We all know that our Product Lifecycle Management systems are as near and dear to our business, as the engineering designs themselves. Many of us have spent countless man-months, lots of money, and hard-won organizational knowledge to build these systems to enforce, enable and streamline our processes. However, your PLM system is only as good as the Administrative staff who keep it running and healthy, and the Business Partner who installs and supports it.
For many reasons the PLM system may be at risk to fail. There may be turnover in employees who have managed these systems for years,or the IT department may be doing more with fewer people and overloaded with projects. For whatever reason, the ability of a knowledgeable, talented Administrative staff can make the difference between continuing to leverage the significant investment you have made in your PLM system, or having an outcry in Engineering because they can no longer use the system (and the inability to produce Engineering designs or changes as needed, affecting the ability to put out quality products on time).
However, these risks can be averted. Inceptra has developed a tool to help automate the monitoring of the ENOVIA SmarTeam PLM system and notification of support staff of potential problems. This tool is called the Smart Diagnostic Utility (SDU).
About the Smart Diagnostic Utility (SDU)
Many customers have experienced problems that accumulate over time, going unnoticed until the problem becomes so severe the PLM system goes down. The key difference between customers who experience an outage, and those who don’t is whether their Administrators know what problems to look for, and how to correct problems when they find them. And, in today’s business environment, that may be harder than ever.
The Smart Diagnostic Utility is a Windows service that utilizes “Plug-In” modules to perform various integrity checks, and notify via e-mail when those checks find issues. Various Plug-Ins come with the utility, to monitor various types of system components. Custom Plug-Ins can be developed using Microsoft Visual Studio, if you wish to write your own.
Smart Diagnostic Utility was first developed for ENOVIA SmarTeam, but certainly it can monitor ENOVIA V6, or any environment or system.
Some examples of real-life problems that customers had with SmarTeam in 2014 include:
- Multisite replication failed between two international sites which prevented the sharing of CAD files. Production was down globally in 4 sites for 8 hours, while diagnosis and repair efforts took place. It took multiple days to bring the system completely back online, with one replication site down for a full week. This failure could have been prevented if it had been caught earlier. The problem was caused by error record collection which expanded the Tablespace files to the point where the disk ran out of space and corrupted the remote database.
- Custom Windows services that synch data between different SmarTeam sites stopped working. Although the services were running, they were not writing diagnostics to the log files (and so were hung). This hung up the deployment of drawing release updates to the international production facilities from the US (and other) engineering departments. It wasn’t caught for over a week, and resulted in scrapped parts produced to the wrong revision of the drawings.
- Oracle passwords expired because the expiration date was never set to Unlimited. Users were not able to log into SmarTeam, and the Oracle administrative passwords had expired as well. It took over an hour to get the passwords reset, and the expiration turned off.
- SmarTeam Web server ran out of disk space because the Viewer folder had accumulated gigabytes of files, and was never cleared out. This gave users errors when they tried to view files.
How the Smart Diagnostic Utility Works
The Smart Diagnostic Utility (or SDU) runs on an hourly schedule. You configure which days of the week, which days of the month, and which hours of the day you want certain tasks to run (each task being handled by a Plug-In and an associated configuration file). Here are some examples of how the SDU is used to monitor a SmarTeam system:
- Clean Temp Files – this Plug-In removes files, for example files copied out of the vault for View operations and not removed after the operation completes. In some environments, we configure this to clear the Viewer directory on the Web server during nighttime operations, when no one is using the system.
- Oracle monitoring – this Plug-In notifies you of configuration problems (like expiring Oracle passwords), checks free space on the Tablespaces, and for Multisite environments, it monitors replication for hangups or errors.
- SmarTeam Database Integrity – this Plug-In allows you to scan for various common types of SmarTeam problems in the table data that may accumulate over time. These problems could include orphaned records, missing records, or even temporary records no longer needed. The accumulation of these can impact performance, increase backup times, and even lead to hard-to-trace errors later.
- Vault Integrity Checks – this Plug-In checks SmarTeam vaults, to verify that the files are accessible by users via database records (orphaned files), and that the files exist where the database thinks they are (missing files). The rapid accumulation of such conditions could indicate a problem with the system, or with some software or hardware configuration.
- Service Monitoring – this Plug-In allows you to watch any Windows service on any computer, to verify it is still in a Running status.
- File Monitoring – this Plug-In allows you to monitor files (e.g. log files) for change times. You can use it to check for any process that you expect to write to a log file within a period of time, and identify if that process is no longer writing to the log file. You could also use it to verify that scheduled tasks have run (if they generate output files), or any other process that updates files periodically.
If an issue is detected in a job, an e-mail is sent to Administrators with specific details, and attached log files if applicable. This gives you proactive notification, on the schedule you determine. If you want critical issues to show up in your text messaging, simply put your SMS e-mail address in the notification list. Further, if the issue is of a critical nature, Inceptra Support can be copied – which will open a support case automatically with our Help Desk, with issue details attached, for our Help Desk to follow up on.
What Benefits Does the SDU Bring?
Knowing what to check, and when, in a PLM system is critical to keeping it healthy (and keeping issues from user visibility). Having that knowledge reside in a person means that the person must spend his or her time performing those menial, repetitive tasks, and if that person is no longer in that job (goes on vacation, moves on to a new job, etc.), you are relying on how well those tasks are documented.
SDU can allow you to build that knowledge on how to monitor your PLM system into an automated utility, and monitor it 24/7/365. Indeed, the SDU is generic enough that some of the Plug-Ins could be used for non-PLM IT environment monitoring – like cleaning temp folders, watching log files, and monitoring Service status. The ability to develop custom Plug-Ins means it can grow with your business systems, and help you ensure your Administrators have the knowledge and tools they need to be aware of issues before they become problems.
Contact your Inceptra Sales Account Manager today for more information.