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Rittman Mead consults, trains, and innovates within the world of Oracle Business Intelligence, data integration, and analytics.
Updated: 4 hours 40 min ago

OAC - Thoughts on Moving to the Cloud

Tue, 2018-06-12 12:43

Last week, I spent a couple of days with Oracle at Thames Valley Park and this presented me with a perfect opportunity to sit down and get to grips with the full extent of the Oracle Analytics Cloud (OAC) suite...without having to worry about client requirements or project deadlines!

As a company, Rittman Mead already has solid experience of OAC, but my personal exposure has been limited to presentations, product demonstrations, reading the various postings in the blog community and my existing experiences of Data Visualisation and BI cloud services (DVCS and BICS respectively). You’ll find Francesco’s post a good starting place if you need an overview of OAC and how it differs (or aligns) to Data Visualisation and BI Cloud Services.

So, having spent some time looking at the overall suite and, more importantly, trying to interpret what it could mean for organisations thinking about making a move to the cloud, here are my top three takeaways:

Clouds Come In Different Shapes and Flavours

Two of the main benefits that a move to the cloud offers are simplification in platform provisioning and an increase in flexibility, being able to ramp up or scale down resources at will. These both comes with a potential cost benefit, depending on your given scenario and requirement. The first step is understanding the different options in the OAC licensing and feature matrix.

First, we need to draw a distinction between Analytics Cloud and the Autonomous Analytics Cloud (interestingly, both options point to the same page on cloud.oracle.com, which makes things immediately confusing!). In a nutshell though, the distinction comes down to who takes responsibility for the service management: Autonomous Analytics Cloud is managed by Oracle, whilst Analytics Cloud is managed by yourself. It’s interesting to note that the Autonomous offering is marginally cheaper.

Next, Oracle have chosen to extend their BYOL (Bring Your Own License) option from their IaaS services to now incorporate PaaS services. This means that if you have existing licenses for the on-premise software, then you are able to take advantage of what appears to be a significantly discounted cost. Clearly, this is targeted to incentivise existing Oracle customers to make the leap into the Cloud, and should be considered against your ongoing annual support fees.

Since the start of the year, Analytics Cloud now comes in three different versions, with the Standard and Enterprise editions now being separated by the new Data Lake edition. The important things to note are that (possibly confusingly) Essbase is now incorporated into the Data Lake edition of the Autonomous Analytics Cloud and that for the full enterprise capability you have with OBIEE, you will need the Enterprise edition. Each version inherits the functionality of its preceding version: Enterprise edition gives you everything in the Data Lake edition; Data Lake edition incorporates everything in the Standard edition.

alt

Finally, it’s worth noting that OAC aligns to the Universal Credit consumption model, whereby the cost is determined based on the size and shape of the cloud that you need. Services can be purchased as Pay as You Go or Monthly Flex options (with differential costing to match). The PAYG model is based on hourly consumption and is paid for in arrears, making it the obvious choice for short term prototyping or POC activities. Conversely, the Monthly Flex model is paid in advance and requires a minimum 12 month investment and therefore makes sense for full scale implementations. Then, the final piece of the jigsaw comes with the shape of the service you consume. This is measured in OCPU’s (Oracle Compute Units) and the larger your memory requirements, the more OCPU’s you consume.

Where You Put Your Data Will Always Matter

Moving your analytics platform into the cloud may make a lot of sense and could therefore be a relatively simple decision to make. However, the question of where your data resides is a more challenging subject, given the sensitivities and increasing legislative constraints that exist around where your data can or should be stored. The answer to that question will influence the performance and data latency you can expect from your analytics platform.

OAC is architected to be flexible when it comes to its data sources and consequently the options available for data access are pretty broad. At a high level, your choices are similar to those you would have when implementing on-premise, namely:

  • perform ELT processing to transform and move the data (into the cloud);
  • replicate data from source to target (in the cloud) or;
  • query data sources via direct access.

These are supplemented by a fourth option to use the inbuilt Data Connectors available in OAC to connect to cloud or on-premise databases, other proprietary platforms or any other source accessible via JDBC. This is probably a decent path for exploratory data usage within DV, but I’m not sure it would always make the best long term option.

alt

Unsurprisingly, with the breadth of options comes a spectrum of tooling that can be used for shifting your data around and it is important to note that depending on your approach, additional cloud services may or may not be required.

For accessing data directly at its source, the preferred route seems to be to use RDC (Remote Data Connector), although it is worth noting that support is limited to Oracle (including OLAP), SQL Server, Teredata or DB2 databases. Also, be aware that RDC operates within WebLogic Server and so this will be needed within the on-premise network.

Data replication is typically achieved using Data Sync (the reincarnation of the DAC, which OBIA implementers will already be familiar with), although it is worth mentioning that there are other routes that could be taken, such as APEX or SQL Developer, depending on the data volumes and latency you have to play with.

Classic ELT processing can be achieved via Oracle Data Integrator (either the Cloud Service, a traditional on-premise implementation or a hybrid-model).

Ultimately, due care and attention needs to be taken when deciding on your data architecture as this will have a fundamental effect on the simplicity with which data can be accessed and interpreted, the query performance achieved and the data latency built into your analytics.

Data Flows Make For Modern Analytics Simplification

A while back, I wrote a post titled Enabling a Modern Analytics Platform in which I attempted to describe ways that Mode 1 (departmental) and Mode 2 (enterprise) analytics could be built out to support each other, as opposed to undermining one another. One of the key messages I made was the importance of having an effective mechanism for transitioning your Mode 1 outputs back into Mode 2 as seamlessly as possible. (The same is true in reverse for making enterprise data available as an Mode 1 input.)

One of the great things about OAC is how it serves to simplify this transition. Users are able to create analytic content based on data sourced from a broad range of locations: at the simplest level, Data Sets can be built from flat files or via one of the available Data Connectors to relational, NoSQL, proprietary database or Essbase sources. Moreover, enterprise curated metadata (via RPD lift-and-shift from an on-premise implementation) or analyst developed Subject Areas can be exposed. These sources can be ‘mashed’ together directly in a DV project or, for more complex or repeatable actions, Data Flows can be created to build Data Sets. Data Flows are pretty powerful, not only allowing users to join disparate data but also perform some useful data preparation activities, ranging from basic filtering, aggregation and data manipulation actions to more complex sentiment analysis, forecasting and even some machine learning modelling features. Importantly, Data Flows can be set to output their results to disk, either written to a Data Set or even to a database table and they can be scheduled for repetitive refresh.

For me, one of the most important things about the Data Flows feature is that it provides a clear and understandable interface which shows the sequencing of each of the data preparation stages, providing valuable information for any subsequent reverse engineering of the processing back into the enterprise data architecture.

alt

In summary, there are plenty of exciting and innovative things happening with Oracle Analytics in the cloud and as time marches on, the case for moving to the cloud in one shape or form will probably get more and more compelling. However, beyond a strategic decision to ‘Go Cloud’, there are many options and complexities that need to be addressed in order to make a successful start to your journey - some technical, some procedural and some organisational. Whilst a level of planning and research will undoubtedly smooth the path, the great thing about the cloud services is that they are comparatively cheap and easy to initiate, so getting on and building a prototype is always going to be a good, exploratory starting point.

Categories: BI & Warehousing

Why DevOps Matters for Enterprise BI

Tue, 2018-06-12 09:44
Why DevOps Matters for Enterprise BI

Why are people frustrated with their existing enterprise BI tools such as OBIEE? My view is because it costs too much to produce relevant content. I think some of this is down to the tools themselves, and some of it is down to process.

Starting with the tools, they are not “bad” tools; the traditional licensing model can be expensive in today’s market, and traditional development methods are time-consuming and hence expensive. The vendor’s response is to move to the cloud and to highlight cost savings that can be made by having a managed platform. Oracle Analytics Cloud (OAC) is essentially OBIEE installed on Oracle’s servers in Oracle’s data centres with Oracle providing your system administration, coupled with the ability to flex your licensing on a monthly or annual basis.

Cloud does give organisations the potential for more agility. Provisioning servers can no longer hold up the start of a project, and if a system needs to increase capacity, then more CPUs or nodes can be added. This latter case is a bit murky due to the cost implications and the option to try and resolve performance issues through query efficiency on the database.

I don’t think this solves the problem. Tools that provide reports and dashboards are becoming more commoditised, up and coming vendors and platform providers are offering the service for a fraction of the cost of the traditional vendors. They may lack some of the enterprise features like open security models; however, these are an area that platform providers are continually improving. Over the last 10 years, Oracle's focus for OBIEE has been on more on integration than innovation. Oracle DV was a significant change; however, there is a danger that Oracle lost the first-mover advantage to tools such as Tableau and QlikView. Additionally, some critical features like lineage, software lifecycle development, versioning and process automation are not built in to OBIEE and worse still, the legacy design and architecture of the product often hinders these.

So this brings me back round to process. Defining “good” processes and having tools to support them is one of the best ways you can keep your BI tools relevant to the business by reducing the friction in generating content.

What is a “good” process? Put simply, a process that reduces the time between the identification of a business need and the realising it with zero impact on existing components of the system. Also, a “good” process should provide visibility of any design, development and testing, plus documentation of changes, typically including lineage in a modern BI system. Continuous integration is the Holy Grail.

This why DevOps matters. Using automated migration across environments, regression tests, automatically generated documentation in the form of lineage, native support for version control systems, supported merge processes and ideally a scripting interface or API to automate the generation of repetitive tasks such as changing the data type of a group of fields system-wide, can dramatically reduce the gap from idea to realisation.

So, I would recommend that when looking at your enterprise BI system, you not only consider the vendor, location and features but also focus on the potential for process optimisation and automation. Automation could be something that the vendor builds into the tool, or you may need to use accelerators or software provided by a third party. Over the next few weeks, we will be publishing some examples and case studies of how our BI and DI Developer Toolkits have helped clients and enabled them to automate some or all of the BI software development cycle, reducing the time to release new features and increasing the confidence and robustness of the system.

Categories: BI & Warehousing

Why DevOps Matters for Enterprise BI

Tue, 2018-06-12 09:44
Why DevOps Matters for Enterprise BI

Why are people frustrated with their existing enterprise BI tools such as OBIEE? My view is because it costs too much to produce relevant content. I think some of this is down to the tools themselves, and some of it is down to process.

Starting with the tools, they are not “bad” tools; the traditional licensing model can be expensive in today’s market, and traditional development methods are time-consuming and hence expensive. The vendor’s response is to move to the cloud and to highlight cost savings that can be made by having a managed platform. Oracle Analytics Cloud (OAC) is essentially OBIEE installed on Oracle’s servers in Oracle’s data centres with Oracle providing your system administration, coupled with the ability to flex your licensing on a monthly or annual basis.

Cloud does give organisations the potential for more agility. Provisioning servers can no longer hold up the start of a project, and if a system needs to increase capacity, then more CPUs or nodes can be added. This latter case is a bit murky due to the cost implications and the option to try and resolve performance issues through query efficiency on the database.

I don’t think this solves the problem. Tools that provide reports and dashboards are becoming more commoditised, up and coming vendors and platform providers are offering the service for a fraction of the cost of the traditional vendors. They may lack some of the enterprise features like open security models; however, these are an area that platform providers are continually improving. Over the last 10 years, Oracle's focus for OBIEE has been on more on integration than innovation. Oracle DV was a significant change; however, there is a danger that Oracle lost the first-mover advantage to tools such as Tableau and QlikView. Additionally, some critical features like lineage, software lifecycle development, versioning and process automation are not built in to OBIEE and worse still, the legacy design and architecture of the product often hinders these.

So this brings me back round to process. Defining “good” processes and having tools to support them is one of the best ways you can keep your BI tools relevant to the business by reducing the friction in generating content.

What is a “good” process? Put simply, a process that reduces the time between the identification of a business need and the realising it with zero impact on existing components of the system. Also, a “good” process should provide visibility of any design, development and testing, plus documentation of changes, typically including lineage in a modern BI system. Continuous integration is the Holy Grail.

This why DevOps matters. Using automated migration across environments, regression tests, automatically generated documentation in the form of lineage, native support for version control systems, supported merge processes and ideally a scripting interface or API to automate the generation of repetitive tasks such as changing the data type of a group of fields system-wide, can dramatically reduce the gap from idea to realisation.

So, I would recommend that when looking at your enterprise BI system, you not only consider the vendor, location and features but also focus on the potential for process optimisation and automation. Automation could be something that the vendor builds into the tool, or you may need to use accelerators or software provided by a third party. Over the next few weeks, we will be publishing some examples and case studies of how our BI and DI Developer Toolkits have helped clients and enabled them to automate some or all of the BI software development cycle, reducing the time to release new features and increasing the confidence and robustness of the system.

Categories: BI & Warehousing

Real-time Sailing Yacht Performance - stepping back a bit (Part 1.1)

Mon, 2018-06-11 07:20

Slight change to the planned article. At the end of my analysis in Part 1 I discovered I was missing a number of key messages. It turns out that not all the SeaTalk messages from the integrated instruments were being translated to an NMEA format and therefore not being sent wirelessly from the AIS hub. I didn't really want to introduce another source of data directly from the instruments as it would involve hard wiring the instruments to the laptop and then translating a different format of a message (SeaTalk). I decided to spend on some hardware (any excuse for new toys). I purchased a SeaTalk to NMEA converter from DigitalYachts (discounted at the London boat show I'm glad to say).

This article is about the installation of that hardware and the result (hence Part 1.1), not our usual type of blog. You never know it may be of interest to somebody out there and this is a real-life data issue! Don't worry it will be short and more of an insight into Yacht wiring than anything.

The next blog will be very much back on track. Looking at Kafka in the architecture.

The existing wiring

The following image shows the existing setup, what's behind the panels and how it links to the instrument architecture documented in Part 1. No laughing at the wiring spaghetti - I stripped out half a tonne of cable last year so this is an improvement. Most of the technology lives near the chart table and we have access to the navigation lights, cabin lighting, battery sensors and DSC VHF. The top left image also shows a spare GPS (Garmin) and far left an EPIRB.

Approach

I wanted to make sure I wasn't breaking anything by adding the new hardware so followed the approach we use as software engineers. Check before, during and after any changes enabling us to narrow down the point errors are introduced. To help with this I create a little bit of Python that reads the messages and lets me know the unique message types, the total number of messages and the number of messages in error.

 
import json
import sys
  
#DEF Function to test message
def is_message_valid (orig_line):

........ [Function same code described in Part 1]

#main body
f = open("/Development/step_1.log", "r")

valid_messages = 0
invalid_messages = 0
total_messages = 0
my_list = [""]
#process file main body
for line in f:

  orig_line = line

  if is_message_valid(orig_line):
    valid_messages = valid_messages + 1
    #look for wind message
    #print "message valid"

    if orig_line[0:1] == "$":
      if len(my_list) == 0:
        #print "ny list is empty"
        my_list.insert(0,orig_line[0:6]) 
      else:
        #print orig_line[0:5]
        my_list.append(orig_line[0:6])

      #print orig_line[20:26]
 
  else:
    invalid_messages = invalid_messages + 1

  total_messages = total_messages + 1

new_list = list(set(my_list))

i = 0

while i < len(new_list):
    print(new_list[i])
    i += 1

#Hight tech report
print "Summary"
print "#######"
print "valid messages -> ", valid_messages
print "invalid messages -> ", invalid_messages
print "total mesages -> ", total_messages

f.close()

For each of the steps, I used nc to write the output to a log file and then use the Python to analyse the log. I log about ten minutes of messages each step although I have to confess to shortening the last test as I was getting very cold.

nc -l 192.168.1.1 2000 > step_x.log

While spooling the message I artificially generate some speed data by spinning the wheel of the speedo. The image below shows the speed sensor and where it normally lives (far right image). The water comes in when you take out the sensor as it temporarily leaves a rather large hole in the bottom of the boat, don't be alarmed by the little puddle you can see.

Step 1;

I spool and analyse about ten minutes of data without making any changes to the existing setup.

The existing setup takes data directly from the back of a Raymarine instrument seen below and gets linked into the AIS hub.

Results;
 
$AITXT -> AIS (from AIS hub)

$GPRMC -> GPS (form AIS hub)
$GPGGA
$GPGLL
$GPGBS

$IIDBT -> Depth sensor
$IIMTW -> Sea temperature sensor
$IIMWV -> Wind speed 

Summary
#######
valid messages ->  2129
invalid messages ->  298
total mesages ->  2427
12% error

Step 2;

I disconnect the NMEA interface between the AIS hub and the integrated instruments. So in the diagram above I disconnect all four NMEA wires from the back of the instrument.

I observe the Navigation display of the integrated instruments no longer displays any GPS information (this is expected as the only GPS messages I have are coming from the AIS hub).

Results;

$AITXT -> AIS (from AIS hub)

$GPRMC -> GPS (form AIS hub)
$GPGGA
$GPGLL
$GPGBS

No $II messages as expected 

Summary
#######
valid messages ->  3639
invalid messages ->  232
total mesages ->  3871
6% error
Step 3;

I wire in the new hardware both NMEA in and out then directly into the course computer.

Results;

$AITXT -> AIS (from AIS hub)

$GPGBS -> GPS messages
$GPGGA
$GPGLL
$GPRMC

$IIMTW -> Sea temperature sensor
$IIMWV -> Wind speed 
$IIVHW -> Heading & Speed
$IIRSA -> Rudder Angle
$IIHDG -> Heading
$IIVLW -> Distance travelled

Summary
#######
valid messages ->  1661
invalid messages ->  121
total mesages ->  1782
6.7% error
Conclusion;

I get all the messages I am after (for now) the hardware seems to be working.

Now to put all the panels back in place!

In the next article, I will get back to technology and the use of Kafka in the architecture.

Real-time Sailing Yacht Performance - Getting Started (Part 1)

Real-time Sailing Yacht Performance - Kafka (Part 2)

Categories: BI & Warehousing

Real-time Sailing Yacht Performance - stepping back a bit (Part 1.1)

Mon, 2018-06-11 07:20

Slight change to the planned article. At the end of my analysis in Part 1 I discovered I was missing a number of key messages. It turns out that not all the SeaTalk messages from the integrated instruments were being translated to an NMEA format and therefore not being sent wirelessly from the AIS hub. I didn't really want to introduce another source of data directly from the instruments as it would involve hard wiring the instruments to the laptop and then translating a different format of a message (SeaTalk). I decided to spend on some hardware (any excuse for new toys). I purchased a SeaTalk to NMEA converter from DigitalYachts (discounted at the London boat show I'm glad to say).

This article is about the installation of that hardware and the result (hence Part 1.1), not our usual type of blog. You never know it may be of interest to somebody out there and this is a real-life data issue! Don't worry it will be short and more of an insight into Yacht wiring than anything.

The next blog will be very much back on track. Looking at Kafka in the architecture.

The existing wiring

The following image shows the existing setup, what's behind the panels and how it links to the instrument architecture documented in Part 1. No laughing at the wiring spaghetti - I stripped out half a tonne of cable last year so this is an improvement. Most of the technology lives near the chart table and we have access to the navigation lights, cabin lighting, battery sensors and DSC VHF. The top left image also shows a spare GPS (Garmin) and far left an EPIRB.

Approach

I wanted to make sure I wasn't breaking anything by adding the new hardware so followed the approach we use as software engineers. Check before, during and after any changes enabling us to narrow down the point errors are introduced. To help with this I create a little bit of Python that reads the messages and lets me know the unique message types, the total number of messages and the number of messages in error.

 
import json
import sys

#DEF Function to test message
def is_message_valid (orig_line):

........ [Function same code described in Part 1]

#main body
f = open("/Development/step_1.log", "r")

valid_messages = 0
invalid_messages = 0
total_messages = 0
my_list = [""]
#process file main body
for line in f:

  orig_line = line

  if is_message_valid(orig_line):
    valid_messages = valid_messages + 1
    #look for wind message
    #print "message valid"

    if orig_line[0:1] == "$":
      if len(my_list) == 0:
        #print "ny list is empty"
        my_list.insert(0,orig_line[0:6]) 
      else:
        #print orig_line[0:5]
        my_list.append(orig_line[0:6])

      #print orig_line[20:26]

  else:
    invalid_messages = invalid_messages + 1

  total_messages = total_messages + 1

new_list = list(set(my_list))

i = 0

while i < len(new_list):
    print(new_list[i])
    i += 1

#Hight tech report
print "Summary"
print "#######"
print "valid messages -> ", valid_messages
print "invalid messages -> ", invalid_messages
print "total mesages -> ", total_messages

f.close()

For each of the steps, I used nc to write the output to a log file and then use the Python to analyse the log. I log about ten minutes of messages each step although I have to confess to shortening the last test as I was getting very cold.

nc -l 192.168.1.1 2000 > step_x.log

While spooling the message I artificially generate some speed data by spinning the wheel of the speedo. The image below shows the speed sensor and where it normally lives (far right image). The water comes in when you take out the sensor as it temporarily leaves a rather large hole in the bottom of the boat, don't be alarmed by the little puddle you can see.

Step 1;

I spool and analyse about ten minutes of data without making any changes to the existing setup.

The existing setup takes data directly from the back of a Raymarine instrument seen below and gets linked into the AIS hub.

Results;
 
$AITXT -> AIS (from AIS hub)

$GPRMC -> GPS (form AIS hub)
$GPGGA
$GPGLL
$GPGBS

$IIDBT -> Depth sensor
$IIMTW -> Sea temperature sensor
$IIMWV -> Wind speed 

Summary
#######
valid messages ->  2129
invalid messages ->  298
total mesages ->  2427
12% error

Step 2;

I disconnect the NMEA interface between the AIS hub and the integrated instruments. So in the diagram above I disconnect all four NMEA wires from the back of the instrument.

I observe the Navigation display of the integrated instruments no longer displays any GPS information (this is expected as the only GPS messages I have are coming from the AIS hub).

Results;

$AITXT -> AIS (from AIS hub)

$GPRMC -> GPS (form AIS hub)
$GPGGA
$GPGLL
$GPGBS

No $II messages as expected 

Summary
#######
valid messages ->  3639
invalid messages ->  232
total mesages ->  3871
6% error
Step 3;

I wire in the new hardware both NMEA in and out then directly into the course computer.

Results;

$AITXT -> AIS (from AIS hub)

$GPGBS -> GPS messages
$GPGGA
$GPGLL
$GPRMC

$IIMTW -> Sea temperature sensor
$IIMWV -> Wind speed 
$IIVHW -> Heading & Speed
$IIRSA -> Rudder Angle
$IIHDG -> Heading
$IIVLW -> Distance travelled

Summary
#######
valid messages ->  1661
invalid messages ->  121
total mesages ->  1782
6.7% error
Conclusion;

I get all the messages I am after (for now) the hardware seems to be working.

Now to put all the panels back in place!

In the next article, I will get back to technology and the use of Kafka in the architecture.

Categories: BI & Warehousing

Rittman Mead at Kscope 2018

Thu, 2018-05-31 02:20
Rittman Mead at Kscope 2018

Kscope 2018 is just a week away! Magnificent location (Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort) for one of the best tech conferences of the year! The agenda is impressive (look here) spanning over ten different tracks from the traditional EPM, BI Analytics and Data Visualization, to the newly added Blockchain! Plenty of great content and networking opportunities!

I'll be representing Rittman Mead with two talks: one about Visualizing Streams (Wednesday at 10:15 Northern Hemisphere A2, Fifth Level) on how to build a modern analytical platform including Apache Kafka, Confluent's KSQL, Apache Drill and Oracle's Data Visualization (Cloud or Desktop).

Rittman Mead at Kscope 2018

During the second talk, titled DevOps and OBIEE:
Do it Before it's Too Late!
(Monday at 10:45 Northern Hemisphere A1, Fifth Level), I'll be sharing details, based on our experience, on how OBIEE can be fully included in a DevOps framework, what's the cost of "avoiding" DevOps and automation in general and how Rittman Mead's toolkits, partially described here, can be used to accelerate the adoption of DevOps practices in any situation.

Rittman Mead at Kscope 2018

If you’re at the event and you see me in sessions, around the conference or during my talks, I’d be pleased to speak with you about your projects and answer any questions you might have.

Categories: BI & Warehousing

Rittman Mead at Kscope 2018

Thu, 2018-05-31 02:20
Rittman Mead at Kscope 2018

Kscope 2018 is just a week away! Magnificent location (Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort) for one of the best tech conferences of the year! The agenda is impressive (look here) spanning over ten different tracks from the traditional EPM, BI Analytics and Data Visualization, to the newly added Blockchain! Plenty of great content and networking opportunities!

I'll be representing Rittman Mead with two talks: one about Visualizing Streams (Wednesday at 10:15 Northern Hemisphere A2, Fifth Level) on how to build a modern analytical platform including Apache Kafka, Confluent's KSQL, Apache Drill and Oracle's Data Visualization (Cloud or Desktop).

Rittman Mead at Kscope 2018

During the second talk, titled DevOps and OBIEE:
Do it Before it's Too Late!
(Monday at 10:45 Northern Hemisphere A1, Fifth Level), I'll be sharing details, based on our experience, on how OBIEE can be fully included in a DevOps framework, what's the cost of "avoiding" DevOps and automation in general and how Rittman Mead's toolkits, partially described here, can be used to accelerate the adoption of DevOps practices in any situation.

Rittman Mead at Kscope 2018

If you’re at the event and you see me in sessions, around the conference or during my talks, I’d be pleased to speak with you about your projects and answer any questions you might have.

Categories: BI & Warehousing

Rittman Mead at OUG Norway 2018

Mon, 2018-03-05 04:45
Rittman Mead at OUG Norway 2018

This week I am very pleased to represent Rittman Mead by presenting at the Oracle User Group Norway Spring Seminar 2018 delivering two sessions about Oracle Analytics, Kafka, Apache Drill and Data Visualization both on-premises and cloud. The OUGN conference it's unique due to both the really high level of presentations (see related agenda) and the fascinating location being the Color Fantasy Cruiseferry going from Oslo to Kiev and back.

Rittman Mead at OUG Norway 2018

I'll be speaking on Friday 9th at 9:30AM in Auditorium 2 about Visualizing Streams on how the world of Business Analytics has changed in recent years and how to successfully build a Modern Analytical Platform including Apache Kafka, Confluent's recently announced KSQL and Oracle's Data Visualization.

Rittman Mead at OUG Norway 2018

On the same day at 5PM, always in Auditorium 2, I'll be delivering the session OBIEE: Going Down the Rabbit Hole: providing details, built on experience, on how diagnostic tools, non standard configuration and well defined processes can enhance, secure and accelerate any analytical project.

If you’re at the event and you see me in sessions, around the conference or during my talks, I’d be pleased to speak with you about your projects and answer any questions you might have.

Categories: BI & Warehousing

Rittman Mead at OUG Norway 2018

Mon, 2018-03-05 04:45
Rittman Mead at OUG Norway 2018

This week I am very pleased to represent Rittman Mead by presenting at the Oracle User Group Norway Spring Seminar 2018 delivering two sessions about Oracle Analytics, Kafka, Apache Drill and Data Visualization both on-premises and cloud. The OUGN conference it's unique due to both the really high level of presentations (see related agenda) and the fascinating location being the Color Fantasy Cruiseferry going from Oslo to Kiev and back.

Rittman Mead at OUG Norway 2018

I'll be speaking on Friday 9th at 9:30AM in Auditorium 2 about Visualizing Streams on how the world of Business Analytics has changed in recent years and how to successfully build a Modern Analytical Platform including Apache Kafka, Confluent's recently announced KSQL and Oracle's Data Visualization.

Rittman Mead at OUG Norway 2018

On the same day at 5PM, always in Auditorium 2, I'll be delivering the session OBIEE: Going Down the Rabbit Hole: providing details, built on experience, on how diagnostic tools, non standard configuration and well defined processes can enhance, secure and accelerate any analytical project.

If you’re at the event and you see me in sessions, around the conference or during my talks, I’d be pleased to speak with you about your projects and answer any questions you might have.

Categories: BI & Warehousing

Spring into action with our new OBIEE 12c Systems Management & Security On Demand Training course

Mon, 2018-02-19 05:49

Rittman Mead are happy to release a new course to the On Demand Training platform.

The OBIEE 12c Systems Management & Security course is the essential learning tool for any developers or administrators who will be working on the maintenance & optimisation of their OBIEE platform.

Baseline Validation Tool

View lessons and live demos from our experts on the following subjects:

  • What's new in OBIEE 12c
  • Starting & Stopping Services
  • Managing Metadata
  • System Preferences
  • Troubleshooting Issues
  • Caching
  • Usage Tracking
  • Baseline Validation Tool
  • Direct Database Request
  • Write Back
  • LDAP Users & Groups
  • Application Roles
  • Permissions

Get hands on with the practical version of the course which comes with an OBIEE 12c training environment and 9 lab exercises.
System Preferences

Rittman Mead will also be releasing a theory version of the course. This will not include the lab exercises but gives each of the lessons and demos that you'd get as part of the practical course.

Course prices are as follows:

OBIEE 12c Systems Management & Security - PRACTICAL - $499

  • 30 days access to lessons & demos
  • 30 days access to OBIEE 12c training environment for lab exercises
  • 30 days access to Rittman Mead knowledge base for Q&A and lab support

OBIEE 12c Systems Management & Security - THEROY - $299

  • 30 days access to lessons & demos
  • 30 days access to Rittman Mead knowledge base for Q&A

To celebrate the changing of seasons we suggest you Spring into action with OBIEE 12c by receiving a 25% discount on both courses until 31st March 2018 using voucher code:

ODTSPRING18

Access both courses and the rest of our catalog at learn.rittmanmead.com

Categories: BI & Warehousing

Spring into action with our new OBIEE 12c Systems Management & Security On Demand Training course

Mon, 2018-02-19 05:49

Rittman Mead are happy to release a new course to the On Demand Training platform.

The OBIEE 12c Systems Management & Security course is the essential learning tool for any developers or administrators who will be working on the maintenance & optimisation of their OBIEE platform.

Baseline Validation Tool

View lessons and live demos from our experts on the following subjects:

  • What's new in OBIEE 12c
  • Starting & Stopping Services
  • Managing Metadata
  • System Preferences
  • Troubleshooting Issues
  • Caching
  • Usage Tracking
  • Baseline Validation Tool
  • Direct Database Request
  • Write Back
  • LDAP Users & Groups
  • Application Roles
  • Permissions

Get hands on with the practical version of the course which comes with an OBIEE 12c training environment and 9 lab exercises.
System Preferences

Rittman Mead will also be releasing a theory version of the course. This will not include the lab exercises but gives each of the lessons and demos that you'd get as part of the practical course.

Course prices are as follows:

OBIEE 12c Systems Management & Security - PRACTICAL - $499

  • 30 days access to lessons & demos
  • 30 days access to OBIEE 12c training environment for lab exercises
  • 30 days access to Rittman Mead knowledge base for Q&A and lab support

OBIEE 12c Systems Management & Security - THEROY - $299

  • 30 days access to lessons & demos
  • 30 days access to Rittman Mead knowledge base for Q&A

To celebrate the changing of seasons we suggest you Spring into action with OBIEE 12c by receiving a 25% discount on both courses until 31st March 2018 using voucher code:

ODTSPRING18

Access both courses and the rest of our catalog at learn.rittmanmead.com

Categories: BI & Warehousing

Confluent Partnership

Mon, 2018-02-12 09:14

Confluent

Here at Rittman Mead, we are continually broadening the scope and expertise of our services to help our customers keep pace with today's ever-changing technology landscape. One significant change we have seen over the last few years is the increased adoption of data streaming. These solutions can help solve a variety of problems, from real-time data analytics to forming the entire backbone of an organisation's data architecture. We have worked with a number of different technologies that can enable this, however, we often see that Kafka ticks the most boxes.

This is reflected by some of the recent blog posts you will have seen like Tom Underhill hooking up his gaming console to Kafka and Paul Shilling’s piece on collating sailing data. Both these posts try and use day to day or real-world examples to demonstrate some of the concepts behind Kafka.

In conjunction with these, we have been involved in more serious proofs of concepts and project with clients involving Kafka, which no doubt we will write about in time. To help us further our knowledge and also immerse ourselves in the developer community we have decided to become Confluent partners. Confluent was founded by the people who initially developed Kafka at LinkedIn and provides a managed and supported version of Kafka through their platform.

We chose Confluent as we saw them as the driving force behind Kafka, plus the additions they are making to the platform such as the streaming API and KSQL are opening a lot of doors for how streamed data can be used.

We look forward to growing our knowledge and experience in this area and the possibilities that working with both Kafka and Confluent will bring us.

Categories: BI & Warehousing

Confluent Partnership

Mon, 2018-02-12 09:14

Confluent

Here at Rittman Mead, we are continually broadening the scope and expertise of our services to help our customers keep pace with today's ever-changing technology landscape. One significant change we have seen over the last few years is the increased adoption of data streaming. These solutions can help solve a variety of problems, from real-time data analytics to forming the entire backbone of an organisation's data architecture. We have worked with a number of different technologies that can enable this, however, we often see that Kafka ticks the most boxes.

This is reflected by some of the recent blog posts you will have seen like Tom Underhill hooking up his gaming console to Kafka and Paul Shilling’s piece on collating sailing data. Both these posts try and use day to day or real-world examples to demonstrate some of the concepts behind Kafka.

In conjunction with these, we have been involved in more serious proofs of concepts and project with clients involving Kafka, which no doubt we will write about in time. To help us further our knowledge and also immerse ourselves in the developer community we have decided to become Confluent partners. Confluent was founded by the people who initially developed Kafka at LinkedIn and provides a managed and supported version of Kafka through their platform.

We chose Confluent as we saw them as the driving force behind Kafka, plus the additions they are making to the platform such as the streaming API and KSQL are opening a lot of doors for how streamed data can be used.

We look forward to growing our knowledge and experience in this area and the possibilities that working with both Kafka and Confluent will bring us.

Categories: BI & Warehousing

Real-time Sailing Yacht Performance - Getting Started (Part 1)

Fri, 2018-01-19 03:54

In this series of articles, I intend to look at collecting and analysing our yacht’s data. I aim to show how a number of technologies can be used to achieve this and the thought processes around the build and exploration of the data. Ultimately, I want to improve our sailing performance with data, not a new concept for professional teams but well I have a limited amount of hardware and funds, unlike Oracle it seems, time for a bit of DIY!

In this article, I introduce some concepts and terms then I'll start cleaning and exploring the data.

Background

I have owned a Sigma 400 sailing yacht for over twelve years and she is used primarily for cruising but every now and then we do a bit of offshore racing.

In the last few years we have moved from paper charts and a very much manual way of life to electronic charts and IOS apps for navigation.

In 2017 we started to use weather modelling software to predict the most optimal route of a passage taking wind, tide and estimated boat performance (polars) into consideration.

The predicted routes are driven in part by a boat's polars, the original "polars" are a set of theoretical calculations created by the boat’s designer indicating/defining what the boat should do at each wind speed and angle of sailing. Polars give us a plot of the boat's speed given a true wind speed and angle. This in turn informs us of the optimal speed the boat could achieve at any particular angle to wind and wind speed (not taking into consideration helming accuracy, sea state, condition of sails and sail trim - It may be possible for me to derive different polars for different weather conditions). Fundamentally, polars will also give us an indication of the most optimal angle to wind to get to our destination (velocity made good).

The polars we use at the moment are based on a similar boat to the Sigma 400 but are really a best guess. I want our polars to be more accurate. I would also like to start tracking the boats performance real-time and post passage for further analysis.

The purpose of this blog is to use our boats instrument data to create accurate polars for a number of conditions and get a better understanding of our boats performance at each point of sail. I would also see what can be achieved with the AIS data. I intend to use Python to check and decode the data. I will look at a number of tools to store, buffer, visualise and analyse the outputs.

So let’s look at the technology on-board.

Instrumentation Architecture

The instruments are by Raymarine. We have a wind vane, GPS, speed sensor, depth sounder and sea temperature gauge, electronic compass, gyroscope, and rudder angle reader. These are all fed into a central course computer. Some of the instrument displays share and enrich the data calculating such things as apparent wind angles as an example. All the data travels through a proprietary Raymarine messaging system called SeaTalk. To allow Raymarine instruments to interact with other instrumentation there is an NMEA-0183 port. NMEA-0183 is a well-known communication protocol and is fairly well documented so this is the data I need to extract from the system. I currently have an NMEA-0183 cable connecting the Raymarine instruments to an AIS transponder. The AIS transponder includes a Wireless router. The wireless router enables me to connect portable devices to the instrumentation.

The first task is to start looking at the data and get an understanding of what needs to be done before I can start analysing.

Analysing the data

There is a USB connection from the AIS hub however the instructions do warn that this should only be used during installation. I did spool some data from the USB port, it seemed to work OK. I could connect directly to the NMEA-0183 output however that would require me to do some wiring so will look at that if the reliability of the wireless causes issues. The second option was to use the wireless connection. I start by spooling the data to a log file using nc (nc is basically OSX's version of netcat, a TCP and UDP tool).

Spooling the data to a log file

nc  -p 1234 192.168.1.1 2000 > instrument.log

The spooled data gave me a clear indication that there would need to be some sanity checking of the data before it would be useful. The data is split into a number of different message types each consisting of a different structure. I will convert these messages into a JSON format so that the messages are more readable downstream. In the example below the timestamps displayed are attached using awk but my Python script will handle any enrichment as I build out.

The data is comma separated so this makes things easy and there a number of good websites that describe the contents of the messages. Looking at the data using a series of awk commands I clearly identify three main types of messages. GPS, AIS and Integrated instrument messages. Each message ends in a two-digit hex code this can be XOR'd to validate the message.

Looking at an example wind messages

We get two messages related to the wind true and apparent the data is the same because the boat was stationary.

$IIMWV,180.0,R,3.7,N,A*30
$IIMWV,180.0,T,3.8,N,A*30

These are Integrated Instrument Mast Wind Vain (IIMWV) * I have made an assumption about the meaning of M so if you are an expert in these messages feel free to correct me ;-)*

These messages break down to:

  1. $IIMWV II Talker, MWV Sentence
  2. 180.0 Wind Angle 0 - 359
  3. R Relative (T = True)
  4. 3.7 Wind Speed
  5. N Wind Speed Units Knots (N = KPH, M = MPH)
  6. A Status (A= Valid)
  7. *30 Checksums

And in English (ish)

180.0 Degrees Relative wind speed 1.9 Knots.

Example corrupted message

$GPRMC,100851.00,A,5048.73249,N,00005.86148,W,0.01**$GPGGA**,100851.00,5048.73249,N,00005.8614$GPGLL,5048.73249,N,00005.86148,W,100851.0

Looks like the message failed to get a new line. I notice a number of other types of incomplete or corrupted messages so checking them will be an essential part of the build.

Creating a message reader

I don't really want to sit on the boat building code. I need to be doing this while traveling and at home when I get time. So, spooling half an hour of data to a log file gets me started. I can use Python to read from the file and once up and running spool the log file to a local TCP/IP port and read using Python socket library.

Firstly, I read the log file and loop through the messages, each message I check to see if it's valid using the checksum, line length. I used this to log the number of messages in error etc. I have posted the test function, I'm sure there are better ways to write the code but it works.

#DEF Function to test message
 def is_message_valid (orig_line):

  #check if hash is valid
  #set variables
  x = 1
  check = 0
  received_checksum = 0
  line_length = len(orig_line.strip())

  while (x <= line_length):="" current_char="orig_line[x]" #checksum="" is="" always="" two="" chars="" after="" the="" *="" if="" "*":="" received_checksum="orig_line[x+1]" +="" orig_line[x+2]="" #check="" where="" we="" are="" there="" more="" to="" decode="" then="" #have="" take="" into="" account="" new="" line="" line_length=""> (x+3):
        check = 0

      #no need to continue to the end of the 
      #line either error or have checksum
      break

    check = check^ord(current_char)
    x = x + 1; 
  
  if format(check,"2X") == received_checksum:
    #substring the new line for printing
    #print "Processed nmea line >> " + orig_line[:-1] + " Valid message" 
    _Valid = 1
  else:
    #substring the new line for printing
    _Valid = 0
  
  return _Valid

Now for the translation of messages. There are a number of example Python packages in GitHub that translate NMEA messages but I am only currently interested in specific messages, I also want to build appropriate JSON so feel I am better writing this from scratch. Python has JSON libraries so fairly straight forward once the message is defined. I start by looking at the wind and depth messages. I'm not currently seeing any speed messages hopefully because the boat wasn't moving.

def convert_iimwv_json (orig_line):
 #iimwv wind instrumentation

 column_list = orig_line.split(",")
 
 #star separates the checksum from status
 status_check_sum = column_list[5].split("*")
 checksum_value = status_check_sum[1]
 
 json_str = 
 {'message_type' : column_list[0], 
 'wind_angle' : column_list[1], 
 'relative' : column_list[2], 
 'wind_speed' : column_list[3], 
 'wind_speed_units' : column_list[4], 
 'status' : status_check_sum[0], 
 'checksum' : checksum_value[0:2]}
 
 json_dmp = json.dumps(json_str)
 json_obj = json.loads(json_dmp)

 return json_str

I now have a way of checking, reading and converting the message to JSON from a log file. Switching from reading a file to to using the Python socket library I can read the stream directly from a TCP/IP port. Using nc it's possible to simulate the message being sent from the instruments by piping the log file to a port.

Opening port 1234 and listening for terminal input

nc -l 1234

Having spoken to some experts from Digital Yachts it maybe that the missing messages are because Raymarine SeakTalk is not transmitting an NMEA message for speed and a number of other readings. The way I have wired up the NMEA inputs and outputs to the AIS hub may also be causing the doubling up of messages and apparent corruptions. I need more kit! A bi-direction SeaTalk to NMEA converter.

In the next article, I discuss the use of Kafka in the architecture. I want to buffer all my incoming raw messages. If I store all the incoming I can build out the analytics over time i.e as I decode each message type. I will also set about creating a near real time dashboard to display the incoming metrics. The use of Kafka will give me scalability in the model. I'm particularly thinking of Round the Island Race 1,800 boats a good number of these will be transmitting AIS data.


Real-time Sailing Yacht Performance - stepping back a bit (Part 1.1)

Real-time Sailing Yacht Performance - Kafka (Part 2)

Categories: BI & Warehousing

Real-time Sailing Yacht Performance - Getting Started (Part 1)

Fri, 2018-01-19 03:54

In this series of articles, I intend to look at collecting and analysing our yacht’s data. I aim to show how a number of technologies can be used to achieve this and the thought processes around the build and exploration of the data. Ultimately, I want to improve our sailing performance with data, not a new concept for professional teams but well I have a limited amount of hardware and funds, unlike Oracle it seems, time for a bit of DIY!

In this article, I introduce some concepts and terms then I'll start cleaning and exploring the data.

Background

I have owned a Sigma 400 sailing yacht for over twelve years and she is used primarily for cruising but every now and then we do a bit of offshore racing.

In the last few years we have moved from paper charts and a very much manual way of life to electronic charts and IOS apps for navigation.

In 2017 we started to use weather modelling software to predict the most optimal route of a passage taking wind, tide and estimated boat performance (polars) into consideration.

The predicted routes are driven in part by a boat's polars, the original "polars" are a set of theoretical calculations created by the boat’s designer indicating/defining what the boat should do at each wind speed and angle of sailing. Polars give us a plot of the boat's speed given a true wind speed and angle. This in turn informs us of the optimal speed the boat could achieve at any particular angle to wind and wind speed (not taking into consideration helming accuracy, sea state, condition of sails and sail trim - It may be possible for me to derive different polars for different weather conditions). Fundamentally, polars will also give us an indication of the most optimal angle to wind to get to our destination (velocity made good).

The polars we use at the moment are based on a similar boat to the Sigma 400 but are really a best guess. I want our polars to be more accurate. I would also like to start tracking the boats performance real-time and post passage for further analysis.

The purpose of this blog is to use our boats instrument data to create accurate polars for a number of conditions and get a better understanding of our boats performance at each point of sail. I would also see what can be achieved with the AIS data. I intend to use Python to check and decode the data. I will look at a number of tools to store, buffer, visualise and analyse the outputs.

So let’s look at the technology on-board.

Instrumentation Architecture

The instruments are by Raymarine. We have a wind vane, GPS, speed sensor, depth sounder and sea temperature gauge, electronic compass, gyroscope, and rudder angle reader. These are all fed into a central course computer. Some of the instrument displays share and enrich the data calculating such things as apparent wind angles as an example. All the data travels through a proprietary Raymarine messaging system called SeaTalk. To allow Raymarine instruments to interact with other instrumentation there is an NMEA-0183 port. NMEA-0183 is a well-known communication protocol and is fairly well documented so this is the data I need to extract from the system. I currently have an NMEA-0183 cable connecting the Raymarine instruments to an AIS transponder. The AIS transponder includes a Wireless router. The wireless router enables me to connect portable devices to the instrumentation.

The first task is to start looking at the data and get an understanding of what needs to be done before I can start analysing.

Analysing the data

There is a USB connection from the AIS hub however the instructions do warn that this should only be used during installation. I did spool some data from the USB port, it seemed to work OK. I could connect directly to the NMEA-0183 output however that would require me to do some wiring so will look at that if the reliability of the wireless causes issues. The second option was to use the wireless connection. I start by spooling the data to a log file using nc (nc is basically OSX's version of netcat, a TCP and UDP tool).

Spooling the data to a log file

nc  -p 1234 192.168.1.1 2000 > instrument.log

The spooled data gave me a clear indication that there would need to be some sanity checking of the data before it would be useful. The data is split into a number of different message types each consisting of a different structure. I will convert these messages into a JSON format so that the messages are more readable downstream. In the example below the timestamps displayed are attached using awk but my Python script will handle any enrichment as I build out.

The data is comma separated so this makes things easy and there a number of good websites that describe the contents of the messages. Looking at the data using a series of awk commands I clearly identify three main types of messages. GPS, AIS and Integrated instrument messages. Each message ends in a two-digit hex code this can be XOR'd to validate the message.

Looking at an example wind messages

We get two messages related to the wind true and apparent the data is the same because the boat was stationary.

$IIMWV,180.0,R,3.7,N,A*30
$IIMWV,180.0,T,3.8,N,A*30

These are Integrated Instrument Mast Wind Vain (IIMWV) * I have made an assumption about the meaning of M so if you are an expert in these messages feel free to correct me ;-)*

These messages break down to:

  1. $IIMWV II Talker, MWV Sentence
  2. 180.0 Wind Angle 0 - 359
  3. R Relative (T = True)
  4. 3.7 Wind Speed
  5. N Wind Speed Units Knots (N = KPH, M = MPH)
  6. A Status (A= Valid)
  7. *30 Checksums

And in English (ish)

180.0 Degrees Relative wind speed 1.9 Knots.

Example corrupted message

$GPRMC,100851.00,A,5048.73249,N,00005.86148,W,0.01**$GPGGA**,100851.00,5048.73249,N,00005.8614$GPGLL,5048.73249,N,00005.86148,W,100851.0

Looks like the message failed to get a new line. I notice a number of other types of incomplete or corrupted messages so checking them will be an essential part of the build.

Creating a message reader

I don't really want to sit on the boat building code. I need to be doing this while traveling and at home when I get time. So, spooling half an hour of data to a log file gets me started. I can use Python to read from the file and once up and running spool the log file to a local TCP/IP port and read using Python socket library.

Firstly, I read the log file and loop through the messages, each message I check to see if it's valid using the checksum, line length. I used this to log the number of messages in error etc. I have posted the test function, I'm sure there are better ways to write the code but it works.

#DEF Function to test message
 def is_message_valid (orig_line):

  #check if hash is valid
  #set variables
  x = 1
  check = 0
  received_checksum = 0
  line_length = len(orig_line.strip())

  while (x <= line_length):="" current_char="orig_line[x]" #checksum="" is="" always="" two="" chars="" after="" the="" *="" if="" "*":="" received_checksum="orig_line[x+1]" +="" orig_line[x+2]="" #check="" where="" we="" are="" there="" more="" to="" decode="" then="" #have="" take="" into="" account="" new="" line="" line_length=""> (x+3):
        check = 0

      #no need to continue to the end of the 
      #line either error or have checksum
      break

    check = check^ord(current_char)
    x = x + 1; 

  if format(check,"2X") == received_checksum:
    #substring the new line for printing
    #print "Processed nmea line >> " + orig_line[:-1] + " Valid message" 
    _Valid = 1
  else:
    #substring the new line for printing
    _Valid = 0

  return _Valid

Now for the translation of messages. There are a number of example Python packages in GitHub that translate NMEA messages but I am only currently interested in specific messages, I also want to build appropriate JSON so feel I am better writing this from scratch. Python has JSON libraries so fairly straight forward once the message is defined. I start by looking at the wind and depth messages. I'm not currently seeing any speed messages hopefully because the boat wasn't moving.

def convert_iimwv_json (orig_line):
 #iimwv wind instrumentation

 column_list = orig_line.split(",")

 #star separates the checksum from status
 status_check_sum = column_list[5].split("*")
 checksum_value = status_check_sum[1]

 json_str = 
 {'message_type' : column_list[0], 
 'wind_angle' : column_list[1], 
 'relative' : column_list[2], 
 'wind_speed' : column_list[3], 
 'wind_speed_units' : column_list[4], 
 'status' : status_check_sum[0], 
 'checksum' : checksum_value[0:2]}

 json_dmp = json.dumps(json_str)
 json_obj = json.loads(json_dmp)

 return json_str

I now have a way of checking, reading and converting the message to JSON from a log file. Switching from reading a file to to using the Python socket library I can read the stream directly from a TCP/IP port. Using nc it's possible to simulate the message being sent from the instruments by piping the log file to a port.

Opening port 1234 and listening for terminal input

nc -l 1234

Having spoken to some experts from Digital Yachts it maybe that the missing messages are because Raymarine SeakTalk is not transmitting an NMEA message for speed and a number of other readings. The way I have wired up the NMEA inputs and outputs to the AIS hub may also be causing the doubling up of messages and apparent corruptions. I need more kit! A bi-direction SeaTalk to NMEA converter.

In the next article, I discuss the use of Kafka in the architecture. I want to buffer all my incoming raw messages. If I store all the incoming I can build out the analytics over time i.e as I decode each message type. I will also set about creating a near real time dashboard to display the incoming metrics. The use of Kafka will give me scalability in the model. I'm particularly thinking of Round the Island Race 1,800 boats a good number of these will be transmitting AIS data.


Categories: BI & Warehousing

Rittman Mead at UKOUG 2017

Mon, 2017-12-04 02:58

For those of you attending the UKOUG this year, we are giving three presentations on OBIEE and Data Visualisation.

Francesco Tisiot has two on Monday:

  • 14.25 // Enabling Self-Service Analytics With Analytic Views & Data Visualization From Cloud to Desktop - Hall 7a
  • 17:55 // OBIEE: Going Down the Rabbit Hole - Hall 7a

Federico Venturin is giving his culinary advice on Wednesday:

  • 11:25 // Visualising Data Like a Top Chef - Hall 6a

And Mike Vickers is diving into BI Publisher, also on Wednesday

  • 15:15 // BI Publisher: Teaching Old Dogs Some New Tricks - Hall 6a

In addition, Sam Jeremiah and I are also around, so if anyone wants to catch up, grab us for a coffee or a beer.

Categories: BI & Warehousing

Rittman Mead at UKOUG 2017

Mon, 2017-12-04 02:58

For those of you attending the UKOUG this year, we are giving three presentations on OBIEE and Data Visualisation.

Francesco Tisiot has two on Monday:

  • 14.25 // Enabling Self-Service Analytics With Analytic Views & Data Visualization From Cloud to Desktop - Hall 7a
  • 17:55 // OBIEE: Going Down the Rabbit Hole - Hall 7a

Federico Venturin is giving his culinary advice on Wednesday:

  • 11:25 // Visualising Data Like a Top Chef - Hall 6a

And Mike Vickers is diving into BI Publisher, also on Wednesday

  • 15:15 // BI Publisher: Teaching Old Dogs Some New Tricks - Hall 6a

In addition, Sam Jeremiah and I are also around, so if anyone wants to catch up, grab us for a coffee or a beer.

Categories: BI & Warehousing

Taking KSQL for a Spin Using Real-time Device Data

Tue, 2017-11-07 06:41
Taking KSQL for a Spin Using Real-time Device Data Taking KSQL for a Spin Using Real-time Device Data

Evaluating KSQL has been high on my to-do list ever since it was released back in August. I wanted to experiment with it using an interesting, high velocity, real-time data stream that would allow me to analyse events at the millisecond level, rather than seconds or minutes. Finding such a data source, that is free of charge and not the de facto twitter stream, is tricky. So, after some pondering, I decided that I'd use my Thrustmaster T300RS Steering Wheel/Pedal Set gaming device as a data source,

Taking KSQL for a Spin Using Real-time Device Data

The idea being that the data would be fed into Kafka, processed in real-time using KSQL and visualised in Grafana.

This is the end to end pipeline that I created...

Taking KSQL for a Spin Using Real-time Device Data

...and this is the resulting real-time dashboard running alongside a driving game and a log of the messages being sent by the device.

This article will explain how the above real-time dashboard was built using only KSQL...and a custom Kafka producer.

I'd like to point out, that although the device I'm using for testing is unconventional, when considered in the wider context of IoT's, autonomous driving, smart automotives or any device for that matter, it will be clear to see that the low latency, high throughput of Apache Kafka, coupled with Confluent's KSQL, can be a powerful combination.

I'd also like to point out, that this article is not about driving techniques, driving games or telemetry analysis. However, seeing as the data source I'm using is intrinsically tied to those subjects, the concepts will be discussed to add context. I hope you like motorsports!

Writing a Kafka Producer for a T300RS

The T300RS is attached to my Windows PC via a USB cable, so the first challenge was to try and figure out how I could get steering, braking and accelerator inputs pushed to Kafka. Unsurprisingly, a source connector for a "T300RS Steering Wheel and Pedal Set" was not listed on the Kafka Connect web page - a custom producer was the only option.

To access the data being generated by the T300RS, I had 2 options, I could either use an existing Telemetry API from one of my racing games, or I could access it directly using the Windows DirectX API. I didn't want to have to have a game running in the background in order to generate data, so I decided to go down the DirectX route. This way, the data is raw and available, with or without an actual game engine running.

The producer was written using the SharpDX .NET wrapper and Confluent's .NET Kafka Client. The SharpDX directinput API allows you to poll an attached input device (mouse, keyboard, game controllers etc.) and read its buffered data. The buffered data returned within each polling loop is serialized into JSON and sent to Kafka using the .NET Kafka Client library.

A single message is sent to a topic in Kafka called raw_axis_inputs every time the state of one the device's axes changes. The device has several axes, in this article I am only interested in the Wheel, Accelerator, Brake and the X button.

{  
    "event_id":4300415,         // Event ID unique over all axis state changes
    "timestamp":1508607521324,  // The time of the event
    "axis":"Y",                 // The axis this event belongs to
    "value":32873.0             // the current value of the axis
}

This is what a single message looks like. In the above message the Brake axis state was changed, i.e. it moved to a new position with value 32873.

You can see below which inputs map to the each reported axis from the device.

Taking KSQL for a Spin Using Real-time Device Data

Here is a sample from the producer's log file.

{"event_id":4401454,"timestamp":1508687373018,"axis":"X","value":33007.0}
{"event_id":4401455,"timestamp":1508687373018,"axis":"RotationZ","value":62515.0}
{"event_id":4401456,"timestamp":1508687373018,"axis":"RotationZ","value":62451.0}
{"event_id":4401457,"timestamp":1508687373018,"axis":"X","value":33011.0}
{"event_id":4401458,"timestamp":1508687373018,"axis":"RotationZ","value":62323.0}
{"event_id":4401459,"timestamp":1508687373018,"axis":"RotationZ","value":62258.0}
{"event_id":4401460,"timestamp":1508687373034,"axis":"X","value":33014.0}
{"event_id":4401461,"timestamp":1508687373034,"axis":"X","value":33017.0}
{"event_id":4401462,"timestamp":1508687373065,"axis":"RotationZ","value":62387.0}
{"event_id":4401463,"timestamp":1508687373081,"axis":"RotationZ","value":62708.0}
{"event_id":4401464,"timestamp":1508687373081,"axis":"RotationZ","value":62901.0}
{"event_id":4401465,"timestamp":1508687373081,"axis":"RotationZ","value":62965.0}
{"event_id":4401466,"timestamp":1508687373097,"axis":"RotationZ","value":64507.0}
{"event_id":4401467,"timestamp":1508687373097,"axis":"RotationZ","value":64764.0}
{"event_id":4401468,"timestamp":1508687373097,"axis":"RotationZ","value":64828.0}
{"event_id":4401469,"timestamp":1508687373097,"axis":"RotationZ","value":65021.0}
{"event_id":4401470,"timestamp":1508687373112,"axis":"RotationZ","value":65535.0}
{"event_id":4401471,"timestamp":1508687373268,"axis":"X","value":33016.0}
{"event_id":4401472,"timestamp":1508687373378,"axis":"X","value":33014.0}
{"event_id":4401473,"timestamp":1508687377972,"axis":"Y","value":65407.0}
{"event_id":4401474,"timestamp":1508687377987,"axis":"Y","value":64057.0}
{"event_id":4401475,"timestamp":1508687377987,"axis":"Y","value":63286.0}

You can tell by looking at the timestamps, it's possible to have multiple events generated within the same millisecond, I was unable to get microsecond precision from the device unfortunately. When axes, "X", "Y" and "RotationZ" are being moved quickly at the same time (a bit like a child driving one of those coin operated car rides you find at the seaside) the device generates approximately 500 events per second.

Creating a Source Stream

Now that we have data streaming to Kafka from the device, it's time to fire up KSQL and start analysing it. The first thing we need to do is create a source stream. The saying "Every River Starts with a Single Drop" is quite fitting here, especially in the context of stream processing. The raw_axis_inputs topic is our "Single Drop" and we need to create a KSQL stream based on top of it.

CREATE STREAM raw_axis_inputs ( \  
     event_id BIGINT, \
     timestamp BIGINT, \
     axis VARCHAR, \
     value DOUBLE ) \
 WITH (kafka_topic = 'raw_axis_inputs', value_format = 'JSON');

With the stream created we can we can now query it. I'm using the default auto.offset.reset = latest as I have the luxury of being able to blip the accelerator whenever I want to generate new data, a satisfying feeling indeed.

ksql> SELECT * FROM raw_axis_inputs;  
1508693510267 | null | 4480290 | 1508693510263 | RotationZ | 65278.0  
1508693510269 | null | 4480291 | 1508693510263 | RotationZ | 64893.0  
1508693510271 | null | 4480292 | 1508693510263 | RotationZ | 63993.0  
1508693510273 | null | 4480293 | 1508693510263 | RotationZ | 63094.0  
1508693510275 | null | 4480294 | 1508693510279 | RotationZ | 61873.0  
1508693510277 | null | 4480295 | 1508693510279 | RotationZ | 60716.0  
1508693510279 | null | 4480296 | 1508693510279 | RotationZ | 60267.0  
Derived Streams

We now have our source stream created and can start creating some derived streams from it. The first derived stream we are going to create filters out 1 event. When the X button is pressed it emits a value of 128, when it's released it emits a value of 0.

Taking KSQL for a Spin Using Real-time Device Data

To simplify this input, I'm filtering out the release event. We'll see what the X button is used for later in the article.

CREATE STREAM axis_inputs WITH (kafka_topic = 'axis_inputs') AS \  
SELECT  event_id, \  
        timestamp, \
        axis, \
        value \
FROM    raw_axis_inputs \  
WHERE   axis != 'Buttons5' OR value != 0.0;  

From this stream we are going to create 3 further streams, one for the brake, one the accelerator and one for the wheel.

All 3 axes emit values in the range of 0-65535 across their full range. The wheel emits a value of 0 when rotated fully left, a value of 65535 when rotated fully right and 32767 when dead centre. The wheel itself is configured to rotate 900 degrees lock-to-lock, so it would be nice to report its last state change in degrees, rather than from a predetermined integer range. For this we can create a new stream, that includes only messages where the axis = 'X', and the axis values are translated into the range of -450 degrees to 450 degrees. With this new value translation, maximum rotation left now equates to 450 degrees and maximum rotation right equates -450 degrees, 0 is now dead centre.

CREATE STREAM steering_inputs WITH (kafka_topic = 'steering_inputs') AS \  
  SELECT  axis, \
          event_id, \
          timestamp, \
          (value / (65535.0 / 900.0) - 900 / 2) * -1 as value \
  FROM    axis_inputs \
  WHERE   axis = 'X';

If we now query our new stream and move the wheel slowly around dead centre, we get the following results

ksql> select timestamp, value from steering_inputs;

1508711287451 | 0.6388888888889142  
1508711287451 | 0.4305555555555429  
1508711287451 | 0.36111111111108585  
1508711287451 | 0.13888888888891415  
1508711287451 | -0.0  
1508711287467 | -0.041666666666685614  
1508711287467 | -0.26388888888891415  
1508711287467 | -0.3333333333333144  
1508711287467 | -0.5277777777777715  
1508711287467 | -0.5972222222222285  

The same query while the wheel is rotated fully left

1508748345943 | 449.17601281757845  
1508748345943 | 449.3270771343557  
1508748345943 | 449.5330739299611  
1508748345943 | 449.67040512703136  
1508748345959 | 449.8214694438087  
1508748345959 | 449.95880064087896  
1508748345959 | 450.0  

And finally, rotated fully right.

1508748312803 | -449.3408102540627  
1508748312803 | -449.4369420920119  
1508748312818 | -449.67040512703136  
1508748312818 | -449.7390707255665  
1508748312818 | -449.9725337605859  
1508748312818 | -450.0  

Here's the data plotted in Grafana.

Taking KSQL for a Spin Using Real-time Device Data

We now need to create 2 more derived streams to handle the accelerator and the brake pedals. This time, we want to translate the values to the range 0-100. When a pedal is fully depressed it should report a value of 100 and when fully released, a value of 0.

CREATE STREAM accelerator_inputs WITH (kafka_topic = 'accelerator_inputs') AS \  
SELECT  axis, \  
        event_id, \
        timestamp, \
        100 - (value / (65535.0 / 100.0)) as value \
FROM    axis_inputs \  
WHERE   axis = 'RotationZ';  

Querying the accelerator_inputs stream while fully depressing the accelerator pedal displays the following. (I've omitted many records in the middle to keep it short)

ksql> SELECT timestamp, value FROM accelerator_inputs;  
1508749747115 | 0.0  
1508749747162 | 0.14198473282442592  
1508749747193 | 0.24122137404580712  
1508749747209 | 0.43664122137404604  
1508749747225 | 0.5343511450381726  
1508749747287 | 0.6335877862595396  
1508749747318 | 0.7312977099236662  
1508749747318 | 0.8290076335877927  
1508749747334 | 0.9267175572519051  
1508749747381 | 1.0259541984732863  
...
...
1508749753943 | 98.92519083969465  
1508749753959 | 99.02290076335878  
1508749753959 | 99.1206106870229  
1508749753959 | 99.21832061068702  
1508749753975 | 99.31603053435114  
1508749753975 | 99.41374045801527  
1508749753975 | 99.5114503816794  
1508749753990 | 99.60916030534351  
1508749753990 | 99.70687022900763  
1508749753990 | 99.80458015267176  
1508749754006 | 100.0

...and displayed in Grafana

Taking KSQL for a Spin Using Real-time Device Data

Finally, we create the brake stream, which has the same value translation as the accelerator stream, so I won't show the query results this time around.

CREATE STREAM brake_inputs WITH (kafka_topic = 'brake_inputs') AS \  
SELECT  axis, \  
        event_id, \
        timestamp, \
        100 - (value / (65535 / 100)) as value \
FROM    axis_inputs \  
WHERE   axis = 'Y';  

Braking inputs in Grafana.

Taking KSQL for a Spin Using Real-time Device Data

Smooth is Fast

It is a general rule of thumb in motorsports that "Smooth is Fast", the theory being that the less steering, accelerator and braking inputs you can make while still keeping the car on the desired racing line, results in a faster lap time. We can use KSQL to count the number of inputs for each axis over a Hopping Window to try and capture overall smoothness. To do this, we create our first KSQL table.

CREATE TABLE axis_events_hopping_5s_1s \  
WITH (kafka_topic = 'axis_events_hopping_5s_1s') AS \  
SELECT  axis, \  
        COUNT(*) AS event_count \
FROM    axis_inputs \  
WINDOW HOPPING (SIZE 5 SECOND, ADVANCE BY 1 SECOND) \  
GROUP BY axis;  

A KSQL table is basically a view over an existing stream or another table. When a table is created from a stream, it needs to contain an aggregate function and group by clause. It's these aggregates that make a table stateful, with the underpinning stream updating the table's current view in the background. If you create a table based on another table you do not need to specify an aggregate function or group by clause.

The table we created above specifies that data is aggregated over a Hopping Window. The size of the window is 5 seconds and it will advance or hop every 1 second. This means that at any one time, there will be 5 open windows, with new data being directed to each window based on the key and the record's timestamp.

You can see below when we query the stream, that we have 5 open windows per axis, with each window 1 second apart.

ksql> SELECT * FROM axis_events_hopping_5s_1s;  
1508758267000 | X : Window{start=1508758267000 end=-} | X | 56  
1508758268000 | X : Window{start=1508758268000 end=-} | X | 56  
1508758269000 | X : Window{start=1508758269000 end=-} | X | 56  
1508758270000 | X : Window{start=1508758270000 end=-} | X | 56  
1508758271000 | X : Window{start=1508758271000 end=-} | X | 43  
1508758267000 | Y : Window{start=1508758267000 end=-} | Y | 25  
1508758268000 | Y : Window{start=1508758268000 end=-} | Y | 25  
1508758269000 | Y : Window{start=1508758269000 end=-} | Y | 25  
1508758270000 | Y : Window{start=1508758270000 end=-} | Y | 32  
1508758271000 | Y : Window{start=1508758271000 end=-} | Y | 32  
1508758267000 | RotationZ : Window{start=1508758267000 end=-} | RotationZ | 67  
1508758268000 | RotationZ : Window{start=1508758268000 end=-} | RotationZ | 67  
1508758269000 | RotationZ : Window{start=1508758269000 end=-} | RotationZ | 67  
1508758270000 | RotationZ : Window{start=1508758270000 end=-} | RotationZ | 67  
1508758271000 | RotationZ : Window{start=1508758271000 end=-} | RotationZ | 39  

This data is going to be pushed into InfluxDB and therefore needs a timestamp column. We can create a new table for this, that includes all columns from our current table, plus the rowtime.

CREATE TABLE axis_events_hopping_5s_1s_ts \  
WITH (kafka_topic = 'axis_events_hopping_5s_1s_ts') AS \  
SELECT  rowtime AS timestamp, * \  
FROM    axis_events_hopping_5s_1s;  

And now, when we query this table we can see we have all the columns we need.

ksql> select timestamp, axis, event_count from axis_events_hopping_5s_1s_ts;  
1508761027000 | RotationZ | 61  
1508761028000 | RotationZ | 61  
1508761029000 | RotationZ | 61  
1508761030000 | RotationZ | 61  
1508761031000 | RotationZ | 61  
1508761028000 | Y | 47  
1508761029000 | Y | 47  
1508761030000 | Y | 47  
1508761031000 | Y | 47  
1508761032000 | Y | 47  
1508761029000 | X | 106  
1508761030000 | X | 106  
1508761031000 | X | 106  
1508761032000 | X | 106  
1508761033000 | X | 106  

This is the resulting graph in Grafana with each axis stacked on top of each other giving a visual representation of the total number of events overall and total per axis. The idea here being that if you can drive a lap with less overall inputs or events then the lap time should be faster.

Taking KSQL for a Spin Using Real-time Device Data

Calculating Lap Times

To calculate lap times, I needed a way of capturing the time difference between 2 separate events in a stream. Remember that the raw data is coming directly from the device and has no concept of lap, lap data is handled by a game engine.
I needed a way to inject an event into the stream when I crossed the start/finish line of any given race track. To achieve this, I modified the custom producer to increment a counter every time the X button was pressed and added a new field to the JSON message called lap_number.

Taking KSQL for a Spin Using Real-time Device Data

I then needed to recreate my source stream and my initial derived stream to include this new field

New source stream

CREATE STREAM raw_axis_inputs ( \  
     event_id BIGINT, \
     timestamp BIGINT, \
     lap_number BIGINT, \
     axis VARCHAR, \
     value DOUBLE ) \
 WITH (kafka_topic = 'raw_axis_inputs', value_format = 'JSON');

New derived stream.

CREATE STREAM axis_inputs WITH (kafka_topic = 'axis_inputs') AS \  
SELECT  event_id, \  
        timestamp, \
        lap_number, \
        axis, \
        value \
FROM    raw_axis_inputs \  
WHERE   axis != 'Buttons5' OR value != 0.0;  

Now when I query the axis_inputs stream and press the X button a few times we can see an incrementing lap number.

ksql> SELECT timestamp, lap_number, axis, value FROM axis_inputs;  
1508762511506 | 6 | X | 32906.0  
1508762511553 | 6 | X | 32907.0  
1508762511803 | 6 | X | 32909.0  
1508762512662 | 7 | Buttons5 | 128.0  
1508762513178 | 7 | X | 32911.0  
1508762513256 | 7 | X | 32913.0  
1508762513318 | 7 | X | 32914.0  
1508762513381 | 7 | X | 32916.0  
1508762513459 | 7 | X | 32918.0  
1508762513693 | 7 | X | 32919.0  
1508762514584 | 8 | Buttons5 | 128.0  
1508762515021 | 8 | X | 32921.0  
1508762515100 | 8 | X | 32923.0  
1508762515209 | 8 | X | 32925.0  
1508762515318 | 8 | X | 32926.0  
1508762515678 | 8 | X | 32928.0  
1508762516756 | 8 | X | 32926.0  
1508762517709 | 9 | Buttons5 | 128.0  
1508762517756 | 9 | X | 32925.0  
1508762520381 | 9 | X | 32923.0  
1508762520709 | 9 | X | 32921.0  
1508762520881 | 10 | Buttons5 | 128.0  
1508762521396 | 10 | X | 32919.0  
1508762521568 | 10 | X | 32918.0  
1508762521693 | 10 | X | 32916.0  
1508762521803 | 10 | X | 32914.0  

The next step is to calculate the time difference between each "Buttons5" event (the X button). This required 2 new tables. The first table below captures the latest values using the MAX() function from the axis_inputs stream where the axis = 'Buttons5'

CREATE TABLE lap_marker_data WITH (kafka_topic = 'lap_marker_data') AS \  
SELECT  axis, \  
        MAX(event_id) AS lap_start_event_id, \
        MAX(timestamp) AS lap_start_timestamp, \ 
        MAX(lap_number) AS lap_number \
FROM    axis_inputs \  
WHERE   axis = 'Buttons5' \  
GROUP BY axis;  

When we query this table, a new row is displayed every time the X button is pressed, reflecting the latest values from the stream.

ksql> SELECT axis, lap_start_event_id, lap_start_timestamp, lap_number FROM lap_marker_data;  
Buttons5 | 4692691 | 1508763302396 | 15  
Buttons5 | 4693352 | 1508763306271 | 16  
Buttons5 | 4693819 | 1508763310037 | 17  
Buttons5 | 4693825 | 1508763313865 | 18  
Buttons5 | 4694397 | 1508763317209 | 19  

What we can now do is join this table to a new stream.

CREATE STREAM lap_stats WITH (kafka_topic = 'lap_stats') AS \  
SELECT  l.lap_number as lap_number, \  
        l.lap_start_event_id, \
        l.lap_start_timestamp, \
        a.timestamp AS lap_end_timestamp, \
        (a.event_id - l.lap_start_event_id) AS lap_events, \
        (a.timestamp - l.lap_start_timestamp) AS laptime_ms \
FROM       axis_inputs a LEFT JOIN lap_marker_data l ON a.axis = l.axis \  
WHERE   a.axis = 'Buttons5';    

 Message
----------------
Stream created

ksql> describe lap_stats;

 Field               | Type
---------------------------------------
 ROWTIME             | BIGINT
 ROWKEY              | VARCHAR (STRING)
 LAP_NUMBER          | BIGINT
 LAP_START_EVENT_ID  | BIGINT
 LAP_START_TIMESTAMP | BIGINT
 LAP_END_TIMESTAMP   | BIGINT
 LAP_EVENTS          | BIGINT
 LAPTIME_MS          | BIGINT

This new stream is again based on the axis_inputs stream where the axis = 'Buttons5'. We are joining it to our lap_marker_data table which results in a stream where every row includes the current and previous values at the point in time when the X button was pressed.

A quick query should illustrate this (I've manually added column heading to make it easier to read)

ksql> SELECT lap_number, lap_start_event_id, lap_start_timestamp, lap_end_timestamp, lap_events, laptime_ms FROM lap_stats;

LAP  START_EV  START_TS        END_TS          TOT_EV  LAP_TIME_MS  
36 | 4708512 | 1508764549240 | 1508764553912 | 340   | 4672  
37 | 4708852 | 1508764553912 | 1508764567521 | 1262  | 13609  
38 | 4710114 | 1508764567521 | 1508764572162 | 1174  | 4641  
39 | 4711288 | 1508764572162 | 1508764577865 | 1459  | 5703  
40 | 4712747 | 1508764577865 | 1508764583725 | 939   | 5860  
41 | 4713686 | 1508764583725 | 1508764593475 | 2192  | 9750  
42 | 4715878 | 1508764593475 | 1508764602318 | 1928  | 8843

We can now see the time difference, in milliseconds ( LAP_TIME_MS ), between each press of the X button. This data can now be displayed in Grafana.

Taking KSQL for a Spin Using Real-time Device Data

The data is also being displayed along the top of the dashboard, aligned above the other graphs, as a ticker to help visualize lap boundaries across all axes.

Taking KSQL for a Spin Using Real-time Device Data

Anomaly Detection

A common use case when performing real-time stream analytics is Anomaly Detection, the act of detecting unexpected events, or outliers, in a stream of incoming data. Let's see what we can do with KSQL in this regard.

Driving Like a Lunatic?

As mentioned previously, Smooth is Fast, so it would be nice to be able to detect some form of erratic driving. When a car oversteers, the rear end of the car starts to rotate around a corner faster than you'd like, to counteract this motion, quick steering inputs are required to correct it. On a smooth lap you will only need a small part of the total range of the steering wheel to safely navigate all corners, when you start oversteering you will need make quick, but wider use of the total range of the wheel to keep the car on the track and prevent crashing.

To try and detect oversteer we need to create another KSQL table, this time based on the steering_inputs stream. This table counts steering events across a very short hopping window. Events are counted only if the rotation exceeds 180 degrees (sharp left rotation) or is less than -180 degrees (sharp right rotation)

CREATE TABLE oversteer WITH (kafka_topic = 'oversteer') AS \  
SELECT  axis, \  
        COUNT(*) \
FROM    steering_inputs \  
WINDOW HOPPING (SIZE 100 MILLISECONDS, ADVANCE BY 10 MILLISECONDS) \  
WHERE   value > 180 or value < -180 \  
GROUP by axis;  

We now create another table that includes the timestamp for InfluxDB.

CREATE TABLE oversteer_ts WITH (kafka_topic = 'oversteer_ts') AS \  
SELECT rowtime AS timestamp, * \  
FROM oversteer;  

If we query this table, while quickly rotating the wheel in the range value > 180 or value < -180, we can see multiple windows, 10ms apart, with a corresponding count of events.

ksql> SELECT * FROM oversteer_ts;  
1508767479920 | X : Window{start=1508767479920 end=-} | 1508767479920 | X | 5  
1508767479930 | X : Window{start=1508767479930 end=-} | 1508767479930 | X | 10  
1508767479940 | X : Window{start=1508767479940 end=-} | 1508767479940 | X | 15  
1508767479950 | X : Window{start=1508767479950 end=-} | 1508767479950 | X | 20  
1508767479960 | X : Window{start=1508767479960 end=-} | 1508767479960 | X | 25  
1508767479970 | X : Window{start=1508767479970 end=-} | 1508767479970 | X | 30  
1508767479980 | X : Window{start=1508767479980 end=-} | 1508767479980 | X | 35  
1508767479990 | X : Window{start=1508767479990 end=-} | 1508767479990 | X | 40  
1508767480000 | X : Window{start=1508767480000 end=-} | 1508767480000 | X | 45  
1508767480010 | X : Window{start=1508767480010 end=-} | 1508767480010 | X | 50  
1508767480020 | X : Window{start=1508767480020 end=-} | 1508767480020 | X | 50  
1508767480030 | X : Window{start=1508767480030 end=-} | 1508767480030 | X | 50  
1508767480040 | X : Window{start=1508767480040 end=-} | 1508767480040 | X | 50  
1508767480050 | X : Window{start=1508767480050 end=-} | 1508767480050 | X | 50  
1508767480060 | X : Window{start=1508767480060 end=-} | 1508767480060 | X | 47  
1508767480070 | X : Window{start=1508767480070 end=-} | 1508767480070 | X | 47  
1508767480080 | X : Window{start=1508767480080 end=-} | 1508767480080 | X | 47  
1508767480090 | X : Window{start=1508767480090 end=-} | 1508767480090 | X | 47  
1508767480100 | X : Window{start=1508767480100 end=-} | 1508767480100 | X | 47  

This data is plotted on the Y axis (we're talking graphs now) on the "Steering inputs" panel in Grafana. The oversteer metric can be seen in red and will spike when steering input exceeds 180 degrees in either direction.

Taking KSQL for a Spin Using Real-time Device Data

Braking too Hard?

Another anomaly I'd like to detect is when maximum brake pressure is applied for too long. Much like the brake pedal in a real car, the brake pedal I'm using has a very progressive feel, a fair amount of force from your foot is required to hit maximum pressure. If you do hit maximum pressure, it shouldn't be for long as you will most likely lock the wheels and skid off the race track, very embarrassing indeed.

The first thing to do is to create a table that will store the last time maximum brake pressure was applied. This table is based on the brake_inputs stream and filters where the value = 100

CREATE TABLE max_brake_power_time \  
WITH (kafka_topic = 'max_brake_power_time') AS \  
SELECT  axis, \  
        MAX(timestamp) as last_max_brake_ts \
FROM    brake_inputs \  
WHERE     value = 100 \  
GROUP by axis;  

A query of this table displays a new row each time maximum brake pressure is hit.

ksql> SELECT axis, last_max_brake_ts FROM max_brake_power_time;  
 Y | 1508769263100
 Y | 1508769267881
 Y | 1508769271568

Something worth mentioning is that if I hold my foot on the brake pedal at the maximum pressure for any period of time, only one event is found in the stream. This is because the device only streams data when the state of an axis changes. If I keep my foot still, no new events will appear in the stream. I'll deal with this in a minute.

Next we'll create a new stream based on the brake_inputs stream and join it to our max_brake_power_time table.

CREATE STREAM brake_inputs_with_max_brake_power_time \  
WITH ( kafka_topic = 'brake_inputs_with_max_brake_power_time') AS \  
SELECT  bi.value, \  
        bi.timestamp, \
        mb.last_max_brake_ts, \
        bi.timestamp - mb.last_max_brake_ts AS time_since_max_brake_released \
FROM    brake_inputs bi LEFT JOIN max_brake_power_time mb ON bi.axis = mb.axis;  

For each row in this stream we now have access to all columns in the brake_inputs stream plus a timestamp telling us when max brake power was last reached. With this data we create a new derived column bi.timestamp - mb.last_max_brake_ts AS time_since_max_brake_released which gives a running calculation of the difference between the current record timestamp and the last time maximum brake pressure was applied

For example, when we query the stream we can see that maximum pressure was applied at timestamp 1508772739115 with a value of 100.0. It's the row immediately after this row that we're are interested in 99.90234225 | 1508772740803 | 1508772739115 | 1688.

Again, I've manually added column headings to make it easier to read.

ksql> SELECT value, timestamp, last_max_brake_ts, time_since_max_brake_released FROM brake_inputs_with_max_brake_power_time;

BRAKE VALUE | TIMESTAMP     | LAST MAX BRAKE TIME | TIME SINCE MAX BRAKE RELEASED  
98.53513389 | 1508772739100 | 1508772733146       | 5954  
98.82810711 | 1508772739100 | 1508772733146       | 5954  
99.02342259 | 1508772739115 | 1508772733146       | 5969  
99.51171129 | 1508772739115 | 1508772733146       | 5969  
99.70702677 | 1508772739115 | 1508772733146       | 5969  
100.0       | 1508772739115 | 1508772733146       | 5969  
99.90234225 | 1508772740803 | 1508772739115       | 1688  
99.51171129 | 1508772740818 | 1508772739115       | 1703  
99.12108033 | 1508772740818 | 1508772739115       | 1703  
97.65621423 | 1508772740818 | 1508772739115       | 1703  
96.58197909 | 1508772740818 | 1508772739115       | 1703  
95.41008621 | 1508772740818 | 1508772739115       | 1703  
94.43350881 | 1508772740818 | 1508772739115       | 1703  
93.65224689 | 1508772740818 | 1508772739115       | 1703  
93.35927367 | 1508772740818 | 1508772739115       | 1703  
92.87098496 | 1508772740834 | 1508772739115       | 1719  
92.38269626 | 1508772740834 | 1508772739115       | 1719  
91.11314564 | 1508772740834 | 1508772739115       | 1719  
90.62485694 | 1508772740834 | 1508772739115       | 1719  
90.42954146 | 1508772740834 | 1508772739115       | 1719  
89.35530632 | 1508772740834 | 1508772739115       | 1719  
87.89044022 | 1508772740834 | 1508772739115       | 1719  
87.40215152 | 1508772740850 | 1508772739115       | 1735  
86.52323186 | 1508772740850 | 1508772739115       | 1735  

Remember, that while an axis is held at the same value, 100.0 in this case, no more events will appear in the stream until the value changes again. This is why we are interested in the row preceding the maximum value, this row is telling us how long the value of 100.0 was applied for. In this case the time it was held for was 1688 milliseconds. Notice that on subsequent rows the value increases, but we are not interested in those rows. In order to isolate what we want, we need another table. This new table takes our previously created stream, brake_inputs_with_max_brake_power_time and groups it by the last_max_brake_ts column. For each grouping we then get the MIN(time_since_max_brake_released).

CREATE TABLE hard_braking WITH ( kafka_topic = 'hard_braking') AS \  
SELECT  last_max_brake_ts, \  
        MIN(time_since_max_brake_released) AS time_spent_at_max_brake_ms \
FROM    brake_inputs_with_max_brake_power_time \  
GROUP BY last_max_brake_ts;  

When we query this table, while stepping hard on the brake pedal for a few seconds at a time, we get the information we want. We can see the timestamp for when maximum brake pressure reached and for how long it was sustained.

ksql> SELECT last_max_brake_ts, time_spent_at_max_brake_ms FROM hard_braking;  
1508775178693 | 1360  
1508775178693 | 1360  
1508775183334 | 1000  
1508775183334 | 1000  
1508775187709 | 422  
1508775187709 | 422  
1508775187709 | 422  
1508775187709 | 422  
1508775187709 | 422  
1508775187709 | 422  
1508775187709 | 422  
1508775191256 | 1344  
1508775191256 | 1344  
1508775191256 | 1344  
1508775195850 | 1687  
1508775195850 | 1687  
1508775195850 | 1687  
1508775200662 | 1922  
1508775200662 | 1922  
1508775200662 | 1922  
1508775200662 | 1922  

Here's what the above data looks like when visualised in Grafana. The bottom graph is showing when maximum brake pressure was hit and on for how long it was sustained. I've set a threshold against the graph of 1 second so any extreme braking is clearly identifiable - if you're that hard on the brakes for that long, you're probably going to end up in the scenery.

Taking KSQL for a Spin Using Real-time Device Data

The Tale of 2 Laps

After putting it all together, it's time to take to the track and see how it looks. This video shows 2 complete laps onboard with the Caterham Seven 620R around Brands Hatch in the UK. The first lap is a relatively smooth one and the second is quite ragged. Notice that the first lap ( lap 68 ) is quicker overall than the second ( lap 69 ). On lap 69, I start to drive more aggressively and oversteer spikes start to appear in the steering input graph. Lap 69 also has significantly more events overall than lap 68 as a result my more exuberant ( slower ) driving style. You'll also notice that maximum brake pressure is reached a couple of times on each lap, but for no longer than the threshold of 1 second on each occurrence.

Summary

KSQL is awesome! Although it's only a developer preview at this point, it's impressive what you can get done with it. As it evolves over time and mirrors more of the functionality of the underlying Streams API it will become even more powerful, lowering the barrier to entry for real-time stream processing further and further. Take a look at the road map to see what may be coming next.

Oh, and I recently discovered on the #KSQL community Slack group, that you can execute KSQL in Embedded Mode right inside your Java code, allowing you to mix the native Streams API with KSQL - very nice indeed !

Categories: BI & Warehousing

KSQL: Streaming SQL for Apache Kafka

Wed, 2017-10-18 10:18
 Streaming SQL for Apache Kafka

Few weeks back, while I was enjoying my holidays in the south of Italy, I started receiving notifications about an imminent announcement by Confluent. Reading the highlights almost (...I said almost) made me willing to go immediately back to work and check all the details about it.
The announcement regarded KSQL: a streaming SQL engine for Apache Kafka!


My office today... not bad! #sea pic.twitter.com/A7skHIcplS

— Francesco Tisiot (@FTisiot) August 7, 2017

Before going in detail, lets try to clarify the basics: what is KSQL? Why was it introduced and how does it complement Kafka?

What is KSQL?

We have been writing about Kafka several times, including my recent blogs were I was using it as data hub to capture Game of Thrones tweets and store them in BigQuery in order to do sentiment analysis with Tableau. In all our examples Kafka has been used just for data transportation with any necessary transformation happening in the target datastore like BigQuery, with the usage of languages like Python and engines like Spark Streaming or directly in the querying tool like Presto.

KSQL enables something really effective: reading, writing and transforming data in real-time and a scale using a semantic already known by the majority of the community working in the data space, the SQL!

 Streaming SQL for Apache Kafka

KSQL is now available as developer preview, but the basic operations like joins, aggregations and event-time windowing are already covered.

What Problem is KSQL Solving?

As anticipated before, KSQL solve the main problem of providing a SQL interface over Kafka, without the need of using external languages like Python or Java.
However one could argue that the same problem was solved before by the ETL operations made on the target datastores like Oracle Database or BigQuery. What is the difference then in KSQL approach? What are the benefits?

The main difference in my opinion is the concept of continuous queries: with KSQL transformations are done continuously as new data arrives in the Kafka topic. On the other side transformations done in a database (or big data platforms like BigQuery) are one off and if new data arrives the same transformation has to be executed again.

 Streaming SQL for Apache Kafka

So what is KSQL good for? Confluent's KSQL introduction blog post provides some use cases like real time analytics, security and anomaly detection, online data integration or general application development. From a generic point of view KSQL is what you should use when transformations, integrations and analytics need to happen on the fly during the data stream. KSQL provides a way of keeping Kafka as unique datahub: no need of taking out data, transforming and re-inserting in Kafka. Every transformation can be done Kafka using SQL!

As mentioned before KSQL is now available on developer preview and the feature/function list is somehow limited compared to more mature SQL products. However in cases where very complex transformations need to happen those can still be solved either via another language like Java or a dedicated ETL (or view) once the data is landed in the destination datastore.

How does KSQL work?

So how does KSQL work under the hood? There are two concepts to keep in mind: streams and tables. A Stream is a sequence of structured data, once an event was introduced into a stream it is immutable, meaning that it can't be updated or deleted. Imagine the number of items pushed or pulled from a storage: "e.g. 200 pieces of ProductA were stocked today, while 100 pieces of ProductB were taken out".
A Table on the other hand represents the current situation based on the events coming from a stream. E.g. what's the overall quantity of stocks for ProductA? Facts in a table are mutable, the quantity of ProductA can be updated or deleted if ProductA is not anymore in stock.

 Streaming SQL for Apache Kafka

KSQL enables the definition of streams and tables via a simple SQL dialect. Various streams and tables coming from different sources can be joined directly in KSQL enabling data combination and transformation on the fly.

Each stream or table created in KSQL will be stored in a separate topic, allowing the usage of the usual connectors or scripts to extract the informations from it.

KSQL in Action Starting KSQL

KSQL can work both in standalone and client-server mode with the first one aimed at development and testing scenarios while the second supporting production environments.
With the standalone mode KSQL client and server are hosted on the same machine, in the same JVM. On the other side, in client-server mode, a pool of KSQL server are running on remote machine and the client connects to them over HTTP.

For my test purposes I decided to use the standalone mode, the procedure is well explained in confluent documentation and consist in three steps:

  • Clone the KSQL repository
  • Compile the code
  • Start KSQL using local parameter
./bin/ksql-cli local
Analysing OOW Tweets

I'll use for my example the same Twitter producer created for my Wimbledon post. If you notice I'm not using the Kafka Connect, this is due to KSQL not supporting AVRO formats as of now (remember is still in dev phase?). I had then to rely on the old producer which stored the tweet in JSON format.

For my tests I've been filtering the tweets containing OOW17 and OOW (Oracle Open World 2017), and as mentioned before, those are coming in JSON format and stored in a Kafka topic named rm.oow. The first step is then to create a Stream on top of the topic in order to structure the data before doing any transformation.
The guidelines for the stream definition can be found here, the following is a cutdown version of the code used

CREATE STREAM twitter_raw ( \  
  Created_At VARCHAR, \
  Id BIGINT, \
  Text VARCHAR, \
  Source VARCHAR, \
  Truncated VARCHAR, \
  ... 
  User VARCHAR, \
  Retweet VARCHAR, \
  Contributors VARCHAR, \
  ...) \
WITH ( \  
  kafka_topic='rm.oow', \
  value_format='JSON' \
  );

Few things to notice:

  • Created_At VARCHAR: Created_At is a timestamp, however in the first stream definition I can't apply any date/timestamp conversion. I keep it as VARCHAR which is one of the allowed types (others are BOOLEAN, INTEGER, BIGINT, DOUBLE, VARCHAR, ARRAY<ArrayType> and MAP<VARCHAR, ValueType>).
  • User VARCHAR: the User field is a JSON nested structure, for the basic stream definition we'll leave it as VARCHAR with further transformations happening later on.
  • kafka_topic='rm.oow': source declaration
  • value_format='JSON': data format

Once created the first stream we can then query it in SQL like

select Created_at, text from twitter_raw  

with the output being in the form of a continuous flow: as soon as a new tweet arrives its visualized in the console.

 Streaming SQL for Apache Kafka

The first part I want to fix now is the Created_At field, which was declared as VARCHAR but needs to be mutated into timestamp. I can do it using the function STRINGTOTIMESTAMP with the mask being EEE MMM dd HH:mm:ss ZZZZZ yyyy. This function converts the string to a BIGINT which is the datatype used by Kafka to store timestamps.

Another section of the tweet that needs further parsing is the User, that as per the previous definition returns the whole nested JSON object.

{
"id":575384370,
"id_str":"575384370",
"name":"Francesco Tisiot",
"screen_name":"FTisiot",
"location":"Verona, Italy","url":"http://it.linkedin.com/in/francescotisiot",
"description":"ABC"
...
}

Fortunately KSQL provides the EXTRACTJSONFIELD function that we can then use to parse the JSON and retrieve the required fields

I can now define a new twitter_fixed stream with the following code

create stream twitter_fixed as  
  select STRINGTOTIMESTAMP(Created_At, 'EEE MMM dd HH:mm:ss ZZZZZ yyyy') AS  Created_At, \
    Id, \
    Text, \
    Source, \
    ..., \
    EXTRACTJSONFIELD(User, '$.name') as User_name, \
    EXTRACTJSONFIELD(User, '$.screen_name') as User_screen_name, \
    EXTRACTJSONFIELD(User, '$.id') as User_id, \
    EXTRACTJSONFIELD(User, '$.location') as User_location, \
    EXTRACTJSONFIELD(User, '$.description') as description \
  from twitter_raw

An important thing to notice is that the Created_At is not encoded as BigInt, thus if I execute select Created_At from twitter_fixed I get only the raw number. To translate it to a readable date I can use the STRINGTOTIMESTAMP function passing the column and the data format.

The last part of the stream definition I wanted to fix is the settings of KEY and TIMESTAMP: a KEY is the unique identifier of a message and, if not declared, is auto-generated by Kafka. However the tweet JSON contains the Id which is Twitter's unique identifier, so we should to use it. TIMESTAMP associates the message timestamp with a column in the stream: Created_At should be used. I can defined the two above in the WITH clause of the stream declaration.

create stream twitter_with_key_and_timestamp \  
as \  
select * from twitter_fixed \  
with \  
(KEY='Id', TIMESTAMP='Created_At');

When doing a select * from twitter_with_key_and_timestamp we can clearly see that KSQL adds two columns before the others containing TIMESTAMP and KEY and the two are equal to Created_At and Id.

 Streaming SQL for Apache Kafka

Now I have all the fields correctly parsed as KSQL stream, nice but in my previous blog post I had almost the same for free using Kafka Connect. Now It's time to discover the next step of KSQL: tables!

Let's first create a simple table containing the number of tweets by User_name.

create table tweets_by_users as \  
select user_screen_name, count(Id) nr_of_tweets \  
from twitter_with_key_and_timestamp \  
group by user_screen_name  

When then executing a simple select * from table we can see the expected result.

 Streaming SQL for Apache Kafka

Two things to notice:

  • We see a new row in the console every time there is a new record inserted in the oow topic, the new row contains the updated count of tweets for the screen_name selected
  • The KEY is automatically generated by KSQL and contains the screen_name

I can retrieve the list of tables define with the show tables command.

 Streaming SQL for Apache Kafka

It's interesting to notice that the format is automatically set as JSON. The format property, configured via the VALUE_FORMAT parameter, defines how the message is stored in the topic and can either be JSON or DELIMITED.

Windowing

When grouping, KSQL provides three different windowing functions:

  • Tumbling: Fixed size, non overlapping. The SIZE of the window needs to be specified.
  • Hopping: Fixed size, possibly overlapping. The SIZE and ADVANCE parameters need to be specified.
  • Session: Fixed size, starting from the first entry for a particular Key, it remains active until a new message with the same key happens within the INACTIVITY_GAP which is the parameter to be specified.

 Streaming SQL for Apache Kafka

I can create simple table definition like the number of tweets by location for each tumbling session with

create table rm.tweets_by_location \  
as \  
select user_location, \  
count(Id) nr_of_tweets \  
from twitter_with_key_and_timestamp \  
WINDOW TUMBLING (SIZE 30 SECONDS) \  
group by user_location  

the output looks like

 Streaming SQL for Apache Kafka

As you can see the KEY of the table contains both the user_location and the window Timestamp (e.g Colombes : Window{start=1507016760000 end=-})

An example of hopping can be created with a similar query

create table rm.tweets_by_location_hopping \  
as \  
select user_location, \  
count(Id) nr_of_tweets \  
from twitter_with_key_and_timestamp \  
WINDOW HOPPING (SIZE 30 SECONDS, ADVANCE BY 10 SECONDS) \  
group by user_location;  

With the output being like

 Streaming SQL for Apache Kafka

It's interesting to notice that each entry (e.g. Europe North, Switzerland) is listed at least three times. This is due to the fact that in any point in time there are three overlapping windows (SIZE is 30 seconds and ADVANCE is 10 seconds). The same example can be turn into the session windows by just defining WINDOW SESSION (30 SECONDS).

The windowing is an useful option, especially when combined with HAVING clauses since it gives the option to define metrics for real time analysis.
E.g. I may be interested only items that have been ordered more than 100 times in the last hour, or, in my twitter example in user_locations having a nr_of_tweets greater than 5 in the last 30 minutes.

Joining

So far so good, a nice set of SQL functions on top of data coming from a source (in my case twitter). In the real word however we'll need to mix information coming from disparate sources.... what if I tell you that you can achieve that in a single KSQL statement?

 Streaming SQL for Apache Kafka

To show an integration example I created a simple topic known_twitters using the kafka-console-producer.

./bin/kafka-console-producer --topic known_twitters --broker-list myserver:9092

Once started I can type in messages and those will be stored in the known_twitters topic. For this example I'll insert the twitter handle and real name of known people that are talking about OOW. The format will be:

username,real_name  

like

FTisiot,Francesco Tisiot  
Nephentur,Christian Berg  

Once inserted the rows with the producer I'm then able to create a KSQL stream on top of it with the following syntax (note the VALUE_FORMAT='DELIMITED')

create stream people_known_stream (\  
screen_name VARCHAR, \  
real_name VARCHAR) \  
WITH (\  
KAFKA_TOPIC='known_twitters', \  
VALUE_FORMAT='DELIMITED');  

I can now join this stream with the others streams or tables built previously. However when trying the following statement

select user_screen_name from rm.tweets_by_users a join PEOPLE_KNOWN_STREAM b on a.user_screen_name=b.screen_name;  

I get a nice error

Unsupported join logical node: Left: io.confluent.ksql.planner.plan.StructuredDataSourceNode@6ceba9de , Right: io.confluent.ksql.planner.plan.StructuredDataSourceNode@69518572  

This is due to the fact that as of now KSQL supports only joins between a stream and a table, and the stream needs to be specified first in the KSQL query. If I then just swap the two sources in the select statement above:

select user_screen_name from PEOPLE_KNOWN_STREAM a join rm.tweets_by_users b on a.screen_name=b.user_screen_name;  

...I get another error

Join type is not supportd yet: INNER  

We have to remember that KSQL is still in developer beta phase, a lot of new features will be included before the official release.

adding a LEFT JOIN clause (see bug related) solves the issue and I should be able to see the combined data. However when running

select * from PEOPLE_KNOWN_STREAM left join TWEETS_BY_USERS on screen_name=user_screen_name;  

Didn't retrieve any rows. After adding a proper KEY to the stream definition

create stream PEOPLE_KNOWN_STREAM_PARTITIONED \  
as select screen_name , \  
real_name from  people_known_stream \  
PARTITION BY screen_name;  

I was able to retrieve the correct rowset! Again, we are in early stages of KSQL, those fixes will be enhanced or better documented in future releases!

Conclusion

As we saw in this small example, all transformations, summaries and data enrichments were done directly in Kafka with a dialect very easy to learn for anyone already familiar with SQL. All the created streams/tables are stored as Kafka topics thus the standard connectors can be used for sink integration.

As mentioned above KSQL is still in developer preview but the overall idea is very simple and at the same time powerful. If you want to learn more check out the Confluent page and the KSQL github repository!

Categories: BI & Warehousing

ODC Appreciation Day: OBIEE's Time Hierarchies

Tue, 2017-10-10 01:58
 OBIEE's Time Hierarchies

After last year successful OTN Appreciation Day, it's time again to show our love for a particular feature in any Oracle's tool we use in our work. You may have noted a name change with OTN now becoming ODC: Oracle Developer Community.

What

The feature I want to speak about is OBIEE's Time Hierarchies.
For anybody in the BI business the time dimension(s) are the essence of the intelligence bit: being able to analyze trends, compare current period with previous one, plot year to date or rolling measures are just some of the requirements we get on daily basis.
A time hierarchy definition allows the administrator to set which time levels are exposed, how the rollup/drill down works and how previous/following members of the level are calculated.
Once the hierarchy is defined, all the related calculations are simple as calling a function (e.g. AGO), defining the level of detail necessary (e.g. Month) and the number of items to take into account (e.g. -1).

A Time hierarchy definition is necessary in the following cases:

  • Time comparisons - e.g. current vs previous month
  • Time related rollups - e.g. Year to date
  • Drill path definition - e.g. Year-Month-Day
  • Fact Tables at various level of details - e.g. daily fact table and monthly pre-aggregated rollup
  • Time related level based measures - e.g. monthly sum of sales coming from a fact table at daily level
Why

Why do I like time hierarchies? Simple! It's a very clever concept in the RPD, which requires particular knowledge and dedicated attention.

If done wright, once defined, is available in every related table and makes the time comparison formulas easy to understand and to create. If done wrong, errors or slowness in the related analysis can be difficult to spot and improve/fix.

Still time hierarchies are a central piece in every BI implementation, so once understood and implemented correctly give a massive benefit to all developers.

How

We blogged about time dimensions and calculations back in 2007 when OBI was still on version 10! The original functionality is still there and the process to follow is pretty much the same.
Recently was introduced the concept of Logical Sequence Number, a way of speeding up some time series calculations by removing the ranking operations needed to move back (or forth) in history.

 OBIEE's Time Hierarchies

I wanted to keep the blog post short, since the time hierarchies information can be found in millions of blog posts. I just wanted the to give few hints to follow when creating a time hierarchy:

  • It can be created on any data with a predefined order, no need to be a date! you could compare for example a certain product with another in the inventory having the previous code.
  • The Chronological Key defines the sorting of the level, for example how years, months or dates are ordered. Ordering months alphabetically with a format like YYYY-MM it's correct while using MM-YYYY provides wrong results.
  • Double check the hierarchies, something like YEAR-> MONTH -> WEEK -> DATE can be incorrect since a week can be split in different months!
  • Set appropriately the number of elements for each level. This is useful, especially when the hierarchy is complex or pre-aggregated facts, for OBIEE to understand which table to query depending on the level of the analysis.
  • Setup the Logical Sequence Number. LSNs are useful if you are looking to reduce the impact of the time series processing at a minimum.
  • If you are looking for very optimal performances for a specific report, e.g. current year vs previous, physicalizing the time series result, previous year, directly in the table alongside with the current year will give what you're looking for.

This was just a quick overview of OBIEE's Time Hierarchies, why are so useful and what you should be looking after when creating them! Hope you found this short post useful.

Follow the #ThanksODC hashtag on Twitter to check which post have been published on the same theme!

Categories: BI & Warehousing

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