Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Push the button... One way to automate boring manual processes. (Part 1 of 4)

I don't know about you, but I don't like doing things over and over and over again. 

When I first arrived at my current job, in addition to the nightly ETL run, whenever a finance manager uploaded his or her data through a custom application, they would send an email to me to "push the button". Since the company is world wide, some of these requests would be after my normal working hours. Their ETL process consisted of kicking off a MS SQL job, waiting until the job completed it's nearly 50 steps, then log into MicroStrategy desktop to clear the report cache and intelligent cubes. Once that process was completed, if I was still paying attention in the middle of coding, notice and send all the finance managers in the company an email stating "ETL has been run..."

Well after the fifth time of "pushing the button," I'd had enough.

Create an internal simple web application to give finance managers the ability to press their own button. This would kick off the ability to start the ETL, and then the MicroStrategy processes, and at the end would send the email to all concerned.

  • I needed to make sure only one person could push the button and the rest would be locked out from pushing the button while it was already running.
  • I wanted a way of keeping track of who pushed the button when (so a history).
  • Web app needed to be locked down to have two levels of security.
    • Admin for users to see history
    • Regular finance users, and I didn't want to maintain the users but utilize AD groups.
  • How to interface with MicroStrategy...

I piggy-backed on our existing MicroStrategy web server for the internal web server for the location of the front end, and had my system admin create an internal DNS for it for ease of accessibility. I also procured the MicroStrategy SDK license so I had access to their documentation and .dll's.

Building the web app:

Security: I locked down a subfolder (Admin) of the new site and used the which locked down the admin pieces to all others. Then under the "" tag at the main level I added my AD group for the finance managers, and denied all others.

Two main pages to start for the general users, an ETL_Run page and ETL_History page. The history is a simple list view connected to a SQL connection which reads from a simple history table I created. 

New Data Objects:

Two new tables: ETL_History and ETL_StepHistory. The ETL_History table has just an identity column, as well as the date and user. The ETL_StepHistory is updated at each major milestone in the ETL (to give some feedback to the user as to where in the process it is as it can take up to 30 minutes for the entire process to complete). This way the front end just pings this ETL_StepHistory table and displays the data. When a user kicks off a new ETL, this StepHistory table is truncated, and has a step identity column, description and date/time columns.

Tune into Push the button, part 2 coming soon.

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