Graphical aid for generating object setup scripts (patent pending)

I joined IBM as an information developer intern (co-op) in June of 2005.  Dell Burner, my team lead, was working on a project with our visual designer and user experience engineer to create a quick start visual for setting up WebSphere MQ for use with Q replication. Q replication is a database replication technology that is extremely high performing due to its architecture and infrastructure. The integral piece of making Q replication out perform standard SQL-based replication is that it pushes its instructions over WebSphere MQ message queues.

WebSphere MQ administrators are a whole different audience than DB2 database administrators.  These two different products are like night and day. DB2 database administrators typically don’t know anything about WebSphere MQ and also are not likely allowed to touch the WebSphere MQ configurations.

Q replication was facing a major customer pain point when it came to configuring WebSphere MQ. The DBAs were not skilled in the technologies needed to implement it. In most shops, there were communication and procedural barriers to getting the environment configured. In most cases, the best case scenario for getting just the WebSphere MQ portion of the environment configured was a minimum of 1-2 days. If the DBAs were working in a z/OS shop, that time frame could be even longer.

Of course a best case scenario means all parties involved are well versed in their requirements and can communicate those from DBA to WebSphere MQ admin.

In an effort to ease the learning curve of Q replication, Dell Burner, Daina Pupons-Wickham, Kevin Lau, and Michael Mao undertook an effort to create a diagram based document and supporting instructions for assisting DBAs to create their setup scripts that they would ask the WebSphere MQ admins to run.

My contribution

I was just two months into my coop and Dell was showing me the PDF of the diagram that he was going to present to one of our vice presidents later that day.  I had worked with PDFs a bit in previous jobs and at school and knew that I could add some additional functionality to his design that would improve it further.

In its current state, the diagram was intended to be printed out and the DBA was expected to hand write on it the names of the objects (while cross referencing the docs) that they expected their WebSphere MQ admin to create.  That first day before Dell presented to our VP, I was able to add text input fields that a user could type into instead of hand writing. I also added tooltips to each of the fields that added embedded assistance to help with explaining each of the objects to cut down on the need for looking up documentation.

Dell’s presentation was a hit even though it was just minor updates to the existing diagram.  As much as I added in just a single day, I knew there was still significant room for improvement.

PDFs support what is called “calculations” and other processing of form entries. An author can add JavaScript instructions and functions into the PDF that allow it to become more dynamic. I had already added all of the text fields and tooltips–why should we expect the DBAs to assemble their setup scripts when we could do it form them?

I created additional scripts that would take a users input into the diagram and transform the input into fully functional WebSphere MQ scripts that could be run as is. The instructions and PDF forms were also customized depending on the type of Q replication environment (unidirectional, bidirectional, peer-to-peer, event publishing, etc).

Download a copy of this tool from: WebSphere MQ Script generator for Q replication and event publishing

Watch a demo of the tool at: The MQ Script Generator – ChannelDB2

User testing

While still in the draft state and testing the scripts, we performed user testing and validation. We were able to measure that the new PDF tool was able to reduce user task time from 24-48 hours to down to 15-20 minutes.   Obviously a significant improvement in time and thus customer’s ROI.

Patent application

After some thought and later research, we determined that no one else had done anything similar. We filed our international patent application (US Patent App # 20070162891) in January of 2006. In July of 2009, we finally heard back from our first patent office–China granted our patent for our invention “Graphical aid for generating object setup scripts.” Chinese patent number is #ZL200710001513.4.

Later additions and enhancements

Eventually Adobe added the capabilities to Adobe Acrobat Professional that allowed content creaters to create “rights-enabled” PDFs. This basically means you can allow a user of your PDF that only has Adobe Reader to be able to save their filled out forms. Previously, the lack of that capability was extremely limiting.  With the addition of this capability, the InfoSphere Replication Server product now bundles my tool as a launchable function from the GUI.

While this PDF definitely helped reduce a major customer pain point, I believe its implementation could have been done in a richer way if we could have gotten a programmer to build the actual functionality into the product. This began as kind of a demonstration and turned into its own full-fledged tool.

Other use cases of this capability are constantly popping up so you might see something come along soon.

2 thoughts on “Graphical aid for generating object setup scripts (patent pending)

  1. Pingback: Brett Johnson » Information developer or software engineer? Or something in between?

  2. Pingback: Patent #7,627,854 – Graphical Aid for Generating Object Setup Scripts « Brett Johnson

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