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CMDB is great out of the box. All the classes and relationships we ship are very well inline with the business environments that our products serve. However! Every once in a while you'll have to extend the common data model with a couple more attributes, class definitions or product data loads.  Last October, I presented a Webinar "How to unlock the potential of Common Data Model in BMC Atrium CMDB" covering how to extend the CDM using Class Manager.  You can view the recording here. In this blog post, I would like to extend on the topic to talk about products which extend the CDM as part of an installer or by loading a CMDB Extension with the Maintenance Tool.

 

 

Several current products use extensions to the CMDB including BMC ProactiveNet Performance Manager (BPPM), Configuration Discovery Integration for CMDB (CDI), and it is also used for loading Product Catalog data updates. The reason for the separate install step is to make all the required changes semi-automatically, and hopefully painlessly.  This takes the element of human error out of it, so it can be an either "it worked, no big deal" or "it didn’t work " what happened?" experience.  Whenever I look at a failure, I always ask the question " "What was unexpected in the environment that blocked the operations the extension was trying to perform?"  I seek to understand.  There is a "Zen" to it. It should be a rational exercise, not a physical one like trying to stuff pythons in a paper bag. Below, I will highlight some of the ways the product has tried to prevent, improve, or minimize the room for failure, and share some of the ways I think about it as I look into issues.  Hopefully it leads to a more peaceful state for your CMDB and yourself.

 

As far as ensuring the server is in a good state before running the install, this is a general feature.  It is a good feature to have even when not running installations, so the AtriumCoreMaintenanceTool has a Health Check feature.  You can read more about it in the documentation here.  You can find more about other tools that can help in this regard in Jesse’s post 7 Tools to verify BMC Atrium CMDB is working well in the section on Verifying Product Installation and Environment.

 

If you've had to extend the model or planning on doing so then this is what you should know:

 

Extending the CDM means that you're altering tables in the database to add additional columns or maybe even creating an altogether new table to house the data you'll be collecting from your environment. Simply said, we need to add more labels so we have to define containers for our data.

 

With that in mind imagine that already have a physical container defined like a cupboard or jar and you needed to add just a few things to it and you were able to add two labels but could not fit the third because it ran out of space. This would make sense to us humans, but the installer still thinks that 1 and 2 need to be added because it was not told otherwise. You could argue "can’t the installer be made more intelligent, to examine what is already in the cupboard or jar?".  Now consider the case that the items interact with one another as they are added, and have different rules on what can be stored multiple times.

 

Does that make the challenge of ensuring reliable completion more complex?  You bet it does!So the extension installer follows strict orders " install, check for errors. In case of unforeseen circumstances, wait for further instruction. Basically the extension installer is instructed to add all three items and that is exactly what it tries to do. If it fails during the install, and the install is attempted again This causes a data structure collision because 1 and 2 already exist and hence a failure of the extension loader. Running it again will not change these results. It will keep failing on exactly the same collisions points it failed before. So, don't run the extension loader again hoping for different results. Instead look at the logs and see where the installer hit its first issue. There could have been a requirement to create a dataset first, either a manual step that was missed or a dependency that was violated. When investigating issues, it is sometimes useful to look at the manifest of files in the extension to see what it is trying to load. This helps to understand why an error occurs.

 

 

There are two types of extension loaders. One that comes with an executable e.g. simExtLoader.exe or pnExtLoader.exe) and AtriumCore\AtriumCoreMaintenanceTool.cmd.  AtriumCoreMaintenanceTool is installed with Atrium Core version 7.5 and later and provides the tool for loading CMDB extensions, so more information about extensions and what they contain can be found in the Atrium Core documentation.

 

Executable loaders can use CMDBDRIVER to deliver their "payload" from each subdirectory of the loader. For example 500-SIM-CDM-Extensions directory for simExtLoader has Class extensions as well as *OSD.txt files that have instructions on what to do.  The reason for executable loaders is to perform additional steps or checks as part of the install, but the subset which is installing CMDB extensions is largely the same.

 

Some loaders also add Normalization or Reconciliation jobs, Federated Launch Links and so on. These will be stored in the "arx" files in subdirectories of the extension loader. These additional records can also be only added once and if you run the installer again they will cause further failures but this time as a data collision rather than data structure collision. Again, here the installer is programmed to install all these things as if they never existed and the instructions basically say:

 

"Create New", rather than using this logic: "If you find it there already, then update it or move on to the next".

 

This is so because the original need to extend the CMDB still applies and the installer just knows that it has not been completed yet.

 

Above, I mentioned the marching orders of the Extension loader:  install, check for errors. In case of unforeseen circumstances, wait for further instruction.  The latter part of that was added in CMDB 7.6.04.  If an extension is currently loading, or has attempted to load and has failed, why should it be allowed to run again and make a mess of things?  It shouldn’t, so a simple mechanism was put in place to prevent that situation. When it runs, it adds records to a form called "Share:Application_Properties" that reflects the version of the extension and record the Status of the installation progress. If the installer needs to install Product Catalog data, which is also considered to be "an extension" of the CMDB then you'd be referencing the ProductCatalogData-2012_07_03.xml. The name of this file reflects the 2013 Product Catalog data load made available in July 3rd. Its contents will have GUID reference for Share:Application_Properties that checks the version of the PCT installed on your system.

 

 

In the case of Product Catalog that ID is "PD00C04FA081BA0SvxQgaxH66Q1wQA" and it is validated for version 7.6.04 or greater.

The next GUID it will then add to Share:Application_Properties (SAP) form is going to be "BMCPC00C04FA081BAbpfqSA9gV41Ar". This particular ID is then used to track the progress of the data load. This is done by adding a record to SAP with Name of Status and Value of Running. If the install fails the value will be changed to Failed.

 

 

At the conclusion of the install's completion this Status record is removed. If this record still exists and has Failed status then the installer is not going to let you do it again.

 

 

@BMC Software we have designed this part specifically for the reasons described above which are:

 

- Run the Health Check or verify the system is in a good state before installing extensions

- Run it once only

- Evaluate reasons for failure and address them individually

- If you can't complete them manually then restore the database and fix the original condition and run the installer once. Repeat if necessary, or identify individual component failures and complete the extension loading manually component by component.

 

 

I hope this post provides a better understanding of the rules that the extension loaders live by, and some of the thinking behind them.Hopefully this leads to more zen-like experiences with extending the CDM. I have probably skipped something so I am looking forward to see further questions on this topic so that we can have a full disclosure here for anyone to follow.

 

If you like content like this, see  BMC Remedy Support Blogs for more like it.

 

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Thank you for reading!

Daniel