Thursday, March 30, 2017

Announcing Shivers - Visualizing SAP/HANA Information View Dependencies

Dear SAP HANA DBa's, developers, architects etc, we at Just BI released Shivers.

What is Shivers?

Shivers stands for SAP/HANA Information Viewers. It is a tool to analyze and visualize dependencies between SAP/HANA information views (that is, Analytic Views, Attribute Views, and Calculation Views) and catalog objects (such as tables and views). Below is a screenshot of Shivers so you can get an impression of what it looks like:

Why Shivers?

In our work as SAP- and Business Intelligence consultants, SAP/HANA information views are a key tool in delivering Business Intelligence and Custom App Development Solutions to our customers.

In some cases, information views can get quite complex. Visualization and documentation features offered by development tools, like HANA Studio, do not always provide the kind of insight we need to create or maintain our solutions.

One very particular and concrete case is creating technical documentation, or preparing presentation materials for knowledge transfer sessions to handover to the customer support organization. In the past, some of our consultants would manually piece together overview slides of the data objects (information views, tables) that make up our solutions. I decided to try to whip up a solution that would make tasks like this a little simpler.

How do I install and run Shivers?

The simplest option is to download a archive from github. You can then unzip the archive, and open the index.html file inside in a modern webbrowser (tested with chrome and IE11 but should work in all modern browsers).

Note that you do not need to install shivers on a web server or HANA XS server. It runs directly from your local disk in your browser. Of course, you can install Shivers on a webserver or HANA XS server if you like, and then you can open Shivers by navigating to the url corresponding to the place where you installed Shivers. But this won't affect how Shivers works.

How do I load information views into Shivers so I can visualize them?

On the Shivers toolbar in the top of the application, you'll find a file chooser button. When you click that, a file browser will open. Use it to browse to whatever location on your local disk where you keep your information view source files.

I for example have my HANA Studio workspace stored in C:\Users\rbouman\hana_work, so I browse to that location and then find the appropriate path in the subdirectories to the HANA System and package I'm interested in. When I found a directory containing information view source files, I selected them, and confirm the file chooser.

Shivers will then prompt for a package name. It needs to do this to know how other views could refer to this set of views. Since the package name is itself not stored in the information view source files, the user has to supply that information. Later, when analyzing dependencies, Shivers will use the entered package name and match it with pacakge names it encounters inside the information view source files, when that information view refers to other information views.

After these steps, Shivers will populate the treeview on the left-hand side of the screen with the package structure and entries for the information views you loaded.

Note that shivers has a log tab. The log tab will report about the loading process, and it will also report it whenever it loads and information view that depends on other information views that are currently not loaded into Shivers. If you want to make complete and exhaustive graphs, you should then also load whichever file is reported in the log tab as an omitted dependency.

When the loaded files are visible in the treeview, you can click on any of the treenodes representing an information view. When you select one, a tab will open inside the Shivers window, showing a dependency graph of the selected information view.

Shivers currently does not do any clever layout of your dependency graphs. But you can manually drag and place items inside the graph to make it look good.

When you are done editing your graph, you can right click it, and choose "Export Image" to export the visualization to a png file, which you can then use in your technical documentation or knowledge transfer presentation slide deck.

What about HADES?

In my previous blogpost ( I wrote about HADES, which is a bunch of (open source) utilities to report on information view metadata.

In a way, HADES and SHIVERS complement each other.

HADES are server-side tools (so far, only stored routines) that help analysis of information views. HADES is data-oriented, and requires access to a HANA SQL client and allows you to extract just about any information you'll ever want to know about your information views. But, HADES is in a way also very low-level, and using it effectively requires SQL skills.

Shivers is a graphically oriented client-side tool. It is implemented as a web page, that you start in your browser, directly from your file system. Shivers does not require any connection to a HANA Server. Rather, you use checked out information view source files (.analyticview, .attributeview and .calculationview files), load them into shivers, and then the tool does static code and dependency analysis. So far, possibilities to extend or influence reporting of Shivers are very limited. Shivers draws dependency graphs of your information views, and for now - that is it.

Why is Shivers an offline client-side tool?

Implementing Shivers as non-server, client side tool was a very deliberate decision. At our customer's systems, we cannot assume that we are allowed to install our tools on the HANA Server for just any purpose. So we really must have a solution that works regardless of that. What we can assume is that we have access to the information view source files, since we mostly work with HANA Studio and check out information view source files from the HANA repository all the time.

What are the terms and conditions for using Shivers?

Shivers is open source software under the Apache 2.0 License. This should give you all the freedom to copy, use, modify and distribute Shivers, free of charge, provided you respect the Apache License.

How can I get support Shivers?

We at Just BI are always happy to help if you run into any issue, but Shivers is not currently a for-profit solution. If necessary we can always negotiate professional support should you require it.

We Want your Feedback!

Please check out Shivers and let us know what you think. You can either drop me a line at this blog. Or you can post issues in the github change tracker.

Don't be shy - bugs, new feature proposals, critique - everything is welcome. Just let us know :)

You can also fork the shivers project, and contribute your work back via a pull request.

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