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The Data Governance Triple Crown - 12-Jul-2018 14:01 - Edgewater Ranzal

A few weeks ago, those who follow horse racing witnessed a historic event. The race horse Justified captured the Triple Crown by winning the Belmont Stakes following earlier victories in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes. Justified became only the 13th horse in history to capture the Triple Crown, and the second horse to do so in the last 4 years (American Pharoah captured the honor in 2015). Interesting side note: both Justified and American Pharoah were trained by Bob Baffert. Why does that matter? Because he’s a fellow Arizonan native and University of Arizona alumnus, that’s why! Bear Down!

While it may be a stretch, the concept of a “triple crown” of sorts has been on my mind recently as it relates to recent Oracle Enterprise Performance Management (EPM) projects I’ve been working on involving Oracle Data Relationship Management (DRM) and Data Relationship Governance (DRG). Many people are familiar with the DRG module of the DRM product, but when the tool is coupled with two other critical components, you are well on your way to capturing the Data Governance Triple Crown.

1.    Tool – Data Relationship Governance

As you may know, DRG is a module of the DRM product and provides a governance framework for maintaining your DRM master data. DRG includes functionality such as workflows, approvals, email notifications, and separation of duties (to prevent someone from approving his own request). Workflows are often structured around dimension maintenance and may include requests like “Add Account,” “Update Account,” or “Move Account.” The workflow then guides the requester to select tasks and complete fields on a data entry form. Once submitted, the request enters optional enrichment stages where additional detail and context is added to the request before finally being committed and updating the relevant DRM structures.

Here are just a few of the key features in DRG:

  • Requests can be entered interactively or via bulk upload files
  • Documents (such as supporting request documentation, emails, or policies) can be attached to requests
  • Comments/supporting narrative can be included
  • Requests can be pushed back to a prior stage, approved, or rejected
  • Request can generate email notifications to approvers and/or participants in a workflow requests
  • Requests can include validations, calculated fields, and conditional criteria to enter or bypass specific stages in the workflow

While I could go on and on about DRG, I’ve noticed a DRG implementation is most effective when paired with two other components.

2.    Process – Data Governance Program

In my experience, DRG implementations are most successful when bundled into a broader data governance program. Data governance programs bring together the Tool (DRG), the People (data stewards, data specialists, data governance council), and the Process (process flows, metrics, and standards).

Key facets to an effective data governance program include:

  • Executive sponsorship
  • Data Governance Council
  • Clear Roles and Responsibilities
  • Standards (metrics, definitions, process flows)
  • Authority and Accountability

Data governance programs are not easy! The change management aspect to implementing effective data governance cannot be underestimated. There will be natural resistance, pushback, and challenges to any type of change, and data governance initiatives are no exception. Data governance implementations require patience and perseverance, and at times, even a bit of the “carrot and stick” approach. As a result, we have seen the following steps as crucial to getting your data governance program off the ground:

    1. Define Charter Team and Responsibilities
    2. Define the Mission Statement
    3. Define the High-Level Scope
    4. Define the Terminology and Standards
    5. Define the Current State Overview
    6. Define the Future State Vision
    7. Define the Draft Phased Approach
    8. Prepare the Project Charter
    9. Present the Project Charter for Executive Approval
    10. Ensure Executive Support

While there is much more content to dive into on a data governance program that is beyond the scope of this blog, I hope you appreciate the importance of People and Process in a data governance initiative and do not focus only on the Tool.

3.    Integration – DRM to External Systems

The third and final component to effective data governance, after the Tool and Process, is integration to external systems. This allows DRM to truly become the master data hub in your company’s eco-system and systematically push master data (which could include trees/hierarchies, base members, mappings, or all of the above) to both upstream and downstream systems.

By leveraging DRM’s robust integration capabilities and adding in some custom SQL or ETL integration as needed, DRM can produce master data in various forms (flat files, SQL tables, web services, external commits) for consumption by external applications. And these integrations can be run on-demand or scheduled.

Summary

So there you have it. Three critical components to effective data governance: a good tool (DRG), a robust process (data governance program), and automated integration (with DRM as the hub).

Are any of these components effective in their own right? Certainly. Each area adds value in its own right and can be implemented standalone. But when all three components are implemented in conjunction, the whole is definitely greater than the sum of the parts. Each component presents its own set of challenges and requires close collaboration with both technical and business personnel at a customer. And executive sponsorship and buy-in is absolutely vital to managing and overcoming the inevitable change management challenges. It ain’t easy, but like the saying goes, nothing worthwhile ever is, right?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic along with any best practices, lessons learned, or battle scars earned along the way. Feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn or Twitter.

The Data Governance Triple Crown @ranzal - 12-Jul-2018 14:01 - ODTUG EPM

A few weeks ago, those who follow horse racing witnessed a historic event. The race horse Justified captured the Triple Crown by winning the Belmont Stakes following earlier victories in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes. Justified became only the 13th horse in history to capture the Triple Crown, and the second horse to do so in the last 4 years (American Pharoah captured the honor in 2015). Interesting side note: both Justified and American Pharoah were trained by Bob Baffert. Why does that matter? Because he’s a fellow Arizonan native and University of Arizona alumnus, that’s why! Bear Down!

While it may be a stretch, the concept of a “triple crown” of sorts has been on my mind recently as it relates to recent Oracle Enterprise Performance Management (EPM) projects I’ve been working on involving Oracle Data Relationship Management (DRM) and Data Relationship Governance (DRG). Many people are familiar with the DRG module of the DRM product, but when the tool is coupled with two other critical components, you are well on your way to capturing the Data Governance Triple Crown.

1.    Tool – Data Relationship Governance

As you may know, DRG is a module of the DRM product and provides a governance framework for maintaining your DRM master data. DRG includes functionality such as workflows, approvals, email notifications, and separation of duties (to prevent someone from approving his own request). Workflows are often structured around dimension maintenance and may include requests like “Add Account,” “Update Account,” or “Move Account.” The workflow then guides the requester to select tasks and complete fields on a data entry form. Once submitted, the request enters optional enrichment stages where additional detail and context is added to the request before finally being committed and updating the relevant DRM structures.

Here are just a few of the key features in DRG:

  • Requests can be entered interactively or via bulk upload files
  • Documents (such as supporting request documentation, emails, or policies) can be attached to requests
  • Comments/supporting narrative can be included
  • Requests can be pushed back to a prior stage, approved, or rejected
  • Request can generate email notifications to approvers and/or participants in a workflow requests
  • Requests can include validations, calculated fields, and conditional criteria to enter or bypass specific stages in the workflow

While I could go on and on about DRG, I’ve noticed a DRG implementation is most effective when paired with two other components.

2.    Process – Data Governance Program

In my experience, DRG implementations are most successful when bundled into a broader data governance program. Data governance programs bring together the Tool (DRG), the People (data stewards, data specialists, data governance council), and the Process (process flows, metrics, and standards).

Key facets to an effective data governance program include:

  • Executive sponsorship
  • Data Governance Council
  • Clear Roles and Responsibilities
  • Standards (metrics, definitions, process flows)
  • Authority and Accountability

Data governance programs are not easy! The change management aspect to implementing effective data governance cannot be underestimated. There will be natural resistance, pushback, and challenges to any type of change, and data governance initiatives are no exception. Data governance implementations require patience and perseverance, and at times, even a bit of the “carrot and stick” approach. As a result, we have seen the following steps as crucial to getting your data governance program off the ground:

    1. Define Charter Team and Responsibilities
    2. Define the Mission Statement
    3. Define the High-Level Scope
    4. Define the Terminology and Standards
    5. Define the Current State Overview
    6. Define the Future State Vision
    7. Define the Draft Phased Approach
    8. Prepare the Project Charter
    9. Present the Project Charter for Executive Approval
    10. Ensure Executive Support

While there is much more content to dive into on a data governance program that is beyond the scope of this blog, I hope you appreciate the importance of People and Process in a data governance initiative and do not focus only on the Tool.

3.    Integration – DRM to External Systems

The third and final component to effective data governance, after the Tool and Process, is integration to external systems. This allows DRM to truly become the master data hub in your company’s eco-system and systematically push master data (which could include trees/hierarchies, base members, mappings, or all of the above) to both upstream and downstream systems.

By leveraging DRM’s robust integration capabilities and adding in some custom SQL or ETL integration as needed, DRM can produce master data in various forms (flat files, SQL tables, web services, external commits) for consumption by external applications. And these integrations can be run on-demand or scheduled.

Summary

So there you have it. Three critical components to effective data governance: a good tool (DRG), a robust process (data governance program), and automated integration (with DRM as the hub).

Are any of these components effective in their own right? Certainly. Each area adds value in its own right and can be implemented standalone. But when all three components are implemented in conjunction, the whole is definitely greater than the sum of the parts. Each component presents its own set of challenges and requires close collaboration with both technical and business personnel at a customer. And executive sponsorship and buy-in is absolutely vital to managing and overcoming the inevitable change management challenges. It ain’t easy, but like the saying goes, nothing worthwhile ever is, right?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic along with any best practices, lessons learned, or battle scars earned along the way. Feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn or Twitter.

In the world of self-service analytics, Tableau and Oracle Data Visualization are two tools that are often put on the same discussion platform. In the last year, the conversations surrounding these two tools have increased dramatically — with most of our clients using self-service analytics. In this blog, I am not going to do a comparison rundown between Tableau and Oracle DV. What I do want to show you is two similar tools which introduce exciting new possibilities: Tableau Prep and Oracle Data Flow.

In the world of self-service analytics, Tableau and Oracle Data Visualization are two tools that are often put on the same discussion platform. In the last year, the conversations surrounding these two tools have increased dramatically — with most of our clients using self-service analytics. In this blog, I am not going to do a comparison rundown between Tableau and Oracle DV. What I do want to show you is two similar tools which introduce exciting new possibilities: Tableau Prep and Oracle Data Flow.

Homelab Software Licensing @hyperionepmcom - 10-Jul-2018 09:00 - ODTUG EPM

I frequent /r/homelab and recently I’ve read a number of posts regarding how to get licensing for your homelab.  Obviously, there are plenty of unscrupulous ways to get access to software, but I prefer to keep everything on my home network legit.  So, how do you do that?  Software licensing is somewhat difficult for regular software and it isn’t any easier for a homelab.  We’ll talk through how to get low-cost, totally legitimate licensing for vmWare, Microsoft, and a few backup solutions for your homelab.  We will not talk about all of the software that you might use in your homelab in general.  For instance, we will not cover storage server software like FreeNAS.  If you would like to see a great list of things people use in their homelabs, I would suggest checking out the software page of the /r/homelab wiki here.

vmWare Software Licensing

vmWare still offers a free Hypervisor in the form of vmWare vSphere Hypervisor.  The downside is that you don’t get a fully featured vmWare experience.  Namely, you don’t get access to the API’s.  This means much of the backup functionality won’t be available and general management is more difficult without vCenter.  The cheapest way to get a production copy of vmWare is through the Essentials packages.  The regular package is only $495 and includes a basic version of vCenter along with three server licenses for ESXi (2 sockets per server).  It’s not a terrible deal at all, but vCenter is very limited.  And for a homelab, who needs production licensing anyway?

So we have an option, but it isn’t cheap and doesn’t give us the full stack.  Enter VMUG Advantage.  For only $200 per year (yes, you have to pay it every year), you get basically everything.  VMUG Advantage gives you all of this:

  • EVALExperience
  • 20% Discount on VMware Training Classes
  • 20% Discount on VMware Certification Exams
  • 35% Discount on VMware Certification Exam Prep Workshops (VCP-NV)
  • 35% Discount on VMware Lab Connect
  • $100 Discount on VMworld Attendance

All of those things are great, but the very first one is the one that matters.  EVALExperience gives us all of the following:

  • VMware vCenter Server v6.x Standard
  • VMware vSphere® ESXi Enterprise Plus with Operations Management™ (6 CPU licenses)
  • VMware NSX Enterprise Edition (6 CPU licenses)
  • VMware vRealize Network Insight
  • VMware vSAN™
  • VMware vRealize Log Insight™
  • VMware vRealize Operations™
  • VMware vRealize Automation 7.3 Enterprise
  • VMware vRealize Orchestrator
  • VMware vCloud Suite® Standard
  • VMware Horizon® Advanced Edition
  • VMware vRealize Operations for Horizon®
  • VMware Fusion Pro 10
  • VMware Workstation Pro 14

That’s more like it.  Granted, we have the on-going annual expense of $200, but you can really go learn every aspect of vmWare with EVALExperience.

Microsoft Software Licensing

Microsoft licensing is about as complex as you can find.  Like vmWare, Microsoft offers a free version of their Hypervisor (Hyper-V), but Microsoft has a much broader set of software to offer in general.  Once upon a time, we had an inexpensive Technet subscription which gave us the world in evaluation software.  This is but a memory at this point so we have to find other options.  There are two great options on this front that are perhaps not as inexpensive, but will still give most of us what we need.

Microsoft Action Pack

We’ll start, as we did with vmWare licensing, with production-use licensing.  The Microsoft Action Pack is essentially a very low level version of being a Microsoft Partner.  It gives you access to a host of software for production use, but doesn’t really have a dev/test option.  For a homelab, this is still pretty good, because we get the latest Microsoft software at a fraction of the cost of individual licensing.  There are gotchas of course.  You do have to renew every year, and the initial fee is $475.  If you are lucky, you can find coupons to get that number way down.  So what do you get?  Here’s a sub-set:

  • Office 365 for 5 users
  • Windows Server 2016 for 16 cores
    • This is basically one server, which Microsoft requires that you purchase 16 cores minimum per physical server
    • Even if you physical server is running ESXi, you must have a Windows License if you are going to run a Windows VM
    • This license only allows you to run 2 Windows VM per physical host
    • You must purchase 16 core licenses per 2 VM’s you need per physical host
  • SQL Server 2017 for 2 servers (10 CALs)
  • Office 2016 Professional Plus for 10 computers
  • Visual Studio Professional for 3 users
  • Plenty of other great software like SharePoint, Exchange, etc.

But wait…there’s a downside.  First, those are all current versions of the software.  Many of us are forced to work with older version of Windows and SQL Server for our internal testing an development.  So this doesn’t work great.  Second, these are again, production licenses.  So we are paying a very low price, but this is software intended for a business to operate.  It’s a great deal, but not the best fit for every homelab.  You can find a full list of software included here.  I’ve had this subscription for years, but let’s move on to another option.

Visual Studio Subscriptions

So Technet is dead and the Action Pack isn’t for everyone…never fear, there is another option:  Visual Studio Subscriptions.  This is really designed for a developer and is the new branding of what was once an MSDN Subscription.  The good new is that many of us with a homelab use software more like a developer anyway.  So with the right subscription, we get access to basically everything, unlimited, for development and testing purposes.  Of course, everything is expensive, so we have to find the right software selection at a price that we can afford.  There are two main flavors of Visual Studio Subscriptions:  Cloud and Standard.

Cloud

Cloud is sold as a monthly or annual subscription.  You only get to use the license keys while you are paying the subscription.  The annual option includes subscriber benefits while the monthly service basically just includes Visual Studio-related software.  So what are subscriber benefits?  The biggest benefit for a homelab is “software for dev/test.”  What you get depends entirely on how much you shell out for your annual subscription.

  • Visual Studio Enterprise
    • Basically everything…but it cost $2,999 per year
  • Visual Studio Professional
    • Limited to Operating Systems and SQL Server for the most part…but costs only $539 per year

Obviously, Enterprise sounds great, but is likely cost prohibitive unless you have a lot of disposable income.  It can be tax deductible for those of you that have your own business.  For me, the Professional subscription gives me the two most important things, my operating systems and databases.  Not only that, it gives you basically every version of both back to the year 2000.  What it doesn’t give you is Office.  This is a bit of a bummer if you are looking for a catch-all for your homelab and productivity software.

Standard

Standard is different than the cloud subscription in that it comes with a perpetual license.  So, if you decide after the first year you are no longer interested, anything you licensed during your first year will still be yours to use.  It of course come with a higher price.  Here’s the breakout:

  • Visual Studio Enterprise
    • Basically everything, but for the OMG price of $5,999 for the first year and $2,569 to renew each year after that
  • Visual Studio Professional
    • Again limited to Operating Systems and SQL Server for the most part, but way more reasonably priced at $1,199 for the first year and $799 to renew each year after that
  • Visual Studio Test Professional
    • I can’t for the life of me figure out why anyone would want this version…but it’s $2,169 for the first year and $899 to renew each year after that

So…this is expensive.  The only real benefit here is that you can continue to use your keys if you choose not to renew each year.  Of course, if you like to be bleeding edge, this will probably not work too well after the first 6 months into your next year when someone new comes out that you don’t have.  You can find the full Microsoft comparison here and I’ve uploaded a current software matrix here.

Educational Licensing

Beyond the paid options from Microsoft, they also offer educational software for those of you that are students.  They have the standard program available through Microsoft Imagine.  For a homelab, the Window Server 2016 license would be a great place to start.  Many educational institutions have deals with Microsoft beyond Imagine.  You can search here to find out if your school has this set up.

Oracle Software

Oracle software is the reason this blog exists.  This has always been my primary technology to blog about.  So, if you are building a homelab for Oracle software, you might need some Oracle software!  I suggest two sites: Edelivery and the Oracle Proactive Support Blog for EPM and BI.

eDelivery

eDelivery, for lack of a much better word…sucks.  It’s difficult to find exactly what you want, but it does have everything you need, for free.  You will need to register for an Oracle account, but once you have one, you should be good to go.  You can find eDelivery here.

Patches

What about patches?  Patches are a little more tricky.  You still need an Oracle account, but generally you will need a support identifier.  This can be really simply like using your Oracle account at work or becoming a partner.  But, it still isn’t as free as the base software downloads.  To make matters worse, finding patches requires an advanced degree in Oracle Support Searching.  To make your search easier, Oracle has created a blog that provides updates about patches for EPM and BI software.  You can find this blog here.

Backup Software

Now that we have the foundation for our homelab software, what about backing things up?  We have a few options here.  The best part about this…they are all free.  Let’s start with my personal favorite:  Veeam.

Veeam Agent

Veeam is the most popular provider of virtual machine backup software out there.  But they do more than just virtual machine backup.  In fact, they have a free endpoint option.  This option backs up both your workstations and servers alike.  So if you have physical Windows or Linux Servers or Workstations, Veeam Agent is your best bet for free.  You can download is here.  Veeam Agent is great, but let’s be honest, the majority of our labs are virutalized.  So how do we back those up?

Veeam Availability

Veeam’s primary software set is around virtualization.  Veeam offers a variety of products that are built specifically for vmWare ESXi and Microsoft Hyper-V.  They have both a free option and a paid option, which is pretty nice.  The free option is Veeam Backup and Replication.  You can find this product here.  But the free option doesn’t do all of the fun things like scheduling.  You end up needing PowerShell to automate things.  Luckily, in addition to the free option, they also have something called an NFR option.

NFR stands for Not For Resale.  Essentially if you go fill out a form, you will get your very own copy of the full solution, Veeam Availability, for free.  This has all of the cool features around applications and scheduling.  It’s a truly enterprise-class tool for you homelab…for free.  You will have to get a new key each year, but it is totally worth the trouble.  You can fill out the form here.  One last thing…Veeam does require API access to vmWare.  So, you need to have a full license of ESXi for this to work.

Nakivo

I’m less familiar with Nakivo, but I wanted to mention another option for backup.  Nakivo, like Veeam, offers an NFR license.  You can fill out the form here.  My understanding is that Nakivo does not use the API, which allows it to work with the free version of ESXi.  This is a great benefit for those that doesn’t want to set up a custom solution with lots of moving pieces.

Conclusion

I hope this post can provide a little bit of clarity for the legitimate options out there for homelab software licensing.  I personally have a Microsoft Action Pack, VMUG Advantage, and Veeam Availability.  I plan to swap out my action pack for Visual Studio Professional when my renewal comes due, as I like having access to older versions of operating systems and SQL Server.  Happy homelabbing!

The post Homelab Software Licensing appeared first on EPM Marshall.

Homelab Software Licensing - 10-Jul-2018 09:00 - Brian Marshall

I frequent /r/homelab and recently I’ve read a number of posts regarding how to get licensing for your homelab.  Obviously, there are plenty of unscrupulous ways to get access to software, but I prefer to keep everything on my home network legit.  So, how do you do that?  Software licensing is somewhat difficult for regular software and it isn’t any easier for a homelab.  We’ll talk through how to get low-cost, totally legitimate licensing for vmWare, Microsoft, and a few backup solutions for your homelab.  We will not talk about all of the software that you might use in your homelab in general.  For instance, we will not cover storage server software like FreeNAS.  If you would like to see a great list of things people use in their homelabs, I would suggest checking out the software page of the /r/homelab wiki here.

vmWare Software Licensing

vmWare still offers a free Hypervisor in the form of vmWare vSphere Hypervisor.  The downside is that you don’t get a fully featured vmWare experience.  Namely, you don’t get access to the API’s.  This means much of the backup functionality won’t be available and general management is more difficult without vCenter.  The cheapest way to get a production copy of vmWare is through the Essentials packages.  The regular package is only $495 and includes a basic version of vCenter along with three server licenses for ESXi (2 sockets per server).  It’s not a terrible deal at all, but vCenter is very limited.  And for a homelab, who needs production licensing anyway?

So we have an option, but it isn’t cheap and doesn’t give us the full stack.  Enter VMUG Advantage.  For only $200 per year (yes, you have to pay it every year), you get basically everything.  VMUG Advantage gives you all of this:

  • EVALExperience
  • 20% Discount on VMware Training Classes
  • 20% Discount on VMware Certification Exams
  • 35% Discount on VMware Certification Exam Prep Workshops (VCP-NV)
  • 35% Discount on VMware Lab Connect
  • $100 Discount on VMworld Attendance

All of those things are great, but the very first one is the one that matters.  EVALExperience gives us all of the following:

  • VMware vCenter Server v6.x Standard
  • VMware vSphere® ESXi Enterprise Plus with Operations Management™ (6 CPU licenses)
  • VMware NSX Enterprise Edition (6 CPU licenses)
  • VMware vRealize Network Insight
  • VMware vSAN™
  • VMware vRealize Log Insight™
  • VMware vRealize Operations™
  • VMware vRealize Automation 7.3 Enterprise
  • VMware vRealize Orchestrator
  • VMware vCloud Suite® Standard
  • VMware Horizon® Advanced Edition
  • VMware vRealize Operations for Horizon®
  • VMware Fusion Pro 10
  • VMware Workstation Pro 14

That’s more like it.  Granted, we have the on-going annual expense of $200, but you can really go learn every aspect of vmWare with EVALExperience.

Microsoft Software Licensing

Microsoft licensing is about as complex as you can find.  Like vmWare, Microsoft offers a free version of their Hypervisor (Hyper-V), but Microsoft has a much broader set of software to offer in general.  Once upon a time, we had an inexpensive Technet subscription which gave us the world in evaluation software.  This is but a memory at this point so we have to find other options.  There are two great options on this front that are perhaps not as inexpensive, but will still give most of us what we need.

Microsoft Action Pack

We’ll start, as we did with vmWare licensing, with production-use licensing.  The Microsoft Action Pack is essentially a very low level version of being a Microsoft Partner.  It gives you access to a host of software for production use, but doesn’t really have a dev/test option.  For a homelab, this is still pretty good, because we get the latest Microsoft software at a fraction of the cost of individual licensing.  There are gotchas of course.  You do have to renew every year, and the initial fee is $475.  If you are lucky, you can find coupons to get that number way down.  So what do you get?  Here’s a sub-set:

  • Office 365 for 5 users
  • Windows Server 2016 for 16 cores
    • This is basically one server, which Microsoft requires that you purchase 16 cores minimum per physical server
    • Even if you physical server is running ESXi, you must have a Windows License if you are going to run a Windows VM
    • This license only allows you to run 2 Windows VM per physical host
    • You must purchase 16 core licenses per 2 VM’s you need per physical host
  • SQL Server 2017 for 2 servers (10 CALs)
  • Office 2016 Professional Plus for 10 computers
  • Visual Studio Professional for 3 users
  • Plenty of other great software like SharePoint, Exchange, etc.

But wait…there’s a downside.  First, those are all current versions of the software.  Many of us are forced to work with older version of Windows and SQL Server for our internal testing an development.  So this doesn’t work great.  Second, these are again, production licenses.  So we are paying a very low price, but this is software intended for a business to operate.  It’s a great deal, but not the best fit for every homelab.  You can find a full list of software included here.  I’ve had this subscription for years, but let’s move on to another option.

Visual Studio Subscriptions

So Technet is dead and the Action Pack isn’t for everyone…never fear, there is another option:  Visual Studio Subscriptions.  This is really designed for a developer and is the new branding of what was once an MSDN Subscription.  The good new is that many of us with a homelab use software more like a developer anyway.  So with the right subscription, we get access to basically everything, unlimited, for development and testing purposes.  Of course, everything is expensive, so we have to find the right software selection at a price that we can afford.  There are two main flavors of Visual Studio Subscriptions:  Cloud and Standard.

Cloud

Cloud is sold as a monthly or annual subscription.  You only get to use the license keys while you are paying the subscription.  The annual option includes subscriber benefits while the monthly service basically just includes Visual Studio-related software.  So what are subscriber benefits?  The biggest benefit for a homelab is “software for dev/test.”  What you get depends entirely on how much you shell out for your annual subscription.

  • Visual Studio Enterprise
    • Basically everything…but it cost $2,999 per year
  • Visual Studio Professional
    • Limited to Operating Systems and SQL Server for the most part…but costs only $539 per year

Obviously, Enterprise sounds great, but is likely cost prohibitive unless you have a lot of disposable income.  It can be tax deductible for those of you that have your own business.  For me, the Professional subscription gives me the two most important things, my operating systems and databases.  Not only that, it gives you basically every version of both back to the year 2000.  What it doesn’t give you is Office.  This is a bit of a bummer if you are looking for a catch-all for your homelab and productivity software.

Standard

Standard is different than the cloud subscription in that it comes with a perpetual license.  So, if you decide after the first year you are no longer interested, anything you licensed during your first year will still be yours to use.  It of course come with a higher price.  Here’s the breakout:

  • Visual Studio Enterprise
    • Basically everything, but for the OMG price of $5,999 for the first year and $2,569 to renew each year after that
  • Visual Studio Professional
    • Again limited to Operating Systems and SQL Server for the most part, but way more reasonably priced at $1,199 for the first year and $799 to renew each year after that
  • Visual Studio Test Professional
    • I can’t for the life of me figure out why anyone would want this version…but it’s $2,169 for the first year and $899 to renew each year after that

So…this is expensive.  The only real benefit here is that you can continue to use your keys if you choose not to renew each year.  Of course, if you like to be bleeding edge, this will probably not work too well after the first 6 months into your next year when someone new comes out that you don’t have.  You can find the full Microsoft comparison here and I’ve uploaded a current software matrix here.

Educational Licensing

Beyond the paid options from Microsoft, they also offer educational software for those of you that are students.  They have the standard program available through Microsoft Imagine.  For a homelab, the Window Server 2016 license would be a great place to start.  Many educational institutions have deals with Microsoft beyond Imagine.  You can search here to find out if your school has this set up.

Oracle Software

Oracle software is the reason this blog exists.  This has always been my primary technology to blog about.  So, if you are building a homelab for Oracle software, you might need some Oracle software!  I suggest two sites: Edelivery and the Oracle Proactive Support Blog for EPM and BI.

eDelivery

eDelivery, for lack of a much better word…sucks.  It’s difficult to find exactly what you want, but it does have everything you need, for free.  You will need to register for an Oracle account, but once you have one, you should be good to go.  You can find eDelivery here.

Patches

What about patches?  Patches are a little more tricky.  You still need an Oracle account, but generally you will need a support identifier.  This can be really simply like using your Oracle account at work or becoming a partner.  But, it still isn’t as free as the base software downloads.  To make matters worse, finding patches requires an advanced degree in Oracle Support Searching.  To make your search easier, Oracle has created a blog that provides updates about patches for EPM and BI software.  You can find this blog here.

Backup Software

Now that we have the foundation for our homelab software, what about backing things up?  We have a few options here.  The best part about this…they are all free.  Let’s start with my personal favorite:  Veeam.

Veeam Agent

Veeam is the most popular provider of virtual machine backup software out there.  But they do more than just virtual machine backup.  In fact, they have a free endpoint option.  This option backs up both your workstations and servers alike.  So if you have physical Windows or Linux Servers or Workstations, Veeam Agent is your best bet for free.  You can download is here.  Veeam Agent is great, but let’s be honest, the majority of our labs are virutalized.  So how do we back those up?

Veeam Availability

Veeam’s primary software set is around virtualization.  Veeam offers a variety of products that are built specifically for vmWare ESXi and Microsoft Hyper-V.  They have both a free option and a paid option, which is pretty nice.  The free option is Veeam Backup and Replication.  You can find this product here.  But the free option doesn’t do all of the fun things like scheduling.  You end up needing PowerShell to automate things.  Luckily, in addition to the free option, they also have something called an NFR option.

NFR stands for Not For Resale.  Essentially if you go fill out a form, you will get your very own copy of the full solution, Veeam Availability, for free.  This has all of the cool features around applications and scheduling.  It’s a truly enterprise-class tool for you homelab…for free.  You will have to get a new key each year, but it is totally worth the trouble.  You can fill out the form here.  One last thing…Veeam does require API access to vmWare.  So, you need to have a full license of ESXi for this to work.

Nakivo

I’m less familiar with Nakivo, but I wanted to mention another option for backup.  Nakivo, like Veeam, offers an NFR license.  You can fill out the form here.  My understanding is that Nakivo does not use the API, which allows it to work with the free version of ESXi.  This is a great benefit for those that doesn’t want to set up a custom solution with lots of moving pieces.

Conclusion

I hope this post can provide a little bit of clarity for the legitimate options out there for homelab software licensing.  I personally have a Microsoft Action Pack, VMUG Advantage, and Veeam Availability.  I plan to swap out my action pack for Visual Studio Professional when my renewal comes due, as I like having access to older versions of operating systems and SQL Server.  Happy homelabbing!

The post Homelab Software Licensing appeared first on EPM Marshall.

In the last post, New Scope in Account Reconciliation Cloud Service (ARCS): Add-Ons, we discussed how ARCS sets you up to easily add on additional scope to your existing application and scale your solution. However, not all changes are brand new. Clients are often concerned with being pigeonholed based on their “Day 1” decisions. A common question I am asked during a design session is “Can I manually enter this reconciliation today, but create new feeds to automatically load the data tomorrow?” The answer is a resounding YES, and it provides clear added value to the next phase of any ARCS (or ARM) project. It can be a viable project strategy to set up reconciliations using an Account Analysis format on “Day 1” and change to a Balance Comparison format when automated data loads are built on “Day 100.”

Modifications in ARCS 1

[Screenshot 5a: Reconciliation 100-1000 is setup with a Balance Comparison format in Sep 2017.*]

Modifications in ARCS 2

[Screenshot 5b: The previous period’s reconciliation can be viewed in the Prior Reconciliations tab.*]

Modifications in ARCS 3

[Screenshot 5c: Reconciliation 100-1000 was previously setup with an Account Analysis format in Aug 2017. The format of a profile can be changed while maintaining the Prior Reconciliations link.*]

Depending on how this change is made, it is even possible to keep the modified reconciliation “linked” to the previously completed reconciliations even though the Format has changed, such as in Screenshots 5a – 5c. The ease with which ARCS allows you to change Reconciliation Methods (via Formats) gives you the flexibility to not bite off more than you can chew in the beginning of a project.

Changing Reconciliation Methods is often related to new integrations. Moving from the manual “fat fingering” of data to directly loading general ledger and sub ledger balances through Financial Data Management Enterprise Edition (FDMEE) or Data Management combined with the inbuilt auto-reconciliation tools can bring a “quality of life” change for end users as well as added confidence in the data’s integrity. It is always a best practice to pull data from the source. Creating the integration from the general ledger is typically part of the initial scope. The usual candidates for building additional feeds after the first project phase are the sub ledgers related to fixed assets, accounts receivables, and accounts payables. However, the most “bang for your buck” as it relates to what integrations to build depends on your line of business and specific company requirements.*

*Note that adding multiple general ledger feeds introduces additional complexities beyond the scope of this article. Please consult with your Oracle partner before adding to your application.

In some cases, the greatest efficiencies to your existing reconciliation process are gained in utilizing the power of ARCS Transaction Matching. This module is better suited to handle massive data volumes at a transactional level. As an example, instead of performing just a reconciliation of the balance sheet’s intercompany balances in ARCS Reconciliation Compliance at the end of the month, an enhancement to this process could be to perform the daily matching process in ARCS Transaction Matching to clear up issues in real time as they arise. This simplifies the month end’s reconciliation. ARCS Transaction Matching is a powerful supplement to an existing reconciliation system and continues to receive special attention from Oracle as seen with the major release of new functionality in Patch 1805.

Just as there are many ways your company can change, ARCS can be modified to match your needs even in a live application. However, sometimes changes are more fundamental than a bit of tweaking such as in an acquisition or the introduction of a new, company-wide general ledger. Or, perhaps, you are just not satisfied with the solution design. Join me in the next post as we discuss the dangerous topic of redesign in ARCS – what is possible…and what it costs.

*Screenshots taken from the patch 1806 release.

In the last post, New Scope in Account Reconciliation Cloud Service (ARCS): Add-Ons, we discussed how ARCS sets you up to easily add on additional scope to your existing application and scale your solution. However, not all changes are brand new. Clients are often concerned with being pigeonholed based on their “Day 1” decisions. A common question I am asked during a design session is “Can I manually enter this reconciliation today, but create new feeds to automatically load the data tomorrow?” The answer is a resounding YES, and it provides clear added value to the next phase of any ARCS (or ARM) project. It can be a viable project strategy to set up reconciliations using an Account Analysis format on “Day 1” and change to a Balance Comparison format when automated data loads are built on “Day 100.”

Modifications in ARCS 1

[Screenshot 5a: Reconciliation 100-1000 is setup with a Balance Comparison format in Sep 2017.*]

Modifications in ARCS 2

[Screenshot 5b: The previous period’s reconciliation can be viewed in the Prior Reconciliations tab.*]

Modifications in ARCS 3

[Screenshot 5c: Reconciliation 100-1000 was previously setup with an Account Analysis format in Aug 2017. The format of a profile can be changed while maintaining the Prior Reconciliations link.*]

Depending on how this change is made, it is even possible to keep the modified reconciliation “linked” to the previously completed reconciliations even though the Format has changed, such as in Screenshots 5a – 5c. The ease with which ARCS allows you to change Reconciliation Methods (via Formats) gives you the flexibility to not bite off more than you can chew in the beginning of a project.

Changing Reconciliation Methods is often related to new integrations. Moving from the manual “fat fingering” of data to directly loading general ledger and sub ledger balances through Financial Data Management Enterprise Edition (FDMEE) or Data Management combined with the inbuilt auto-reconciliation tools can bring a “quality of life” change for end users as well as added confidence in the data’s integrity. It is always a best practice to pull data from the source. Creating the integration from the general ledger is typically part of the initial scope. The usual candidates for building additional feeds after the first project phase are the sub ledgers related to fixed assets, accounts receivables, and accounts payables. However, the most “bang for your buck” as it relates to what integrations to build depends on your line of business and specific company requirements.*

*Note that adding multiple general ledger feeds introduces additional complexities beyond the scope of this article. Please consult with your Oracle partner before adding to your application.

In some cases, the greatest efficiencies to your existing reconciliation process are gained in utilizing the power of ARCS Transaction Matching. This module is better suited to handle massive data volumes at a transactional level. As an example, instead of performing just a reconciliation of the balance sheet’s intercompany balances in ARCS Reconciliation Compliance at the end of the month, an enhancement to this process could be to perform the daily matching process in ARCS Transaction Matching to clear up issues in real time as they arise. This simplifies the month end’s reconciliation. ARCS Transaction Matching is a powerful supplement to an existing reconciliation system and continues to receive special attention from Oracle as seen with the major release of new functionality in Patch 1805.

Just as there are many ways your company can change, ARCS can be modified to match your needs even in a live application. However, sometimes changes are more fundamental than a bit of tweaking such as in an acquisition or the introduction of a new, company-wide general ledger. Or, perhaps, you are just not satisfied with the solution design. Join me in the next post as we discuss the dangerous topic of redesign in ARCS – what is possible…and what it costs.

*Screenshots taken from the patch 1806 release.

I know, I know…I promised InfluxDB would be my next post.  But, I’ve noticed that Organizr is not quite as straight forward to everyone as I thought.  So today we’ll be configuring Organizr and InfluxDB will wait until our next post.  Before we continue with configuring Organizr, let’s recap our series so far:

Configuring Organizr

Organizr is not always the most straight forward tool to configure.  Integration with things like Plex requires a bit of knowledge.  It doesn’t help of course that V2 is still in beta and the documentation doesn’t actually exist yet.  Let’s get started where we left off.  Let’s log in:

Adding a Homepage

Once logged in, we’re ready to start by adding the homepage to our tabs.  Click on Tab Editor:

Click on Tabs and you will notice that the homepage tab doesn’t appear on our tabs, so let’s move it around and make it active.  While we’re at it we’ll also make it the default.  We’ll get into why a little bit later.

Add a Tab

Now we can move on to adding the Plex tab.  Click the + sign:

Give the tab a name, in this case we’ll go with Plex.  Provide the URL to your Plex instance.  Choose an image, and click Add Tab:

Move the Plex tab up, make it active, and select the type of iFrame:

The different types are iFrame, Internal, or New Window.  Two of these are self-explanatory.  iFrame provides the URL directly inside of Organizr.  New Window opens a new tab in your browser.  The third, internal is for things like the homepage and settings that are built-in functionality in Organizr.  Many services works just fine in an iFrame, but some may experience issues.  For instance, pfSense doesn’t like being in an iFrame while FreeNAS doesn’t mind at all.  There are plenty of other options around groups and categories, but for now we’ll keep things simple.

The Homepage

Now that we know how to add tabs, how do we make our homepage look like this:

Getting Plex Tokens

What we see here is one of the main reasons you should consider Organizr.  This includes integration with Plex, Sonarr, and Radarr.  Let’s start with Plex.  Plex has an API that allows external applications like Organizr to integrate.  Configuring Plex isn’t all that straight forward unfortunately.  We’ll start by going back to our settings page and clicking on System Settings, then Single Sign-On, and finally Plex.

We are not trying to enable SSO right now, though you would likely be able to at the end of this guide with a single click.  We are just going to use this page as a facility to give us the Plex API Token and the Plex Machine Name.  These are required to enable homepage integration.  Click on Retrieve under Get Plex Token:

Enter your username and password for Plex and click Grab It:

Assuming you remember your username and password correctly, you should get a message saying that it was created and you can now click the x to go see it:

Now we can click on the little eye to see the Plex token.  Copy and paste this somewhere as we will need it later.

Next, we’ll click the retrieve button under Get Plex Machine:

Build a Homelab Dashboard: Part 3, Organizr Continued - 09-Jul-2018 08:00 - Brian Marshall

I know, I know…I promised InfluxDB would be my next post.  But, I’ve noticed that Organizr is not quite as straight forward to everyone as I thought.  So today we’ll be configuring Organizr and InfluxDB will wait until our next post.  Before we continue with configuring Organizr, let’s recap our series so far:

Configuring Organizr

Organizr is not always the most straight forward tool to configure.  Integration with things like Plex requires a bit of knowledge.  It doesn’t help of course that V2 is still in beta and the documentation doesn’t actually exist yet.  Let’s get started where we left off.  Let’s log in:

Adding a Homepage

Once logged in, we’re ready to start by adding the homepage to our tabs.  Click on Tab Editor:

Click on Tabs and you will notice that the homepage tab doesn’t appear on our tabs, so let’s move it around and make it active.  While we’re at it we’ll also make it the default.  We’ll get into why a little bit later.

Add a Tab

Now we can move on to adding the Plex tab.  Click the + sign:

Give the tab a name, in this case we’ll go with Plex.  Provide the URL to your Plex instance.  Choose an image, and click Add Tab:

Move the Plex tab up, make it active, and select the type of iFrame:

The different types are iFrame, Internal, or New Window.  Two of these are self-explanatory.  iFrame provides the URL directly inside of Organizr.  New Window opens a new tab in your browser.  The third, internal is for things like the homepage and settings that are built-in functionality in Organizr.  Many services works just fine in an iFrame, but some may experience issues.  For instance, pfSense doesn’t like being in an iFrame while FreeNAS doesn’t mind at all.  There are plenty of other options around groups and categories, but for now we’ll keep things simple.

The Homepage

Now that we know how to add tabs, how do we make our homepage look like this:

Getting Plex Tokens

What we see here is one of the main reasons you should consider Organizr.  This includes integration with Plex, Sonarr, and Radarr.  Let’s start with Plex.  Plex has an API that allows external applications like Organizr to integrate.  Configuring Plex isn’t all that straight forward unfortunately.  We’ll start by going back to our settings page and clicking on System Settings, then Single Sign-On, and finally Plex.

We are not trying to enable SSO right now, though you would likely be able to at the end of this guide with a single click.  We are just going to use this page as a facility to give us the Plex API Token and the Plex Machine Name.  These are required to enable homepage integration.  Click on Retrieve under Get Plex Token:

Enter your username and password for Plex and click Grab It:

Assuming you remember your username and password correctly, you should get a message saying that it was created and you can now click the x to go see it:

Now we can click on the little eye to see the Plex token.  Copy and paste this somewhere as we will need it later.

Next, we’ll click the retrieve button under Get Plex Machine:

Next