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.

The Data Visualisation Tools Arena

At a demo recently we were asked how Essential fits alongside data visualisation tools such as QlikView and Tableau.  Visualisation and BI environments are hot topics at the moment, with a lot of commentary appearing about them, so we thought we should share our view of how we see Essential playing in this field.

In simple terms, we see the split being between the quantative and qualitative view.  The quantative view gives you the numbers that tells you where your issues are and the qualitative view then gives you the information behind the numbers that allow you make informed decisions to resolve the issues.

The data visualisation tools’ key strength are in addressing the quantitative data requirements, so they are great at taking data and transforming it into meaningful statistics that can be used to formulate facts and uncover patterns in data.  If I have questions about how many interfaces there are between my applications, how many meet the SLAs, how many move client data etc., the BI visualisation tools are perfect.  Tableau will even provide some rudimentary views of connections.

On the other hand, whilst we do provide some quantitative views with Essential, its real strength is at the other end of the spectrum in providing the qualitative information.  So, if you want to understand the underlying reasons behind the data relationships then Essential can provide the insight and detail to explain why and how things are as they are.  For example, whilst the quantitative information tells you how many interfaces you have, it doesn’t tell you how those interfaces relate, what they are responsible for, what they eventually impact, etc. Essential will give you the view to show, for example, which are your critical interfaces – which applications and processes fail if a specific feed fails etc.  This information is less about statistics and more about knowledge.

Between the two types of tool you can get a powerful view of your IT environment, but you need to know where to get best value from each and, of course, understand your requirements as Essential can be a source for the quantitative as well as the qualitative in some cases.

Enterprise Social Networking and Knowledge Integration

The increasing use of social business collaboration technologies such as Yammer and Jive is opening up opportunities within organisations to leverage the internal people network for knowledge.  If I have a problem then I can ask the organisation if anyone has the answer, and quite often a conversation starts on the topic in question.  If you listen to the words of CIOs at conferences, these technologies are starting to add value and are opening up the communication channels within organisations to allow and enhance knowledge sharing.  However, whilst these technologies are working well in lots of companies, it is important to understand that they are only part of the solution.

The social tools are great for exploiting the people network, it’s surprising what people in the organisation do know if you ask them; we saw a recent example where a document was received in Mandarin and the office didn’t know who could speak Mandarin.  Within 10 minutes of posting ‘Does anyone understand Mandarin’ on the collaboration tool they had five Mandarin speakers identify themselves.  A request for information on Yammer in one organisation, following the Heartbleed security issue, identified previously unknown areas of exposure in the global business.  So there is clear value to be gained from these collaboration tools, however, the challenge is what to do with this data once it is made visible.  How do we leverage it in the future without asking the same questions again or having to search archives?  How do we make sure that when people leave the organisation, the knowledge stays?  How do we make the information succinct and accessible? This is where tools such as Essential come into play by providing a mechanism for capturing and integrating that knowledge in a structured way for future use.  Tools such as  Essential become the library for the information that the collaboration tools expose.  By being clear on exactly what you want to store in the tools (don’t try and boil the ocean) and putting in processes for capturing the knowledge, you can marry the social business with more structured knowledge integration tools.

So, don’t just assume that social business collaboration tools are the answer to your knowledge problems; they are only part of the solution. It’s when you tie in tools such as Essential that you are on to something very powerful, as depicted below:-

Enterprise Social Networking and Knowledge Integration

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Outsourcing Risk, the Regulators and Essential

The Financial Conduct Authority, the UK financial services authority, last month published a review of outsourcing and its concerns in the asset management industry – http://www.fca.org.uk/static/documents/thematic-reviews/tr13-10.pdf.

The sentiment expressed in the paper probably applies to any company that is considering outsourcing or already has outsourced aspects of their business, primarily that there has to be a plan B in place in case things go wrong and the outsourcer fails. Essential can play a crucial role here, by underpinning the relationship between the client and the outsourcer effectively and by mitigating some of the risks around loss of knowledge internally. This is something EAS, the sponsors and developers of Essential, are currently working on with some clients and where Essential has become a key component.

The drivers behind using Essential have been to ensure that clients are not tied tightly into an outsource relationship which cannot quickly be reversed out of. The key objectives are to:

  • Ensure there is an exit strategy should it be required (in line with the recent FCA demands)
  • Mitigate against the loss of knowledge in the event of a failure in the relationship
  • Reduce the dependency on the outsourcer for knowledge retention – they may have their own knowledge tools but they may not be willing to share them
  • Retain the organisation’s intellectual capital (IC) – the outsourcer will create IC as part of the relationship, but it is important for the customer to retain that IC – ultimately it is still the customer’s architecture

If you are considering outsourcing, then Essential may be an answer for you. In line with the FCA requirement, Essential acts as a knowledge base, ensuring that you retain control of your own information, in an accessible, controlled structure, and so reducing reliance on a third party.

If you have any questions on this then discuss it on the forum or get in touch.

http://www.enterprise-architecture.org/forums/
http://www.enterprise-architecture.org/services