PollView / CA-ACM Best Practices
Rev. 1.6 April 4, 2007
This document is intended to provide the PollView / ACM¹ user with a set of policies and procedures for maintaining their ACM system in peak performance. This information has been developed after years of selling, maintaining, supporting, and customizing ACM by G&Z Systems. In addition, our close working relationship with the CA Development and Support staff over the years has resulted in a superior technical expertise with all aspects of this product. It is our hope that much of our valuable experience can be communicated to our customers via this document.
This is the controlling hub of your polling or data transport system. Essentially it is a scheduler, a database manager, and transfer monitor. Today the ACM Server runs on the major UNIX systems (AIX, HP, Solaris, SCO, etc.) as well as Windows.
This is the collection of tables which track the information on remote sites, transfer ports, tasks to be executed, and schedules for your polling. Under UNIX, the database is contained in a set of C-Tree files. Under Windows, Microsoft SQL Server is used.
ACM User Interface
This consists of both a character-based menu program (the CUI) or a Windows GUI called the AWS (Administrative Workstation). The AWS GUI runs only under Windows. There are separate versions for controlling either the Windows ACM Server or a UNIX ACM Server, however, the functionality is almost identical.
This is the remote agent software which provides file transfer and remote command execution support at the target system. A CA-MLINK Client is available for most UNIX platforms, all Windows platforms, as well as DOS and OS/2.
ACM is available as an optional component of G & Z's PollView data transport solution. This exciting interface to ACM was developed by G&Z Systems. In PollView Advanced and PollView Enterprise, it uses the power of CA-Unicenter® to provide object-oriented access to the ACM database and "at-a-glance" management of your polling process. Additional transport options to PollView Advanced and Enterprise are FTP, CA-XCOM® and CA's Advantage Data Transport.
For additional information on PollView Advanced and PollView Enterprise,
Most of the practices below apply equally well to both the UNIX and Windows ACM Servers. Where an item applies to one or the other, you will see a special indicator, either
for Window-only items,
Installation, Setup, and Maintenance
These items apply to the initial installation, configuration, and setup of your ACM system.
Define an Event Site and an Event Port
An Event Site is a site that is used to schedule work to be done on the ACM Server itself. The only valid tasks for a task list running on an Event Site are local commands, i.e. you cannot transfer files or run a remote command because the Event Site is not communicating with a remote MLINK target. In order to run a task list, an Event Port must be defined and activated. Establishing these entities will allow you to implement some of the other practices described below.
An advanced technique is to use multiple event sites if you want to run multiple event sessions. This will let you examine the status for each session on its Site Status report rather than only the last one run, which is all that is available when using a single Event Site. This makes it easier to see at a glance if all event processes worked ok. A suggested Event Site naming scheme might be: PREPOLL, MIDPOLL, POSTPOLL.
Be Sure to Set up the Environment Variables
The MLINK environment variable must be properly set to the path of the directory containing the MLINK and ACM executables.
The MLINK environment variable must be properly set to point at your user MLINK area directory and then directory containing the MLINK and ACM executables separated by a semi-colon ex: /usr/acmuser;/usr/MLINK.
Whatever your platform it is highly recommended that the MLINK directory be added to the system PATH.
Set up a Test Environment
Be sure to plan for a test polling environment. You should have a representative sample of remote system types available for test polling. All task list or batch update changes should be tested using these sites before applying to the production sites. There are two ways to isolate your polling sites. The easiest method is to assign your test sites to a test distribution list. The second method is to use a separate test database. This insures more isolation between test and production systems. Test any changes before rolling them out to the enterprise!
Apply Maintenance with Care Updates and upgrades from CA should be applied using some common sense cautionary steps. Before applying upgrades or patches, be sure your backups are up to date. Be sure to copy or rename any module or file that is being replaced. Review the G&Z Systems Web Site regularly for the latest information on tips, workarounds, and patches. Perhaps the wisest practice of all is to keep your maintenance agreements with G&Z up to date.
Set the Rollover Time
Set the ACM servers "rollover time" to be just prior to first session for the day (e.g. when your Event Site session starts). Then when viewing reports the following day, the report menus or dialogs will be primed with the proper start date and time, so you can easily view the entire session time for the previous polling session.
These items apply specifically to the care and feeding of the ACM Server once it has been installed and is working.
Establish a Log Archiving Scheme
It is critical that you establish a log archiving policy to prevent the accumulation of vast amounts of data in the ACM Log table. Use the Event site and define a task list and session that will archive the log at a regular interval. For the Task List, use the amarchiv script. For the session, first determine how many days worth of logs you need to have available for reporting. Then configure the Number of Logs to Keep setting via the user interface to that number. Set up the session to run daily at a time when no polling activity is likely to occur. When you set this up to run every day, the process is quick and simple. It should be scheduled as the first task of the polling cycle.
Back up Your Database Tables In addition to normal system and SQL Server backups, you should also use the Event Site to backup the key ACM Database tables. We recommend using a daily session for this. Typically this operation is done in the same session as the Log archiving process mentioned above. Use the amdbunld script (UNIX) or command (Windows) to export the key tables to ASCII text files. This provides a ready backup which can be accessed without resorting to tapes or other removable media. The following tables should be exported: site1, site2, port, sched, task, path. We do not recommend exporting the log table since that usually produces a large export file and that table contains non-critical data. The remaining tables in the database, event and strack are not recommend for exporting since on a database recovery (via amdbload) you will not want to restore those tables, but rather let ACM recreate them as needed. Important: this procedure should supplement, not replace, your normal full system and (in Windows) SQL data backups.
Back up Your Dial Up Networking (DUN) phone book
Users of G&Zs exclusive RAS access module will want to make a back up of the Windows DUN Phonebook at the same frequency as the database table backup noted above. G&Zs RAS access module supports remote TCP/IP access to RAS enabled Windows remote target systems. RAS access increases you flexibility to support Remote Control, Polling, and other network based applications while managing just one type of link.
Watch Your Disk Utilization
Be sure to keep an eye on disk utilization on the file system or drive where ACM is installed. In UNIX systems, all ACM data is kept in the MLINK user directory. In Windows, most of ACMs data is kept in SQL Server, so the devices and drives used by that product should be monitored. Of course, implementing a log archiving policy recommended above is your best protection from ACM using too much disk space. Be aware, however, that other programs or the amount of data you are collecting daily may be using up your disk space also. PollView includes an Asset Management component that is easily configured to automatically monitor disk space and issue an alert when utilization surpasses your established threshold.
Stop ACM Gracefully
Whenever possible, stop the ACM database before shutting down your system. This can be done several ways, the easiest being the use of the amstop script. Failure to stop the database before shutdown may result in database corruption, depending on the activity occurring at the time of shutdown.
Keep SQL Server Healthy
Since ACM on Windows uses SQL Server, be sure you develop good maintenance practices for that product. Using SQL Enterprise Managers Database Maintenance Wizard, set up a maintenance plan for the ACM database. Such tasks as re-organizing the indices can keep your ACM running at peak performance. Failure to do so may result in degraded performance over time. Here is a quick description of the activity of the nine ACM database tables. Use this information to plan your SQL maintenance tasks.
|ACM Table||Type of Activity|
|log||High activity, many INSERTs normal usage. Log archiving causes many UPDATEs and DELETEs. Reporting causes many SELECTs.|
|site1, site2, port||Stable data, few updates. Many SELECTs.|
|event||Very volatile, but does not contain much data (one row per site). Moderate number of SELECTs.|
|strack||Only used if batch submission tracking used. Not a heavily used table.|
|task||Under standard usage, fairly stable data, with large number of SELECTs. Using techniques recommended below, most data in this table is re-built daily, so there is high volatility. Typically this table contains the largest volume of data, other than the log.|
|sched||Stable data, with usually low usage. Use of interval polling increases volume of SELECTs slightly.|
|path||Stable data (in many cases no data), low usage.|
These items are some useful tips for using ACM effectively.
Do Not Run ACM or MLINK as root User
Running ACM or MLINK with the root userid will alter permissions on critical files in the MLINK directory. This often results in a failure of ACM. Either use your normal login id or define a new one for ACM purposes.
Do Not Run ACM or MLINK as root User
This is really important, so were repeating it!
Maximum Number of Distribution Lists
Be aware that there is a limit of 100 distribution lists in the PollView interface at this time.
Exploit the Batch Update Facility
As a rule, it is preferable to create your task lists using batch updates, rather than regular task list add and the "copy task lists" function. Batch updates allow you to quickly update task lists for any number of sites. The macro facility of batch updates also permit the generation of task lists with file and path names that can vary based on the day of the week, day of the month, and the site number. Over the years, G&Z has developed a method where each sites task list is rebuilt every night before polling by using batch updates. This rebuild is initiated by an Event Site, using the amsubmit script, well before the daily polling period begins. There are even advantages to using batch updates when you have a task list which only is used on a single site or a few sites. For example, you can quickly create a new version of a task list for a site, make a small modification and test it without affecting the production task list.
Do not let Site Sessions Overlap
Be sure that whenever you add a session to a site that it does not run within the timewindow of another session for that site. You need to take care especially when copying sessions to other sites in PollView-that you have sufficient knowledge that the timewindow in the session you copy does not overlap another session's timewindow.
Unexpected and possibly undesired results may happen if a site has two sessions scheduled to run during all or part of the same time window.
Consider Keeping Daily Polling Data Online
Using a batch update to re-build task lists daily, it is easy to build a directory structure on the host system which can keep each days polling data in a separate sub-directory. As an example, if you retrieve a file called SALES.DAT from each site nightly, using a batch update with this entry:
will retrieve the file into a different directory for each day (via the $D macro) and assign the site number (via the $S macro) to the filename. You now can keep an entire months data online for backup purposes. If this is too much data, the $W macro can be used to keep one weeks worth online.
Exploit the Distribution List Facility
Distribution lists are groups of sites that allow you to quickly perform operations on multiple sites. Generally, you should have at least one distribution list which contains all of your production polling sites. This is necessary because selecting the "all sites" feature (using "*") is not effective because you need to exclude test sites, as well as any Event sites.
Automate Your Reporting
If you need to generate daily reports from your polling sessions, use an Event site and the amreport script. Such reports as the Failed Sites, Process Detail Audit, Operations Detail Audit, etc. can be automatically run and saved for future reference.
Note that in the Windows environment, reports cannot be sent directly to a Windows printer via this script, so you may have to save the reports as files and print to a re-directed LPT1: via the print line command.
When Not To use File Transfer Compression
As a general rule performance will take a hit when you try to compress an already compressed file such as files that have the suffix .zip or .Z. Small files should not be compressed as the added cpu cost for compression will not bear much benefit.
Reduce Connect Time by using the HANGUP and DEFER commands
The HANGUP command allows you to disconnect from the remote target while still maintaining your session to accomplish other server based tasks (such as initiating the processing of the just received data). Utilize the DEFER command to run a task at the remote target after the communication link has been severed. Keep in mind that you will need to establish a method to determine whether the task that was DEFERed has executed as desired.
Here are some hints to help you with problem determination.
Debug Communication Problems by First Using MLINK
If you are getting communication failures, with messages in the ACM log such as "Dial failed," "Host mode failed," "Login failure," etc., first try to contact the remote system using MLINK by itself. Simply open a command prompt and type MLINK c. Using the MLINK menus, set up the proper communication parameters for the remote client, either Modem or TCP/IP, and then try to establish contact. If using a Modem connection, you will have to enter a phone number and dial the remote MLINK. For TCP/IP, enter a network address and option port, and then return to the main menu. Once you have demonstrated a successful connection to the remote MLINK, retry the ACM session.
Turn off Unix Login Banners
Unix login banners often interfere with ACMs login procedures.
Solving Modem Problems
Here are some fine points you should know when using Modem (asynch) connections with ACM and MLINK:
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