Friday, October 24, 2014

PeopleTools 8.54 Feature: ExcelToCI Errors and Warnings Worksheet

Some years ago, I wrote this post on ExcelToCI limitations. One of the limitations I've found annoying in the past was the need to move the mouse over each Warning or Error result cell. It was not just annoying, it actually didn't allow the users to easily work on the different error types and analyze useful information such as the most common error messages, how many rows would go through if they solved a particular issue, etc.



PeopleTools 8.54 has introduced a new worksheet showing all the warning and error messages. The following screenshot provides a clear view on how the information is presented:



From that point on, the users may analyze the messages using Excel dynamic tables, filters, etc. Yet, there is some room for improvement. The most obvious one is to put each particular error in a different Excel row. That would make error analysis much richer.

Let's see how this evolves with the next releases of PeopleTools.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

PeopleSoft's PS_HOME evolution

One of the new features of PeopleTools 8.54 is the portability of the PS_HOME directory. Before going into the analysis of its benefits, let's have a look back to how  PS_HOME has evolved.

One Directory for Everything

PS_HOME is the name of the environment variable holding the PeopleSoft installation directory. Before PeopleTools 8.50, the full PeopleSoft installation was done on a single directory, including PeopleTools binaries, application external files, customized files, logs, etc. Also, in those installations using WebLogic and WebSphere, the J2EE deployment was normally located at PS_HOME/webserv (this was not the case for Oracle Application Server, which its their own directories for that purpose).

The main issue with this approach is that the Ops team would normally go nuts when they saw how the directories were structured in PeopleSoft. Very often, keeping read-only binary files and always changing log files on the same directory structure would not comply with the internal policies in many organizations. With some degree of manual configuration and symbolic linking, this issue could be tackled, but the solution increased the maintenance costs, particularly when a PeopleTools or application upgrade came into the scene.

Splitting Logic and Data

PeopleTools 8.50 provided the ability to split the PS_HOME directory contents into three different places:
  • PIA_HOME: contained the J2EE deployment, equivalent to the former PS_HOME/webserv directory.
  • PS_CFG_HOME: contained logs, traces and search indexes. Basically, any file created, modified or deleted at run time.
  • PS_HOME: contained the binaries and external programs such as Crystal Reports. Cobols and SQRs.
This was a major improvement. Now the binaries could be kept as read-only except when an external program was migrated. Moreover, the monitoring of disk space could now be restricted to PIA_HOME and PS_CFG_HOME.

PeopleTools and Applications in Different Rooms

PeopleTools 8.52, together with the PeopleSoft 9.1 applications, introduced a new directory: PS_APP_HOME. This directory contained exclusively the application binaries and external program files, leaving PS_HOME just for the specific PeopleTools files.

This approach allowed a simpler maintenance of the product. For instance, you could use the same PS_HOME for both PeopleSoft HCM and FSCM, keeping the specific application files in their own PS_APP_HOME directories. This way, when you applied a PeopleTools patch on PS_HOME, it would be available for all applications.

Clearly Identify your Customizations

The natural evolution of PS_APP_HOME was PS_CUST_HOME, which was introduced by PeopleTools 8.53. This new directory was meant to hold all the customized external files. This helped not only in maintaining PS_HOME and PS_APP_HOME almost readonly (they would be updated only by PeopleTools or application upgrades), but also to clearly identify the customizations, which is a tremendous gain when performing an application upgrade.

And now... Portable PS_HOME

PeopleTools 8.54 has gone a step further in simplifying the maintenance of the PeopleSoft installation. One of the issues we still faced with PS_HOME is that we could not move it to a different directory without facing issues, as there were some symbolic links and files containing absolute directory references within it.

This could be solved by adjusting the symbolic links and directory references, but it was a time consuming process. The alternative was to reinstall PS_HOME from the delivered install images, but in the best scenario, this could take a couple of hours.

In the latest PeopleTools release, all symbolic links were removed, and all the directory references are relative, not absolute. This allows the system administrator to easily move the directory to another location, or even to another server. Actually, you may not even need to move it. Just mounting the PS_HOME directory installed in one server into all the different PeopleSoft servers would make the trick, so you only need to apply changes in a single place.

I'm sure System Administrators and Installers will love this new feature. At BNB we are also analyzing other potential uses for it, but let me keep the secret for the moment ;).

Tip: One of the symbolic links removed in UNIX/Linux platforms was the PS_HOME/appserv/psadmin link. If you have any maintenance script to boot or shutdown services using this path, you will need to adjust it to the source location: PS_HOME/bin/psadmin, or just call psadmin after executing psconfig.sh.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

PeopleTools 8.54 Features: Dynamic Alert Sliding Windows

One of my first memories in the PeopleSoft world was from by training bootcamp when I joined PeopleSoft. The instructor was showing us the Process Monitor functionality in PeopleSoft 7.5, where the button used to refresh the list of scheduled processes was represented by fetching dog named Sparky shown to the right of this paragraph.

It actually surprised me that an application button had a name, but that was the PeopleSoft style. Anyway, the poor dog did not last too much. In year 2000, with the introduction of PeopleSoft 8, our beloved Sparky was replaced by a boring Refresh button.

PeopleTools 8.54 has pushed this functionality to the next generation, making it potentially redundant. One of the new features in this release is the ability to show the status of the process within the same page were it is scheduled. This is a major usability improvement, as the users do not need to navigate to Process Monitor to check the status of the process instance. True, in previous PeopleTools versions there was also the possibility of running the process with output to Window, which using REN Server would achieve a similar result. The main drawback of REN Server is that it opened a new page/tab even before the process was finished, making the navigation more complicated.

The new functionality is called Dynamic Alert Sliding Windows, which is still more boring than Sparky, but what matters is the functionality, not the name. These notifications are enabled in the Process Scheduler System Settings page:


In this page, the administrator chooses which Status are going to be displayed to the user when running a process. As you see, the functionality is quite easy to setup and a significant step forward in usability of batch process scheduling.




Thursday, October 16, 2014

My global view on Oracle OpenWorld 2014

For those who can read Spanish, I just posted in our company blog an entry describing a general overview of Oracle OpenWorld announcements. A couple of weeks ago I made a post on this blog describing the most important outcomes from a PeopleSoft point of view. This new post gives a broader view. 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

New Integration Network Utilities in PeopleTools 8.54

The new integration features available in PeopleTools 8.54 include better support for REST services and the new Integration Network WorkCenter. There are plenty of things to test and eventually use that may be of interest of anyone upgrading to this PeopleTools release. However, today I will focus on two simple but quite handy utilities:

Saving Gateway Metadata

There is a new functionality that saves the integrationgateway.properties configuration file in the database for future use or deployment on other gateway instances.



It has happened to me a couple of times that I did redeploy of PIA that reset the configuration file to the default version. Ok, it wasn't very clever of me, as I could easily take a backup of the file before doing the redeploy, but this save to database button seems easier to use than navigating through the endless PIA directory structure.

Node Lockdown

Another handy feature that allows us to block certain attributes of Nodes, so they are not overwritten when performing an Application Designer project copy.

The page used to lock the attributes is the following:



You just need to pick which attributes should be locked and for which nodes.

Both seem nice and useful utilities delivered by PeopleTools 8.54. I hope you also find them of interest.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The new %SelectDummyTable MetaSQL

Does anyone know a PeopleSoft developer who didn't ever use a SQL statement like the following one?

select %CurrentDateOut
from PS_INSTALLATION;

Where PS_INSTALLATION could be any single-row table in the PeopleSoft data model.

If you look at the previous statement, the SELECT clause is not retrieving any field from the PS_INSTALLATION table, but just using it to comply with ANSI SQL. The same statement could be written in Microsoft SQL Server like this:

select %CurrentDateOut;

In Oracle Database, as:

select %CurrentDateOut
from dual;

In both cases, the sentences are a better performing option. Both solutions do not require accessing any physical table.

The problem with these solutions is that they are platform specific, and we want to avoid platform specific syntax. Believe me, when you perform a platform migration you suddenly have very present in your mind the ancestors of the programmers who used this type of syntax. So, up to now, we had to stick with the SELECT ... FROM PS_INSTALLATION solution.








Until now. PeopleTools 8.54 introduces a new MetaSQL name %SelectDummyTable, which automatically translates into a platform specific sentences. Our previous sample would be written as:

select %CurrentDateOut
from %SelectDummyTable

We now have a platform independent and well performing solution. What else can we ask for? ;-)

Note: I've checked the online PeopleBooks from Oracle and at this point there is no documentation on this Meta SQL. Still, I've conducted some tests and it seems to be working correctly.

Monday, October 13, 2014

PeopleTools 8.54 will be the last release to certify Crystal Reports

It was just a question of time. In July 2011, Oracle announced that newly acquired PeopleSoft applications would not include a Crystal Reports license. Some years before, in October 2007, Business Objects was acquired by SAP. You don't need to read Machiavelli's Il Principe to understand why the license was now not included.

In order to keep customer's investment on custom reports safe, Oracle kept updating Crystal Reports certifications for those customers who purchased PeopleSoft applications before that date. In parallel, BI Publisher was improved release after release, providing a viable replacement to Crystal Reports, and in many areas surpassing its features.

Now, as announced in My Oracle Support's document 1927865.1, PeopleTools 8.54 will be the last release for which Crystal Reports will be certified, and support for report issues will end together with the expiration of PeopleSoft 9.1 applications support.








PeopleTools 8.54 was just released a couple of months ago, so there is no need to panic, but PeopleSoft applications managers would do well if they start coming up with an strategy to convert their existing Crystal Reports into BI Publisher reports.