to meet these challenges then get a fresh perspective by test-driving HIPPO. You’ll be amazed what can happen when everyone can see the big picture.