Essential v6 Release

Essential Version 6 is a major upgrade of Essential, with improvements to the Viewer, Meta Model and Import Utility.  The most exciting changes are shown below:

New Views
We’ve added 14 new views encompassing all layers from Business Objectives all the way down the stack to Technology Domains.  Of particular interest are the Application Status Radar, which shows the application lifecycles for a business capability on a radar map, the Strategic Roadmap, describing the Roadmap for strategic change including elements that are affected in your organisation along with implementing projects and the Technology Components Catalogue (as a Table) which shows the technology products providing a particular capability and the lifecycle of each product.

We’ve also added a couple of really useful utility views – All Instances by Class, which allows you to export a list of all instances of a certain type, and an Instance Relations Tree, which allows you to view all the relationships a specific instance has.

Import Utility
We’ve added the ability to schedule automatic imports from 3rd party systems using a REST service interface.

Meta Model
There are various extensions and additions to the meta model to support the addition of views, packs and client requests.

Full details can be found in the release notes.
Essential v6 Release Notes

Data Lens

You may have noticed from our site that the Data Lens is in beta.  It’s a lens that we’ve developed because we’ve been continually told that people don’t have control of their data.

In our EA consulting, we have seen:

  • Organisations that were unwittingly reporting incorrect MI figures because data was inaccurate or incomplete
  • Projects that intended to master and duplicate data that already existed in the organisation
  • Inconsistency in what people thought certain data was
  • Differing views on where data was sourced from
  • Projects repeating the same data collection work, asking the same questions again

The Data Lens looks to address this by bringing transparency and coherence to your data estate.  It is aimed at supporting the demands of people wanting to use data, such as:

  • Data Lake or Analytics efforts, which need to know information such as where data is sourced from, what terms are used for the same data, e.g. client and customer, how good the data is in terms of quality and completeness, etc.
  • Platform projects need to know where data masters exist, where data flows, how data is transformed, etc.
  • Any data rationalisation project needs to know where master sources of data exist, where duplication exists and how data is used.
  • Plus, Data Scientists need to understand the sources of data available for their analysis

The lens addresses these needs by providing a number of views and tools.

The Data Definition views provide data definitions, summaries and dynamically produced data models.

The Data Architecture Analysis views are geared towards you understanding sources of data, data flows, where duplication exists, etc.

Data Management is where the lens excels.  You are able to understand data quality across a number of criteria and see sources of data.  The Quality Dashboard shows the quality of the key data required to support your strategic objectives and business capabilities, and also the initiatives impacting that data.  This allows you to identify where your data initiatives may need to be focused to improve your business data output and enable your strategy.  The Data Quality Analysis page lets you pick the data you need and it then shows you where to source it from, plus the quality, completeness and accuracy of that data. This is really useful if you are using the data for other purposes, e.g. MI reporting or analytics. The data dashboard provides and summary view of your data which you can drill down into.

We see the Data Lens acting as the bridge between the tools that are more focused on the physical data layer, and which typically meet the needs of the technical teams but not the business users or the data scientists.  Equally, where you have conceptual data in a tool, the lens can act as the bridge to the physical data, removing the gap between the conceptual and physical layers, bringing context and meaning to the data.

The lens is currently in beta but we are allowing organisations to register an interest and we would love to get any feedback on the lens.

Essential Cloud – Available Now

Today marks a step change in the life of The Essential Project as we move to Public Preview of Essential Cloud, the final step before General Release. A cloud offering has been at the top of the Essential Community request list for some time and we have combined the best of the Essential Project with a cloud based service to provide additional enterprise capabilities. As well as all the benefits of Essential Open Source, Essential Cloud offers a comprehensive security interface covering both the instances in the repository and the viewer, a user-friendly, browser-based data capture interface extended to include tablet and mobile access, an enhanced viewer environment and single sign-on support via SAML. As this is a cloud service, technical support is automatically included as are platform updates, to ensure that you can keep up with the latest Essential developments with none of the hassle.

In line with our focus on value, Essential Cloud will be a low-cost option, with an annual subscription covering access to both the modeller and the viewer for unlimited users. We are not utilising a seat-based license model as the feedback from the Essential Community and our clients is that the key to an effective architecture initiative, one that provides value to the business, is to enable the users to own and update key aspects of the architecture, i.e. those areas that do not require modelling expertise, such as dates, ownership, governance models and so on. This spreads the load of keeping organisational information up to date and enables architects to focus on business value rather than being distracted with managing routine updates. A seat-based license model does not fit with this approach as the costs quickly become prohibitive; we would rather an organisation’s investment in EA is used to build out their architecture than pay for licenses.

To support this new model further, we are working with our user groups to design new data capture mechanisms that will provide business users with easy access and enable them to update information without having to understand the detail of the meta model or architecture modelling techniques. We already have some early prototypes, and we see this as an important way of enabling EA to continue to provide value to the business.

This is an exciting step in the broadening of the Essential platform, but we do want to assure you that we remain fully committed to Essential Open Source. This will continue to evolve in parallel with Essential Cloud and, crucially, the meta model will remain shared so both platforms will benefit from all advancements as well as the ability to move easily between Cloud and Open Source. Going forward we see the Essential Community consisting of both Open Source and Cloud users. We greatly value the contribution made by the community and we will continue to look to them to help us evolve the Essential proposition to ensure it remains at the forefront of knowledge driven decision support.

We have created an overview video showing Essential Cloud’s capabilities and we will also be holding a series of Webex’s where we will provide a demonstration of Essential Cloud and hold a Q&A session.

If you are interested in the Webex or Public Preview sign up here.

The Public Preview benefits are, of course, in addition to the existing benefits that are provided across both Essential Cloud and Open source:

  • Over 100 out of the box views focused on analysis, road mapping and decision making
  • Ontology based meta model for an entire organisation, with the ability to support other EA Frameworks
  • Import and export of data via unique excel import utility, with fast start view loaders, and APIs to integrate with existing data sources
  • Access to business focused lenses providing dedicated support for key areas such as Application Portfolio Management, Data Management, Strategic Resource Optimisation

If you are new to Essential then, Essential Cloud aside, one of our most exciting recent developments is the addition of add-on business focused lenses.

The lenses have been in our mind since 2010 when Jon Carter wrote a blog titled ‘Welcome to the View Store’, suggesting the concept of an app store for Essential. We were staggered by the interest and up take of Essential and so our early focus was on developing the tool functionality, but now we have made our earlier vision a reality.  Our business outcome focused lenses consist of a series of dashboards and views that respond to specific business problems, supported by everything you need to light up the views – data capture spreadsheets, import specifications, process documentation and videos.

The lenses have provided an ideal means for us to partner with organisations outside of the usual EA arena, allowing us to extend the use of Essential to cover different aspects of an organisation. For example, we have partnered with a strategic resource specialist to create a strategic resource optimisation lens which enables organisations to ensure they have the right staffing resources in place to meet the future demands of the business, such as the skills to enable digital business expansion. We have a couple of packs on offer now: Application Portfolio Management and Strategic Resource Management, and we will be expanding the offering shortly to include Data Management, and then, over time, we plan to move into many additional areas such as M&A, Outsourcing Support, Financial Regulations, etc.

We also have a set of low-cost View Loaders that provide the templates to do bulk data capture into Essential Cloud or Open Source. So, if you want to get bulk data into Essential quickly, the loaders can speed this up.

If you would like to develop your own pack to put on the view store, or talk to us about an idea for joint development of a pack, please contact us.

Essential’s Application Portfolio Management Lens Released

Those of you that follow Essential will know that we have mentioned a number of times our intention to build ‘lenses’ to support specific business problems, and we are delighted to have launched our first lens, the Application Portfolio Management (APM) lens. APM provides everything you need to transform and manage your Application Portfolio – a methodology, simplified data capture and import, and a pack of views to allow you to quickly understand where you have opportunities to decrease cost and increase agility.

APM utilises Essential’s extensive meta model to build a set of views, based on our consulting work with clients globally, to support their application initiatives. Data gathering is something any company must do for an application transformation project; we have tailored and simplified a set of capture spreadsheets and pre-configured import specifications so it is as quick and easy to complete as possible. The lens provides a dedicated set of views and uses algorithms, acting on the data captured, to allow informed decision making.

Application Portfolio Management is not simply about reducing the number of applications; rather it aims to ensure that the application landscape enables the business to achieve its strategic objectives in the most efficient and effective manner. See the website and demo for further detail.

We are in the process of developing further lenses, including Data Management and Strategic Resource Optimisation, so watch this space for further updates. We’d love to hear your views on APM and your ideas for future lenses that would make your life easier, feel free to drop us a line.

Essential Wins Innovation & Excellence Award 2017

We are delighted to announce that Essential has won the Corporate Live Wire award for Innovation in Enterprise Architecture. The Innovation & Excellence Awards are judged by a panel of industry experts following nominations from the wider community.

The Essential Project, already the world’s most popular open-source EA Tool, is now recognised as being innovative in its approach to managing an organisation and its assets. Essential’s ontology based approach gives Essential the flexibility to manage complex relationships and enable problem solving and analysis far quicker, and with a far wider scope, than traditional EA tools allow.

We are continuing to innovate; we are currently piloting our cloud platform, which will be launched Q1 2017, as well as working on ground breaking solutions to ease the burden of capturing and maintaining data, and we are launching packs to help with common business problems – Application Portfolio Management and Strategic Resource Management are available now, look out for Information and Data Management and our security pack shortly.

Last but not least, we would like to thank all or community members who contribute so much to the design and development of The Essential Project.

innovation-winner-2017

Essential View Loaders

We’ve come across a number of Essential users who have said they’d rather not spend time writing the import specifications to import data and anything to speed the import of lots of data to get the out-of-the box views working quicker would be helpful. In response, we’ve created some view loaders that will populate key elements of the views. This means that you can focus on gathering the data required and then just run the importer to load the data into your repository.

We’ve priced the loaders at a point that is low, so you won’t need to blow the budget on them, and we will be using the revenue to fund the Essential Project work. We’re intending to build more view loaders in the coming weeks and months, and would welcome feedback on which views you’d like us to prioritise. We’re also due a new dot release of Essential soon, which has some meta model changes and some updated views that we’ll be offering view loaders alongside.

We’re working some other things at the moment, although if you keep an eye on the site you can probably work out what, but more about that in the next few months.

Configuring the Server Memory Settings for Essential

One of the most common issues with setting up Essential is getting the memory configuration of the various components configured correctly. As the complexity of the Essential meta-model and of Essential Viewer has increased then so have the memory resources required by the server to support them.

Right now, our current recommendation for a server is a multi-core processor such as an i5/i7 or Xeon equivalent and more importantly plenty of RAM. 4GB is a minimum but 8GB is more practical. You’ll struggle to use the Import Utility and Viewer together on a system with only 4GB of RAM. Assuming you’re running all the components on the same server (which is perfectly fine and can yield great performance) then here’s how we’d allocate the RAM across the main components…

  • Tomcat running Essential Viewer – 2GB RAM
  • Tomcat running Essential Import Utility – 2GB RAM
    • We’d install the Essential Import Utility on a separate instance running on different port e.g. 9080 as it improves stability and performance
    • If running both on a single instance then allocate 4GB RAM to Tomcat
  • Protege – 1.5GB RAM
  • If running a Database configuration we’ll ensure there’s about 1GB for that
  • We need some memory for the OS to run smoothly so about 1GB for that

This adds up to about 7.5GB. In reality, you’ll rarely use all that RAM simultaneously however this configuration is one we’ve used countless times with excellent performance.

So, now you’ve got plenty of RAM then how do you configure the components to use that.

First up, make sure you’re using the 64bit versions of all your components. If you’re running 32bit versions, you’ll max out a 1.5GB which will work whilst the repository is small but will cause you problems later on.

Protege

On Windows:

  1. Start Protege. Go to File->Preferences->Protege.lax
  2. Update the row for the property ‘lax.nl.java.option.java.heap.size.max
  3. This is set in bytes, so set this to 2048000000 for installs with the 64-bit Java environment.
  4. Click OK
  5. Restart Protege

On Mac:
If you run Protege on a Mac by double clicking an icon, you need to edit the Info.plist file that is hidden within that icon. Right click the icon (or ^-click for one button mouses) and click “show package contents”. A new finder window will come up. Double click “Contents” and then “Info.plist”. Traverse down the tree as follows: “Root” –> “Java” –> “VMOptions”. In VMOptions edit the -Xmx line to indicate the correct memory usage, e.g. 2048M. Note that this can be specified in megabytes by using the ‘M’ value.

For example, here are my settings:
<key>VMOptions</key>
 <array>
 <string>-Xms250M</string>
 <string>-Xmx2048M</string>
 <string>-XX:MaxPermSize=512m</string>
 </array>

Save the changes that you’ve made and restart Protege for these to take effect.

This principle also applies to the Protege server. If you have not already, update the ‘run_protege_server.bat’ / ‘run_protege_server.sh’ file to increase the maximum memory JVM option as follows by setting the -Xmx parameter:

For Unix / Mac / Linux:

MAX_MEMORY=-Xmx2048M -XX:MaxPermSize=512m

On 64-bit Windows platforms (with the 64-bit Java installation):

set MAX_MEMORY=-Xmx2048M

On 32-bit JVMs on 64/32-bit Windows, there’s a limit to how much memory can be allocated:

set MAX_MEMORY=-Xmx1536M

 

Tomcat / Essential Viewer / Essential Import Utility

The memory settings for the Tomcat that is running the Essential Viewer should also be set to around 2GB for 64-bit Java environments.

On Windows

If you are running Tomcat as a Windows service, you can set the upper memory limit using the tomcat8w.exe program. You’ll find this either in the start menu or in the install folder of Tomcat. This will pop-up a configuration panel.

  • Select the ‘Java’ tab and then set the parameter for the Maximum memory pool to 2048
  • Click Apply
  • restart Tomcat for these settings to take effect.

On Mac

If running the Viewer Tomcat on a Mac / Linux platform, you can set these using the ‘sentenv.sh’ file in <TOMCAT INSTALL>/bin and set the CATALINA_OPTS variable, e.g.:

export CATALINA_OPTS=”-Xms128m -Xmx2048m -XX:MaxPermSize=512m”
export JAVA_OPTS=”-Djava.awt.headless=true”

If this file doesn’t exist then simply create a new text file and save it as setenv.sh with these lines in it.

Again, you must restart Tomcat for these settings to take effect.
 

Troubleshooting

If things aren’t working as expected, then the Log files are your friends. The Protege log is in the Protege install folder under logs and is called protege_###.log. The Tomcat log is in the Tomcat install folder under logs and is called catalina.out. What you’re looking for is anything that mention “memory” or “heap”. If you’re seeing these errors then you haven’t properly configured the settings.

As always, you can post your questions on the Essential Forums at http://enterprise-architecture.org/forums and we’ll answer as quickly as we can. Don’t forget to use the search too as there are over five years of posts and there’s a good chance your question has been answered before.

Once you’ve got these settings right, you should have many years of stability and performance from your Essential Install. If you’re still having problems though and would like some professional support then contact EAS via the Services menu for more information on how we can help.

Harnessing Conceptual Structures to Expose Organizational Dynamics

Alex and I have just had a paper published in the International Journal of Conceptual Structures and Smart Applications (IJCSSA), where we discuss how the practical application of Conceptual Structures lags far behind the theory. We introduce how Essential toolset can address this and provide a platform that can be used to support the real-world application of Conceptual Structures to explore and expose the dynamics of any organization.

The article is available at: http://www.igi-global.com/journals/abstract-announcement/119007

 

Securing the Viewer

The Essential Viewer can be configured to require that any user first authenticate themselves before accessing the requested View.

In the open-source release, the access control is relatively coarse-grain – can the user access the Viewer or not? – but this helps to keep things simple to configure and manage. We can connect Viewer to an LDAP directory such as Active Directory so that users can use their normal login and password to access the Viewer.

Continue reading “Securing the Viewer”

IRM UK EA Conference – Outsourcing and EA

I presented a session on Outsourcing and EA at the IRM EA conference last week; specifically how, as Enterprise Architects, we are in a prime position to ensure that outsourcing deals are both created and run effectively as we are in the unique position of having the knowledge and understanding of both the business and IT across the entire enterprise.  We likened EA’s to the Spartans in the battle of Thermopylae who held off an army of (allegedly) a million men for seven days with only 300 warriors – primarily because they understood and had a map of the landscape.  (Unfortunately they were betrayed and slaughtered after a week – hopefully the analogy doesn’t stretch that far!).

Research by both Gartner and AT Kearney suggests that around 1/3rd of outsource initiatives fail.  We discussed how use of our architecture knowledge and artefacts can mitigate the risks of failure and how EA can be used to bring greater success.  We touched on our work to help organisations use EA and Essential together to reduce the outsource transition time (from idea to completed transition to a new provider) from a typical 18-24 months to 6-9 months, which addresses a key concern raised by the FCA.  We showed some examples of how Essential has been used to support such initiatives across a number of organisations.

The conference itself was very interesting and it seems to me that EA is really coming of age – there were many talks showing how EA is used in organisations to provide real and concrete benefit to senior managers.

If you would like a copy of the presentation then drop me an e-mail at the info at e-asolutions.com address.