by Elwood Philbrick - Envisn, Inc.
A frequently asked question is whether IBM Cognos provides any tools for helping administrators manage their BI environment. The answer is both yes and no. IBM Cognos does provide a tool that enables users to browse their Content Store. A link for downloading this tool is at the end of this article.
What it covers
The Cognos 8 Content Manager browser tool provides a tree view of the objects in the Content Store. The major categories are:
- Capability – Shows what studios are available, scheduling, lineage, etc.
- Configuration – This is the detail of the Cognos installation settings as currently configured
- Directory – The structure of the user groups and roles along with Personal Folders
- Public Folders – Shows all of the public folders and the objects that they contain including reports, queries, views, packages and versions, etc.
As you navigate up and down the branches of the tree within these categories you will see the detail properties on the right side of your screen for whatever object you have selected. So if you were looking at a report, for example, you can see all of the properties and parameters of this report. If you chose “specification” here it would give you the detail specs for this report including data lineage. The problem, however, is that this can only be viewed or opened in Notepad, and when doing that you get a mega dump of XML like content that can be difficult to parse for consumable information. So yes, you can drill down into the detail but when you get it you may not find it very useable.
The tool also has a search capability so you can search selectively for virtually anything in the Content Store. This includes wild card searches as well. There apparently is a limit on searching, however, since you could encounter a Content Store lockout if the Record Read Limit exceeds 5000. But if you are looking for something specific and can narrow your search this feature can be helpful.
How it’s best used
Areas where this Content Manager Browser Tool can be useful are for finding things and looking at relationships between objects. Thus, if you wanted to know which package, or version of a package, that a particular report was using you could easily find that by first finding the report and then looking at the properties section to find the package being used. If you wanted to look at the folder structure of your Cognos environment it is easier to use this tool for browsing that than to try and do this in the Cognos portal itself. You can quickly drill down into the tree structure to see both personal and public folders. The tool also provides a snapshot for all settings and properties for all objects in the Content Store and the Cognos software configuration. So if you know what you need it’s relatively easy to look it up. Basically, it is most useful when looking for point to point relationships between objects and for finding the detail properties of individual objects.
While useful, the tool has some limitations:
- An obvious one is that navigation up and down the tree structure can be tedious and time consuming.
- No ability to see one-to-many relationships. A frequent question that arises is which objects use this model or package or how many models or reports use this database table?
- It also does not have any capability to aggregate or analyze any of the objects or properties. Cognos administrators spend a great deal of time doing two things: managing change and trying to get answers to specific questions, often very detailed ones. Both require the capability to aggregate and analyze in multiple different ways.
- Effective presentation – While all of the detail like specifications, data lineage, etc. are there, it is not really available in a consumable manner. In those rare instances where you have to wade through this for that one piece of data you need, it’s likely to be something you’ll only do once.
The Cognos 8 Content Manager Browser Tool may be helpful when you need to know specific detail about an object or folder structure or license capabilities. To go much beyond that will require a more robust third party tool such as NetVisn.
You can find the download here: Cognos 8 Content Manager Browser Tool
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