Content Store Survival Guide 2013

REVISED EDITION
CONTENT STORE
SURVIVAL GUIDE
THE COMPLETE MANUAL
TO SURVIVE AND MANAGE THE
IBM COGNOS CONTENT STORE
CONTENT STORE SURVIVAL GUIDE™
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Table of Contents
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
3
THE ROLE OF THE IBM COGNOS STORE
4
CONTENT STORE TABLE STRUCTURE AND ACCESS
6
TOP 10 KEY METRICS FOR CONTENT STORE
ADMINISTRATION
8
MANAGING CONTENT STORE GROWTH
12
MANAGING MULTIPLE CONTENT STORES
14
CONSOLIDATING AND MERGING COGNOS BI
ENVIRONMENTS
18
BEST PRACTICES FOR IMPLEMENTING IBM
COGNOS BI SECURITY
21
INTRODUC TION
In the IBM Cognos world
nothing is more shrouded in
mystery than the Content
Store. While every Cognos
administrator knows its
importance to the Business
Intelligence (BI) environment,
few completely understand its
role in the BI delivery process.
The least understood aspect of
the Content Store is that it
must be managed if the BI
environment is going to
perform well and remain
healthy over time. This survival
guide provides working
knowledge about the IBM
Cognos Content Store and its
management.
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Executive Summary
The IBM Cognos Content Store acts as a
repository for both metadata and content for the BI
environment.
Managing it presents challenges particularly as the
environment evolves over time and through different stages
of growth. Administrators must develop and pay attention to
key metrics of each Content Store and successfully manage
them. As the Cognos environment grows complexity
increases and administration becomes more of a challenge,
and while the magnitude of problems does not always scale
along with size, it does often enough to cause real pain and
sometimes disastrous results.
The lack of tools can contribute to administration issues. Offthe-shelf solutions are available to address this and can
greatly aid in administering the Content Store. In addition,
there are several key metrics that, when tracked
appropriately, decrease the administration effort including
that of growth control. The consistent use of best practices
reduces much of the risk of administering and managing
Content Store environments primarily because when problem
issues are addressed early their impact can be reduced or
eliminated. This survival guide will help you identify what you
need to manage and what best practices might be
appropriate for your environment.
So what are the keys to successfully
managing the Content Store over
time?
The most obvious ones are:
Effective user training. The BI user community must be
trained on how to effectively utilize the IBM Cognos BI tools
and best practices.
Administrators need to track and manage key metrics
that relate to their user base and the Content Store.
The use of effective tools by the administrators to:
•
•
•
•
•
Instant access to key information
Manage change – lifecycle management
Manage content
Identify and address key issues
Manage security
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The Role of the IBM Cognos Content Store
At a recent IBM Cognos session focused on the Content Store, over 100 attendees were
polled to determine the level of familiarity with the Content Store. Less than 1 in 5 had any
working knowledge of how the Content Store functions or the amount of content it
contained. This is not a surprise since for most users the Content Store is simply a part of
the Cognos environment.
The Cognos Content Store has two essential roles:
1. A repository for Cognos BI metadata.
2. A storehouse for user output.
It’s important to note that it functions less well in its second role as a
storehouse for users output.
The Content Store is dynamic. New objects are added and objects are
deleted and changed on a daily basis. An object like a report has multiple
attributes and each of these can have levels of sub-attributes relating to
things like jobs, schedules, triggers, etc. All of these attributes are likely to
be important at one time or another. Know which reports have triggers and
the name of the trigger can be important to know if reports are not
executing on a timely basis.
Figure 1: Content Store Roles
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The Content Store performs extremely well for what it is
designed for: High speed reporting. However, it does not
provide administrators with many tools to effectively manage
the Cognos BI environment on a day to day basis.
The following information can be difficult to obtain without
specialized tools:
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are no IBM Cognos tools for managing or monitoring
metadata such as dependencies and relationships on a large
scale. It is also difficult to find and use information to easily
assess the impact of database changes on reports, queries, or
packages. In addition, there are many other activities that
must be addressed by Cognos administrators, authors, or
developers.
Size of the Content Store
Make-up of object mix
Amount of saved output
There are basically two ways to
address this issue:
Rate of growth
Areas of growth
Diagnostics of problem areas
Unfortunately, for many Cognos
administrators the lack of tools to get
basic information like this can go
unrecognized until problems occur.
1. Build a solution in-house.
2. Consider an off-the-shelf solution
like NetVisn
- Option 2 may be the only practical way to provide the
necessary tools to administrators if the financial resources are
available. Option 1 requires time, resources, and gets messy over
time when new versions of Cognos BI are released.
While some of this can be retrieved with individual queries
into the Content Store, it is an inefficient process to use. There
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Content Store Table Structure and Access
The metadata in the Content Store is organized in a set of database tables. At last count there were approximately
200 of these. The tables are created when the Cognos Configuration Manager is implemented for the first time. As
users are added to the environment and more content is created the Content Store begins to grow in size. Without any
rules on saved output retention or active archiving the output portion of the Content Store will typically grow much
faster than the metadata portion of the content.
This often goes unnoticed until a problem
occurs. As mentioned in the previous
section, there are no simple or convenient
processes to retrieve basic metrics for size,
item count, speed of growth and others.
Direct queries into the Cognos Content
Store can retrieve this information but this
can be tedious and time consuming.
Figure 2:
Saved Output Growth Over Time
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How large is a typical Content Store?
It depends on the age of the environment, user population,
number of objects stored, and many more variables. For
example, a Cognos environment of 800 to 1,000 users that
has been in place for a year or two may have 12,000 to
20,000 objects or more. Each of these objects can have
multiple (20+) properties that relate to security, schedules,
jobs, and other properties, increasing the level of
complexity. A basic tool to get data out of the Content Store
is adequate but to address issues such as dependencies,
relationships, permissions, and changes a more systematic
approach is needed.
The Content Manager Browser Tool is available for
download on the IBM Cognos web site and can be used by
administrators to access this information.
This tool provides some basic, though limited, capabilities:
Summary of the number and size of the various objects
in a simple display format.
Ability to query folders and types of objects.
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In order to see meaningful trends, the user would have
to perform these steps on a regular basis and then build
a basic data repository to monitor the information over
time. While this approach will work it provides only
limited information and no ability to drill down on the
data. Determining why and where the trends are
occurring adds another level of complexity.
While there are other ways to directly query these tables
for the occasional data need, building ad hoc tools for
this may have only limited success:
IBM Cognos reserves the right to change these
tables and their structure at any time. Query
routines or applications may be incompatible with
new versions.
IBM Cognos recommends using their SDK
Validation Tool for systematic access to the
Content Store.
A robust third party solution is a better
alternative for broad and deep BI administration
needs.
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Top 10 Key Metrics
for Content Store Administration
1. SIZE
Managing the Cognos Content Store starts with
knowing what’s in it, how large it is, how fast it’s
growing, and where the growth is taking place.
The metrics discussed here may not be
appropriate for all environments. But it is a
place to start the process of managing the
Content Store in a way that’s aligned with the BI
strategy and plans.
These are the key metrics that administrators
should monitor in terms of production of the
Cognos Content Store. Many can directly
impact overall performance and user
satisfaction.
Unimportant as a single metric.
Best used in conjunction with other metrics.
2. RATE OF GROWTH
Track in terms of number of objects as well
as saved output.
More critical in environments that are large
and/or growing rapidly.
Can be a key indicator of real or potential
problems in the Content Store.
Tracking growth should be done at least
monthly.
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3. NUMBER OF OBJECTS BY TYPE
Useful metric for determining the mix of metadata
objects.
It’s helpful to track the relationship between the
number of reports and queries relative to the number
of packages or models over time.
Best Practice: Create specific packages for individual
areas such as sales, logistics, and marketing instead of
relying on one or two very large packages for
everything.
Example: Figure 3 shows an object count summary by
type for a sample Production Content Store.
Figure 3:
Object Count Summary
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4. SAVED OUTPUT
Amount of saved output in mid size or large
environments can dwarf metadata object file size
unless retention rules or output
archiving is in place.
Users may be saving output from
very large reports over time.
Best Practice - Set retention rules
and archive saved output.
Example: Figure 4 is showing
significant growth in saved output
relative to metadata objects over an
eight year period – this is a typical
example.
5. EXCESSIVE REPORT
CREATION
Indicates users may not understand
bursting or prompts.
Figure 4: Saved Output Detail
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6. VERSION CREEP
Keeping versions of models, packages, or other objects
far beyond the needed time period can result in poor
performance.
Models and packages can be huge – keeping unneeded
versions of them can negatively impact content store
performance.
Best Practice - Turn off versioning unless you really
need it.
7. MISSING OBJECTS
Can result in a null response when users attempt to run
or receive a scheduled report.
Examples:
• User creates a view of a report but report is somehow deleted.
• Distribution list mistakenly deleted and the users do not
receive reports.
8. UNUSED OBJECTS
Track usage of both content and users across the
Cognos environment.
Content that has not been used for a period of time (2 –
3 months or more) should be a candidate for removal.
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Best practice - Purging public folders of unused content
makes searches easier and improves Content Store
performance.
Unused user licenses can be reassigned to new users.
9. OBJECTS WITH BROKEN LINEAGE
Lineage breaks occur when a package is modified and
published without consideration for reports or queries
using it.
Lineage breaks also occur when a data item(s) no longer
exists.
At any given time the percentage of objects with
broken lineage in a typical production Content Store is
10% to 15%.
Identification and resolution of objects with broken
lineage before users are impacted reduces calls to the
help desk and the number of frustrated users.
10. DUPLICATE OBJECTS
Identifying two or more copies of the same object across
the environment may indicate a need for better user
training.
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Managing Content Store Growth
In the years that IBM Cognos 8 and 10
have been available there have been a
number of trends underway in terms of
how it is used. The most interesting one
is the dramatic increase in the amount of
overall content in the Cognos
environment and the accompanying
increase in the size of the Content Store.
It is not uncommon to see Content
Stores today that are well over 500 Gb in
size.
Causes of Dramatic
Growth
The evolution to Cognos 10 has resulted
in the perfect balance between
standardized, functional reporting and
ad hoc individual reports that users
create for themselves. But some
environments have seen an explosion of
My Folders content far beyond what
could have ever been predicted. In some
cases this reflects the fact that the
standard reports may have been poorly
designed but it can also reflect users
creating detail, specific reports to meet
their own job needs.
User driven content creation can be a
blessing and a curse. Some
environments have found that user
created reports can have the potential
for much broader usage than a single
user and often turn them into public
reports on a regular basis. But there are
also users who create multiple reports,
often similar to public reports, and then
schedule all of them to run on a regular
basis and then save the output. This can
create real problems in terms of large
increases in the size of the Content Store
over time especially as it relates to
performance.
A large Content Store in and of itself is
not necessarily cause for alarm. But size
can become a problem when it begins to
affect performance. For example, a user
backs up a very large model each week
to a different file location thinking he’s
doing the right thing. It soon has a
noticeable impact on overall
performance. If users do not understand
the impact of doing similar things, the
Content Store is going to grow but in a
way that negatively impacts users
performance. Growth should be organic
as the result of new users and new
content focused on real user needs.
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Controlling Growth
Here are specific practices to keep growth manageable:
Monitor Content Store growth on a regular basis using
the IBM Cognos utility or a product like NetVisn that will
provide broad insight into causes of growth.
Training Users - with emphasis on best practices.
Effectively done, this is the single most important thing
you can do.
Administrators and modelers need to know how
growth issues can occur.
•Example: inadvertently or intentionally turning on
package versioning on large models.
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Set and enforce retention policies
• Set rules on saved output retention, both amount/size
and length of time.
•Obtain user input before setting rules to balance needs
across the user base.
Archive content that must be retained.
Delete orphan content
• In any large environment users are being added and
deleted on a daily basis.
• Ensure that content from deleted users is
also deleted
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Managing Multiple Content Stores
Multiple Content Stores also have a role in the typical IBM
Cognos Business Intelligence installation. There are
similarities and differences between store types and usage
depending on the organization.
As customers move to take advantage of what’s new in
Cognos 10, the role of the Content Store is even more critical.
It has more capabilities and more users relying on it. Most
Cognos installations will typically have three distinct
environments:
and a development environment where development also
serves as the test environment.
A Cognos installation may be just a single production
environment. In this case both development and testing coexist with production in a single environment. It should be
noted that this is a high risk practice and not recommended.
Content that has a different purpose at a given point in time
should be in a different environment. Using a single
environment for multiple activities significantly increases the
likelihood of problems with security, data sources, and more.
Production: Deliver BI content to end users.
Test or QA or Pre-Production: Validate the functional
readiness of new or changed content.
Development: Develop new content or modify
existing content.
Some installations may have additional environments in the
BI delivery chain; some fewer. A sandbox environment, for
example, is often a good place to just test things without
impacting user focused environments. And in small to midsize installations it is not uncommon to see only a production
Best Practices
There are some themes that run through the best practices of
all Content Store environments:
Clearly defined policies and procedures in place.
Defined data sets for each Content Store.
Security profiles for each environment are in place.
Readiness rules defined and in place for content
movement.
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Deployment history of all content moved from one
environment to the next. This needs to be a complete
record of what transpired.(who, what, when, etc.)
Tools should be available and enable administrators to
work both in and across all environments
simultaneously.
Monitoring of key metrics:
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Production Best Practices:
Organize content for easy user access
Limit folder depth and number of clicks required for
content access.
Clearly label content – makes it easier to find & reduces
redundant reports.
Create a clean structure for easy navigation.
• May differ from one installation to another
• Must include:
• Usage by content and users
• Growth in content and users
Develop criteria for production ready content.
Create rules for managing My Folders.
Mandate and routinely test backup and recovery
procedures.
Manage and validate security in real-time.
Production Content Store
In a production environment there is no room for error. When
there are hundreds or thousands of users there must be
policies and procedures in place which control working in the
production environment.
Validate data sources on an on-going basis.
Monitor content and user usage on an on-going basis.
Remove unused content and excess output.
Archive saved output.
Have tools in place for administering the environment.
Implement schedules, triggers, distribution lists, etc.
No development takes place in production.
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Test or Pre-Production Content Store
Best Practices:
The Test or Pre-production environment is similar to
production but there are differences.
Security should represent the production environment.
Use active rather than static data sources.
Ability to compare to production environment for:
•Security
•Metadata
•Data sources
•Content counts (deleting old
or unneeded test content)
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items moved to production (including who-whatwhen). See Figure 5.
Practice content version control.
Make change management a major focus.
Mandate and routinely test backup and recovery
procedures.
Track usage (is the content really being tested as it
should be?)
Develop test criteria for
production readiness.
Keep history of completed
testing.
Tools in place for
administering the
environment.
Maintain a log history of
Figure 5: Log File of Content Promoted to Production
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Development Content Store
The development Content Store is where all new content is
authored or created.
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Tools in place to assist authors/developers in
diagnosing problems in the development content.
See Figure 6.
Make change management a major focus.
Development Best Practices:
Security model should reflect only the development
environment.
Design policies and procedures specifically for
development.
Data sources are typically static but representative
of production.
Criteria in place for moving content to Test or Preproduction.
Maintain a log history of items moved to Test or Preproduction.
Design folder structure to meet author/developer
requirements.
Tools in place for administering the environment.
Figure 6: Broken Data Lineage
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Consolidating and Merging Cognos
Business Intelligence Environments
Merging or consolidating Cognos environments can be a
challenge even in a small environment. In a large
environment the difficulties are magnified. Creating a plan
that reflects the specific needs when merging environments is
essential. Using tools that make the task easier and minimize
risk can help insure success and reduce the time and effort
involved.
Managers or administrators are often faced with the task of
consolidating or merging Cognos Business Intelligence
environments. This may be due to mergers, a need for cost
savings, or simply a desire to reduce the number of
environments. Invariably the consolidation involves users and
content that will be merged into a new or existing
environment. This requires careful planning and flawless
execution to succeed.
Merging environments is a major project. It involves merging
one existing environment into another or merging two or
more environments into a new one. An example would be
merging two Cognos 8 environments into a new Cognos 10
environment.
Step 1: Determine Scope of Merger
Determine the scope of the environments to be merged. This
requires detailed analyses to discover the data needed for
planning. Needed information includes:
Extent of similarities and dissimilarities between
environments.
Number of users.
Amount of content.
Duplication of users and/or content between
environments.
Differences in security model (if any) between source
and target.
Identify and eliminate unused content if possible.
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Identify special issues depending on the specific needs
of the environments.
If the merger involves more than two environments this
information is required for all environments under
consideration. In many respects the task will be significantly
easier if there is no overlap in users and content between the
environments to be merged.
Separate and Distinct Environments:
Source and target
environments that are
dissimilar and have no
overlap reduce the tasks
involved.
See adjacent:
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models. Identifying and resolving these issues is absolutely
necessary for a successful merger.
Step 2: Planning and Execution
After determining the scope of the merger using the
information gleaned from the environments, identify and
layout the key tasks in the right sequence. Most problems in a
merger occur when key steps are missed or performed in the
wrong order. Planning includes:
Collect required information in detail.
Decide how to handle common issues.
Decide how to handle unused content.
Similar or Overlapping Environments:
When the source and target
environments are similar
there are more tasks to
address before merging the
two environments.
Modify (if necessary) the security model in the target
environment.
Here both source and target
are similar raising the
possibility for multiple
issues on common data
sources, folders, and
Testing and validation.
Map the tasks to the timeline.
Review the plan with key constituencies.
Communicate the plan to users and set expectations.
Execute the plan.
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To avoid a messy deployment you can use a product like
NetVisn to perform the merger in a more controlled manner.
Advantages:
Allows content to move from the source to the target
with known outcomes.
Greatly reduces risk if hundreds or thousands of users
must be moved.
Infinite level of selectivity around objects: reports,
personal folders and content, etc.
Validates all objects as they are being moved to insure
that all dependent objects are moved together and will
work in the new environment.
Alternatively you can use a deployment package instead, but
this is an “all or nothing” approach that can instill fear in even
the most careful planners. With a deployment package there
is no selectivity below the folder level and personal reports
cannot be dealt with at all unless you take all of the personal
reports that are in the Content Store. But for many this may be
the only alternative.
Remember, planning is the single most important part of the
entire effort in merging or consolidating environments. The
time you spend here has a huge payback in terms or risk
avoidance and minimizing problems.
Minimizes or eliminates any orphan content.
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Best Practices for Implementing
IBM Cognos BI Security
Secure sensitive data from unwarranted access, but allow the
necessary data to be available to all business intelligence
consumers.
organization of groups. Study this organization to see if it can
be used to control access in Cognos, probably to content.
Alternatively, you may be using an external security
specifically for Cognos, such as Cognos Series 7. Because an
account must belong to a group in Series 7 in order to be
recognized by Cognos BI, you have a couple of choices:
Control access to Cognos BI capabilities, both globally and
package based, so that content is created and distributed by
approved authors, and that Cognos license limits are respected.
Create groups in Cognos security to organize accounts
that will be used to control access in Cognos, either for
capability or content, though probably the latter.
Controlling user access in an IBM Cognos environment can
be summarized by these two goals:
The best practices described here may not be the best in all
environments but will hopefully help those new to Cognos BI
or for those about to refactor how Cognos security is set up.
Add all accounts to just a single group and manage all
access using the Cognos namespace groups and roles.
Groups or Roles
Use Existing Groups
If your external security is also used in a corporate
environment it’s likely that the accounts are maintained in an
Group and role objects in the Cognos namespace behave
almost identically. The difference is that groups can contain
only accounts and other groups, while roles can contain
accounts, groups and other roles.
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Organizing multiple groups in a role could get complicated
very quickly, so it may make sense if you use the role for
broad access control and the groups for limited access. A
simpler rule to follow would be to use roles to control access
to capabilities, and groups to manage access to content.
Following this simple rule can save you a lot of confusion and
headaches down the road.
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groups; for example, Payroll Unit Consumers and Payroll Unit
Authors. In this case, both groups will be used on report
security but the access permissions would be set according to
how read and write permissions are aligned.
Managing Capabilities
Managing Content Access
The design of security access to Cognos BI content first
requires an analysis of the types of business data available.
Generally data will be organized at a high level by business
unit or functionality, such as order processing or finance for
example. Data may then be classified by employee position.
For example, managers would have access to payroll detail
reports but clerks may only view high level summary reports.
One solution would be to create a group for the business unit
(Payroll Unit) and groups for more limited access (Payroll
Managers). Managers would belong to both groups. The
reports which all payroll unit employees can view would use
Payroll Unit for security and limited access reports would use
Payroll Managers.
Capabilities are used in Cognos BI to control access to features
and functions such as the reporting studios and
administration tools. There are a number of default Cognos
namespace groups that are created during the Cognos
installation that have certain capabilities defined. For
example, Authors and Query Users have access to Query
Studio, but Authors also have access to Report Studio. It is
recommended that new roles be created to manage user
capabilities that match the distribution of your Cognos
licenses. For example, a role could be created for power users
to access all studios and another role for users which only
need a PowerPlay license.
The advantage of organizing capabilities this way is that it
makes it easier to manage your Cognos BI licensing
compliance.
You will also need to manage read and write permissions to
the BI reports. One method would be to create separate
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SUMMA RY
By following many of these best practices you can
establish some structure to how security is applied that
will help keep order in this area as your BI environment
grows and changes.
Without this, you are more likely to evolve quickly into a
situation where your security is complicated and difficult,
or impossible, to maintain.
The IBM Cognos Content Store plays a vital role
in the administration and productivity of the
Cognos Business Intelligence Solution. In a well
managed installation with a focus on best
practices, and the right tools to work with, the
Content Store(s) can function flawlessly. It does
not require constant attention but there are
some things you need to pay attention to on a
regular basis. If you do this you can eliminate
pain and risk from your installation and focus
on giving your BI users what they need with
high uptime.
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