Monday, November 15, 2010

Cognos 10 - Dynamic Query Mode

There is a new article added to the Cognos Proven Practices set:

The IBM Cognos 10 Dynamic Query Cookbook

The article gives detailed information about the new Dynamic Query Mode that has been added to C10. Pretty detailed and coming directly from the people who built it, this article is definitely worth a read.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

My last post from SWU 2010.

Was attending the Smart Distribution track in the SWU 2010 event and it is apparent that like other businesses, even in this sector, the lack of insight will be a very big hindrance in the years to come. Couple that with the growth that all Indian industries are going through and we have a scenario where the CEO and all his people will need a very non-conventional approach with people, processes and products, to be successful. Smarter Planet seems more like a paradigm shift in the right direction.

"Agility" was the keyword when IBM was using the On Demand Software theme but they have now graduated to a more refined approach assisted with the current and upcoming trends in automation, connectivity and predictive analytics. The solutions that are being suggested are radical and complex, but the business scenario is also as challenging and such hi-tech, innovative solutions are the need of the hour.

An India specific approach to the Smarter Planet might be in the offing considering the unique scenarios we face in this country. There will be tweaks to these offerings as they get accepted by the businesses in general. It is my hope that these tweaks are innovations and ideas which IBM can take back to it's global customers. After all, it is only in India that we give missed calls and we have banks that go to the customers. We are just so unique !

By and large SWU 2010 was fun ! The kind of things you get to hear from the industry leaders is just so amazing ...

IBM Cognos 10 announced in India !

In sync with the announcements in other parts of the world, IBM Software Group today announced the launch of version 10 of their flagship product Cognos at the Software Universe 2010 at Mumbai. There is a lot to write about this product. I have grabbed a few documents here and there. But it needs a real deep look to do any justice.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Business and Business Analytics

Am hearing to many highly esteemed executives here at SWU 2010 and the core theme (and it should be) is getting the right information in the right format at the right time and FAST. There are so many statistics available to prove that organizations with analytic capabilities perform way better than the ones using traditional intuition based decision making. You do not need to be a CEO to tell you that. How would you as a person benefit if you had analytics at your finger tips ? If at a personal level you face so much of uncertainty and lack of insight, how would a CEO or CFO feel ?

IBM Software Universe 2010

Am at the IBM Software Universe 2010 which is happening at Mumbai. We have Steve Mills speaking on the Smarter Planet theme and boy do we need that ! If the statistics are to be believed, we are well on our way to becoming a "Digital Planet" and the need of the hour is to develop the systems in such a way that they are Interconnected, Intelligent and Instrumented. The event will cover various industry verticals like healthcare, energy, distribution and so on. In fact the theme can be applied to any and every industry ! Cognos occupies an important place in this theme due to its reporting and analytics capabilities. Couple that with IBM's middleware and information management software and we have one interesting solution; we are well on our way to a Smarter Planet.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Prompt cache

If you have not seen this article already, you should definitely take a look. I found it very useful in a recent Proof Of Concept.

Check section 4.3 for knowing more about the prompt cache. You need to create a job that runs every now and then depending on how frequent your database refreshes are. For every report you can then use this setting:

Friday, October 22, 2010

Load balancing dialog !

Discovered this just today !

http://dispatcher IP:dispatcher port/p2pd/servlet/dispatch/p2plbDiag

This will give you some real information on the load balancing being done by the Cognos dispatchers. Much better if you have a multiserver setup at your disposal.

Friday, October 15, 2010

IBM Cognos 10 is coming ...

The first big release of Cognos after it was acquired by IBM, will be announced at the Business Analytics Forum at Las Vegas, on 25th October 2010. Apparently, the release is called IBM Cognos 10.

You may refer to the following websites for more information:

http://www-01.ibm.com/software/analytics/cognos/unleashed/
http://www.ibm.com/cognos/unleashed

IBM has even released a video on YouTube !

Sunday, September 5, 2010

cognoslaunch and executePreviousReport

Had a customer recently asking about this. Well, it seems that the executePreviousReport function will not work with cognoslaunch. It is possible to go back to the previous report by calling the back button through javascript. The code used is history.go(-2). The customer has reported that it worked for him.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Shortcut Guide to Achieving BI in Midsize Companies

By now, you've probably heard a lot about business intelligence (BI). But if you think it's still only for companies with big IT staffs and bigger technology budgets, you haven't heard the good news.

New techniques and technologies are making effective BI affordable, manageable and effective for midsize and even small companies.

Read The Shortcut Guide to Achieving BI in Midsize Companies and discover the truth about BI today. Here's what you'll learn in four concise chapters:

Chapter 1: What is Business Intelligence, Anyway?

The business goals of BI
A brief technical overview of the concepts, components,
and visualizations of BI
The use of BI for analysis and decision-making

Chapter 2: How Business Intelligence Happens

The process, tools and techniques involved in implementing a BI system
Technologies that make BI easier to implement and affordable
The basic processes required to implement BI in your environment

Chapter 3: Debunking the Top Three Myths of BI for Midsize Companies

BI is affordable
BI does not require specialized expertise to implement or operate
BI can be implemented in just a few weeks

Chapter 4: Successfully Adding Business Intelligence to a Midsize Company

Take it one capability at a time
Why you don't need expensive consulting services or new hires
How to implement without disrupting day-to-day business activities

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Report Studio - Burst Options (Directory Entries)

I know this is out of context a bit but a customer opened a PMR where she had problems bursting to a directory entry (see Burst Options in Report Studio). I believe this is the documentation she was referring to.

Please refer to this technote if you face any troubles bursting to directory entries:
http://www-01.ibm.com/support/docview.wss?rs=3528&uid=swg21342658

In the course of that PMR me and the customer both tried to use the search path for an actual directory but that does not seem to be working. Gives a path not found error.

The technote was suggested by the second level support engineer and it has worked in his setup. Hopefully it works for the customer too.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

COG-105 - Cognos Specialist

I recently passed the COG-105 test.

Not that I wanted to share the results. But if anybody out there needs any assistance with the test, I can provide the same. No, I will not disclose the questions and I did not use any of the dumps (does not fit my principles), but yes I can guide with the study material, questions, queries and so on. You can reach me at darshan[dot]donni[at the rate]gmail[dot]com

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

IBM FixCentral

The place you head to when you need to download a fixpack for any IBM product is:
http://www-933.ibm.com/support/fixcentral/

For Cognos fixpacks, choose Information Management as the product group. Some time in the future you may have to choose Business Analytics as the product group. For now, Information Management should work well.

Business Analytics Forum 2010

Whether your focus is Business Intelligence, Advanced Analytics, Financial Performance and Strategy Management or Analytic Applications, this is the place to get the practical know-how you need to maximize the value of your deployments and do your day-to-day job more effectively.

Please visit the main website here.

There are discounts available till August 31st. That apart, you can even attend the Information On Demand (IOD) conference which will be happening around the same time.

Report Specification

Under various circumstances, the support engineer will ask you for your report specifications. Usually it is when the engineer is not able to design a report which mimics your functionality. It can also be when you have some calculations going wrong and need help with those.

Please do note, that support engineers are not supposed to design your reports. They will definitely help you with issues but do not expect them to write the report from scratch. Unfortunately, they do not know your model and package as well as you do. They have no clue whether there are internal calculations involved. So it is pretty difficult for them to help you with creating the reports. Of course, issues and queries are very much welcome as long as they come as separate PMRs.

I have faced many customers who were asked to give a report specification and gave an XML output of the report instead. A report specification is the definition of the report and not it's XML output. The specification (which is an XML document) can be generated in Report Studio by clicking on Tools -> Copy Report To Clipboard. Then save the report to a text file and make sure it starts with a "report" opening tag and ends with an ending tag of the same name. If it does not, the specification has not been exported correctly or there was a data loss somewhere. An exported report specification can be imported back using Report Studio - Tools -> Open Report from Clipboard. The best way to know whether a report specification is valid or not, is to open it in Report Studio. If it opens well, the report specification is valid. If the Studio complains, well there is a problem.

Again the best way to explore a report specification is to open it in an XML editor and view it. The tags are pretty much self explanatory. In there, you should find the package the report is based on, list/crosstab/chart specifications, burst options, styles and many such attributes depending upon the complexity of the report.

Sometimes a report specification is enough. But many a times, the support analyst will also ask for either the Framework Manager model or the package. He/She may also ask you for the DDL of your reporting database. This is especially true when the report fails validation for some reason.

In the next post we will see what to pass when an analyst asks for the model.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

cogstartup.xml

The cogstartup.xml is found in the Cognos 'configuration' folder. That folder is found in the Cognos installation directory. This means there will be a cogstartup.xml on every machine where a server install takes place. Modelling components do not need the file.

This file is the one which holds all the configuration data that you enter in Cognos Configuration. That includes dispatcher URLs, gateway URLs, Content Store information, mail server configuration, ports used by the Cognos service, namespace information, certifcate authority information, etc. Basically, everything that you can enter in Cognos Configuration makes it's way to this file. Cognos will automatically keep timestamped versions of this file.

The best way of knowing whats in that file is .. to open it in an XML editor. You should note that the Content Store database access information is encrypted and so are other passwords. That is done as soon as the information is entered in Cognos Configuration and the Save button is pressed.

Apart from being asked for by support, the only other time when you see this file is when the Cognos cryptographic keys expire. There is a detailed procedure to fix that problem and it can be easily found in the documentation.

Again, as for the other files, if you have a multiserver installation, please make sure you label the files appropriately so that the support analyst knows the origins of the file.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Other log files in the logs directory

Apart from the cogserver.log, there are many other log files in the logs directory. Logs for Cognos Configuration, the Tomcat log, the dispatcher log and so on. We will look at the dispatcher logs in a future post. The other logs are useful too but not very significant.

(Do note that some of the traces are also redirected to files in this folder. For example the CAM tracing which is done using IPF, will create an AAAClient.log in the logs directory. Again, we will look at traces in a later post.)

Usually, as mentioned in the previous post on the cogserver.log, it is better to send in the whole logs folder to support. It is advisable to rename the logs folder appropriately as it helps the analyst to map the logs to the Cognos architecture.

In the next post, we will look at the cogstartup.xml file.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

cogserver.log

The cogserver.log can be found in the logs directory in the Cognos installation folder. One of the most common logs requested by support, it provides an entry point for the diagnosis. Though you can use the Log Console for dissecting the log, I am more comfortable viewing it using Wordpad or VIM. They are much more lightweight. Of course, they do not provide a quarter of the functionality provided by the Log Console (we will discuss Log Console in a later post).

Along with the cogserver.log, it is very important to pass the exact time that the error was seen. Also, if there are multiple installations and they are all logging to local files, it is important to pass all the cogserver.log files after renaming them properly. An architecture diagram or description can be attached for a better understanding of the problem.

Depending on the settings, you may find a cogserver.log.1 and a cogserver.log.2 and then a cogserver.log. Please send all of these files rather than just sending the cogserver.log. To avoid this confusion, analysts will usually ask you to send the zip of the logs folder. It would be a better idea to send the log folder after appropriately renaming it so that it is known which part of the architecture it came from.

For example:

dispatcher1.logs.zip
dispatcher2.logs.zip
cm.logs.zip


If you increase the logging level, the cogserver.log will grow faster than usual. Also if you start IPF tracing for any component, it is usually directed to the cogserver.log. CAF related errors are usually posted to the cogserver.log file. If you get a CAF error, it will give you a code which you can search for in the cogserver.log.

The best way to get familiarized with the cogserver.log is to open it and go through it. A typical entry in the cogserver.log looks like this:

172.21.140.175:9300 3672 2010-06-16 17:11:51.741 +5:30 BootstrapConfigurePublish na 0 Thread-16 DISP 6009 1 Audit.Other.dispatcher.DISP.com.cognos.pogo.contentmanager.coordinator.CMBootstrap StartService dispatcherBootstrap Info DPR-DPR-1002 Successfully registered the dispatcher http://01hw265803:9300/p2pd in Content Manager.

Dispatcher: 172.21.140.175:9300
Timestamp: 2010-06-16 17:11:51.741 +5:30
Component: Audit.Other.dispatcher.DISP.com.cognos.pogo.contentmanager.coordinator.CMBootstrap
Logging Level: Info

Now try dissecting this entry:

172.21.140.175:9300 3072 2010-06-21 11:50:15.806 +5:30 rsProcessStarter na 0 warpmta-ProcessManager-ProcessMgrThread DISP 6009 1 Audit.Other.dispatcher.DISP.com.cognos.pogo.reportservice.ReportServerProcess Start com.cognos.pogo.reportservice Info Start the BIBusTKServerMain with pid 4624.


The entries will look more or less the same. If you get any error code in Cognos Connection you can simply search for that error code around that timestamp when the error occured. Looking around that part you may find useful information which you can point out to support. I am sure they would not mind !

Friday, July 9, 2010

cmplst.txt

The cmplst.txt is the first thing most Cognos BI support analysts will ask you. In fact, even if they don't I suggest you pass them this file any way. The cmplst.txt is a component list in a text format. Cognos is made up of various components; the cmplst.txt states what all components are present in a certain installation and their versions. You will find the cmplst.txt in the Cognos installation folder. It is very easy to spot.

Some of you might not have access to the Cognos installation folder. In such scenarios, you can also see the cmplst.txt using the following URL format:

http://darshan.ibm.com/cognos8/cgi-bin/cognos.cgi?b_action=cmplst

This works nicely in a single server setup. For a distributed install, it is better to go for the text file.

The main information that can be derived from the cmplst.txt is the fixpack level you are on. This information is available in the first two sections of the cmplst.

For example:

[Product Information]

C8BISRVR_version=C8BISRVR-AX64-ML-RTM-8.4.27.78-0
C8BISRVR_name=Cognos 8 Business Intelligence Server

[Product Update Information]

C8BISRVR_UPDATE_version=C8BISRVR-AX64-ML-RTM-8.4.29.13-0
C8BISRVR_UPDATE_name=Cognos 8 Business Intelligence Server Update

What all can we derive from these two paragraphs ?

1. This is an AIX 64-bit install - C8BISRVR-AX64-...

2. It is version 8.4 - C8BISRVR-AX64-ML-RTM-8.4.27.78-0

3. Fixpack2 has been installed on top of the 8.4 base install

GA: C8BISRVR-AX64-ML-RTM-8.4.27.78-0
FP1: C8BISRVR-AX64-ML-RTM-8.4.28.xx-x
FP2: C8BISRVR-AX64-ML-RTM-8.4.29.13-0

4. Only the BI server has been installed. No gateway here.

This information is used by the support analyst when he/she is trying to recreate an issue in the labs. So knowing the exact fixpack level and component levels is crucial.

The later sections have much more information which is useful if a defect is found through a PMR and it goes to development. Development works on components, so if they want to fix some defect, they need to know the exact build level of the component.

The above facts make the cmplst.txt a very important part of any diagnosis of a Cognos BI issue. Next time you raise a PMR, make sure you pass it along. Also, if you have a distributed install, it makes sense to send the cmplst.txt for each Cognos installation. That should be bundled with an architecture diagram and each cmplst.txt should be renamed so that the analyst knows the origins of that cmplst in your architecture.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Data requested by Cognos BI support

Many customers who have raised PMRs with Cognos BI support know the usual data items that are asked by that team. But for a newbie it is important to understand the things that support is asking for, the reason they are asking for it and the correct way to provide it. In the next few posts we will be going through these items one by one.

The next post will be about the humble but very important: cmplst.txt

Monday, July 5, 2010

Problems connecting to Oracle data sources.

Many customers (mostly first time customers) face challenges connecting to their Oracle data sources from Cognos. A thing to note, is that these are configuration issues and very rarely product defects. This is basic functionality so it goes through a great deal of regression testing. There is very less chance for database connectivity to be a defect.

The most frustrating part with this connectivity issue is that it is pretty difficult to detect the configuration setting that is causing it. The problem can lie anywhere: user permissions, Oracle client installations, environment variables, Oracle settings, etc. The best way to deal with this is using the checklist approach; you checkout one factor at a time.

The best checklist can be found in this technote:
http://www-01.ibm.com/support/docview.wss?rs=3442&uid=swg21341734

In most cases, we have found this technote to resolve the connection problem. As and how we discover newer problems, we make it a point to update the technote. So you can be very sure that this technote covers most of the ground.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Proven Practices landing page

This is one page you would want to bookmark:

http://www.ibm.com/developerworks/data/library/cognos/cognosprovenpractices.html

Created by Cognos experts from real-life customer experiences, Cognos Proven Practices is your source for rich technical information that is tried, tested, and proven to help you succeed with Cognos products in your specific technology environment.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

New Proven Practices article

Looks like we have a new Proven Practices article available:

This document describes an approach that can be used to dynamically sort on a Numerical Column.

http://www.ibm.com/developerworks/data/library/cognos/reporting/layout_and_formatting/page508.html

Welcome to Cognos Commentary !

This is my first technical blog. When prompted for a name for this blog, I was raking my brains for a good five minutes. I do have previous experience with articles but articles are very different from blogs. You write a nice ten page writeup about a technical topic, add some informative diagrams and you are done ! But a blog is like a relationship; you need to keep contributing :) So, I could not think of any better name and went with Cognos Commentary.

What will I be posting here ? I don't really know. But yes the theme is going to be the IBM Cognos BI platform. To make my life easier I shall be posting whatever I learn about the product - I learn something new everyday !