Teradata & WhereScape Test Environment in the Cloud

In this post I outline how I managed to get a cloud based training environment ready in which WhereScape RED, a data warehouse automation tool,  connects to a Teradata database test machine.

A few weeks ago I had to organize a so called “testdrive” for a local WhereScape prospect. The prospect uses a Teradata database appliance. Hence they evaluated to use WhereScape RED based on Teradata too. As a local Swiss based WhereScape partner we received a virtual machine containing a SQL Server based WhereScape RED environment. The training had to be run onsite at the customer’s location, IT-Logix provided their set of training laptops, each containing 4GB or RAM. These were my starting conditions.

First of all I thought about how to deal with Teradata for a training setup. Fortunately, Teradata provides a set of preconfigured VMs here. You can easily download them as zipped files and run it using the free VM Player.

Based on my previous experience with organizing hands-on sessions, e.g. during our local Swiss SAP BusinessObjects user group events, I wanted to use Cloudshare. This makes it much more easier (and faster!) to clone an environment for multiple training participants compared to copying tons of gigabytes to multiple laptops. In addition, the 4GB RAM wouldn’t be enough to run Teradata and WhereScape properly in a performant way. So I had two base VMs (one from WhereScape, one from Teradata) – a perfect use case to use the VM upload feature in Cloudshare for the first time.

I started with this support note which explains how to prepare your local VM and load it up to my Cloudshare FTP folder. From there you can simply add it to an environment:

01_UploadVM1

After having uploaded both VMs it looks like this in Cloudshare:

02_CloudshareEnvironment

I increased the RAM and CPU power a bit, and more important configured the network between the two machines:

Go to “Edit Environment” -> “Edit Networks”:

03_NetworkSettings

Here I had to specify to which virtual network I’d like to connect the VMs. Please keep in mind that this doesn’t provide an automatic DHCP server or similar. Either you create one within your machine or – as in my case – had to set static IPs within the individual VM (both were delivered by using a dynamic IP provided by the VM Player). Changing the IP wasn’t a big thing, neither on Windows nor on Linux.

04_TD_Setting1

But I quickly found out that the Teradata service didn’t run properly anymore afterwards.

First of all I had to create a simple test case to check if I can connect from the WhereScape VM to the Teradata machine. Besides a simple Ping (which worked) I installed the Teradata Tools & Utilities on the WhereScape machine. As I couldn’t establish a proper connection, I had to google a bit. The following article gave me the hint to add a “cop” entry to the host file:

04_TD_Setting2

After a restart of the machine, Teradata was up and running again. This you can verify with the following command “pdestate -a” by the way:

04_TD_Setting3

The next step in WhereScape was to create a new metadata repository on the Teradata database. For this I created a new schema and user in Teradata first and then created the metadata repository using the WhereScape Administrator:

06_WhereScapeSetup

In WhereScape RED I created a connection to point to the new Teradata database:

05_WhereScapeConnection

… and finally loaded a few tables from the SQL Server to Teradata:

07_WhereScape_Data

Once I finished the work, the most important step is to create a snapshot:

08_Snapshot

Based on this snapshot I finally cloned the environment for the number of participants in the testdrive with just a few clicks. After all, every participant had his own (and isolated) environment consisting of a full stack of source database (SQL Server), WhereScape and the target DWH database (Teradata).

Using HANA on Cloudshare Part 1: Setup connectivity

Hi everybody

As you may know I’m a great fan of Cloudshare, you’ll find my previous post about testing in the cloud here. So far we had to use “traditional” databases like SQL Server or Oracle to work in Cloudshare. Finally SAP managed to get its new baby – HANA – to various cloud platforms, including Cloudshare –> see here for an overview. They provide you with a regular Cloudshare environment with 24GB RAM with two machines, the HANA server on Linux and a Win7 client with HANA Studio – you can register for the 30 day trial sponsored by SAP here:

01_Environment

So far so good. But what is the value of an isolated HANA database? It’s pretty small. Usually in Cloudshare, an “environment” is quite isolated network wise, therefore my first idea was to extend the 24GB RAM and add another machine, e.g. with BO4 installed. Unfortunately the maximum RAM per environment is 32GB. Even more sad that BO4 doesn’t really work with 8GB of RAM… What to do? A first inquiry with Cloudshare showed that obviously the HANA environment is somewhat special. After some try and error I found how you can easily connect to your HANA environment both from your local client or another Cloudshare environment. Let me share my findings with you in this blog. As you can read in the title I plan some other posts, especially about how to fill data into HANA using SAP BO Data Services.

First thing we need to do is creating a static vanity URL for the Cloudshare machine. For this switch from “My environments” to “My Account”. There go to “Vanity URLs” and specify whatever you want – the only thing you can’t take anymore is hana 😉

02_VanityURL

As you can see, there are two public URLs available now: the regular with .cld.sr and a second one vm.cld.sr. In the background these two URLs are mapped to different public IPs. Whereas the first one gives you the default access to ports like 80, 8080 etc. the second one seems to redirect also HANA specific ports like 30015. Therefore you don’t need any kind of port forwarding as suggested in forum threads like here. Don’t forget to click “Save changes” at the end of the page.

You can now do a first test within the HANA Studio on Cloudshare itself – add a new system and use <your-name>.vm.cld.sr:

03_AddSystem104_AddSystem2

05_AddSystem306_AddSystem4

As you can see in the last screenshot, the only “issue” with the connectivity is, that somehow the status information of the HANA server cannot be retrieved, therefore you don’t get the green light but a yellow one. But don’t worry, everything works fine.

The next and so far final part is to connect from another Cloudshare environment, e.g. using the Information Design Tool:

Create a new relational connection using the HANA JDBC driver:

07_AddConnection1  08_AddConnection2

And finally you can start to build your data foundation based on this connection:

09_CreateDF

Hope this helps. Wish you a lot of fun playing around with HANA on cloudshare!

How to improve the process of hiring an (SAP BO) consultant

There are some recent blogs about fraud in hiring an (SAP) consultant:

http://scn.sap.com/community/career-center/blog/2012/04/09/sap-consulting-fraud–disturbing-example
http://scn.sap.com/community/career-center/blog/2012/05/01/more-on-sap-consulting-fraud-video-discussion

In this post I would like to share our “best practice” at IT-Logix as it is part of our daily business to evaluate and in some cases hire new consultants, especially for the Business Intelligence sector in general and for SAP BusinessObjects and Microsoft BI as our major technology stacks. As I’m personally a BusinessObjects consultant (besides other skills…) I talk primarily about this area, but of course you can adapt these findings to your own domain.

A first thing which I need to mention here is the lack of quality of SAP (BO) certifications. As long as they are mainly consisting of multiple choice questions, it is easy to simply “learn by heart” the answers, especially if you use the offerings of sites like examkiller.com:

On the SAP partner portal you can do some further “qualifications” like SAP Solution Consultant. You have to do some e-learnings and finally pass web based multiple choice questions. Nothing more easy than get an experienced consultant with you and let him answer the questions you have to fill in…

Therefore I agree with all the blog voices that a face-to-face interview is an important element during the recruitement process. On the other hand it is mentioned several times that it is problematic if you as the future employer do not have the necessary technical knowledge to really evaluate an applicant. There are two ways to address this:

  • You bring in external specialists for all sorts of tasks – why wouldn’t you for hiring? I don’t talk about common head hunters but another task specific consulting company? Of course this is a little bit marketing for IT-Logix and our services: Depending on the project and customer situation we are anyway too expensive as we mainly address the top level expertise market for Business Intelligence. Therefore we can’t compete with any of these outsourcers who provide their people for <400$ a day etc. But at least we can assist customers during the evaluation process and bring in our technical knowledge to make sure people really understand what they claim to do. Maybe you are in  a similar situation: You cannot afford the high rate top consultant but would like to have some cheaper ones. But nevertheless you want to be sure the quality of skills provided are at least according to what they tell you. Then really work together with someone who can challenge the skill set adequately.
  • Let applicants do some hands-on activities. Nothing gives you more insight than how a candidate behaves using a “real” system. Let me share with you how we do at IT-Logix: We use cloudshare.com and for example our preconfigured SAP BO 4.x environment (see my previous blog) and simply share a copy with a candidate, mostly right away at the beginning of the interview appointment. In addition we distribute a set of activity instructions including the tasks to be solved by the candidate. Afterwards he / she will have some time to work on these tasks and finally to present the results. This is sometimes amazing how vast the difference can be between a candidate’s CV and the hands-on experience… I have to add that of course it is fairly easy to setup a cloud environment for SAP BO. It might take some more efforts to do so for other SAP applications like SAP NW etc. But maybe there are other cloud solutions out there or you can somehow use your internal demo environment.

What is your experience with recruiting consultants? How do you verify their skillset? Do you think it is an overkill to do hands-on assessments? I’m happy to ready your comments!

Testing BO BI 4.x using the cloud

Update End of December 2012: Currently the ITX Migration and Demo Environment on Cloudshare is not available anymore for public parties. IT-Logix customers of course can still apply for a shared copy of it. The reason why I have to end the public offering is due to increased workload on one hand. On the other hand we need the current environment for our customer projects. Unfortunately Cloudshare did not respond to my request to offer us a free environment soley for the purpose of sharing our migration environment.

(Update October 15th 2012 –> current machine list)

(Update October 28th 2012 –> Patch 4.5 installed)

(Update October 31st 2012 –> graphomate inlcuding demo dashboard installed –> see Cloudsrv012 in folder graphomate – here you’ll find the user manual too; or open Dashboards on Cloudclnt01 and drag n’ drop the graphomate component to the dashboard to test it yourself!)

While I discussed general migration challenges in my previous blog, this blog addresses the fact that every new release (even just a service / support package) of SAP BusinessObjects needs intensive testing (by the way I’m not talking about versions in Ramp-Up but the regular available versions like currently BO 4.0 SP2). SAP seems to work based on the banana principle:

The product ripe with the consumer.

I could now elaborate on how bad this is and how much better other vendors do (do they really?). But I won’t. I would like to share an opportunity of how you can better cope with the circumstance that you have to test, test and once again test whatever you do with SAP BusinessObjects before you “go live”.

When SAP provided its HANA developer environment to partners and customers I came first to know cloudshare. In the meanwhile I’m quite enthusiastic about cloudshare! It was never easier (and cheaper) for me to create development and test environments having the choice out of a multitude of machine templates and afterwards full admin rights on all machines. But the best thing about cloudshare is that you can easily share a virtual server environment with others for free (at least for a first period of two weeks).

This inspired me to create what finally was named the “ITX BO 4.x Migration Assessment and Demo Environment”. This is a virtual server environment in the cloud. It allows for quick and easy to use «hands-on» tests of current and upcoming releases of SAP BusinessObjects BI products. You can import parts (or everything) of an existing BO content from your XI 3.1 system into the XI 3.1 system in the cloud (using BIAR-Files). Afterwards you can test a migration to BO BI 4.0 SP4 (or you can use BO 4.0 SP4 simply for its own sake) You can get your own copy of the environment for free during two weeks. Afterwards you need a cloudshare.com subscription to further use it.

The environment also includes an installation of the products 360View+ and 360Eyes from GB and Smith (www.gbandsmith.com). I highly recommend these two products in order to streamline your migration. There will be another blog where I will detail on this.

The 4 Available Machines

The Migration Assessment & Demo Environment consists of four machines:

  • BO XI 3.1 SP3 (Server + Client Tools + 360View + 360Eyes)
  • BO BI 4.0 SP4 Patch 5 (Server + Client Tools + Visual Intelligence + 360View + 360Eyes)
  • BO BI 4.0 SP4 Patch 5 (Client Tools, Crystal Reports 2011, Crystal Reports for Enterprise, Dashboards etc.
  • BO DataServices 4.1 + Information Steward

Request your Free Copy

Please contact me to share with you a copy of the current migration environment. You’ll find my contact information in the PDF here or use Twitter with @rbranger.
Please give me some key words why you’d like to use the environment and allow up to two working days to grant you access to a copy of the system.

You’ll receive an invitation email directly from cloudshare.com including a link.

Register on Cloudshare.com

Afterwards you need to open a free account on cloudshare.com:

After your successful registration please log in to Cloudshare ProPlus. Your environment is already starting up… Click on «View environment» to see more details…

Wait until all machines are up and running. In the meanwhile read the description and get familiar with machine names etc.

Let’s «own» the environment. Click on the corresponding button! On the right side you have now much more options available. The cloudshare.com license is now valid for a longer time than only the original two days.

Testing BO BI 4.0 SP4

Let’s start with using the client tools and BI Launchpad of BI 4.0 SP4. Select «Fullscreen RDP» from the drop down menu of «CLOUDCLNT012»:

The password of the BOE Administrator is always IT-Logix32
The SP4 CMS is running on cloudsrv012 on default port 6400
Here some helpful links:
Open the BI Launchpad at http://cloudsrv012:8080/BOE/BI

Find shortcuts to the available client tools on the desktop or in the start menu.

Cloud Folders

If you need to upload files (e.g. a BIAR file with your own BO content), use «Cloud Folders» to upload files using FTP:

On the virtual machine you’ll find a shortcut on the Desktop to access your cloud folders:

Have Fun and Happy Migration!

This is it. I hope you find this new opportunity useful. At least for 14 days you can use the environment for free. Afterwards you need to purchase a subscription at cloudshare.com. By the way this is nothing expensive and I wouldn’t give back mine… Regarding BO and 360 licenses there are only temporary keys part of the environment. I recommend that you use your own keys. In case you have no keys but would like to test drive BO or 360 products please contact me for an extended trial period.

My own cloudshare.com environment which is the base for the Migration Assessment Environment is sponsored by my employer IT-Logix. Please consider IT-Logix if you need dedicated expertise for your next BO migration project.