Building alerts in EM12c with OBIEE Usage Tracking data


Enterprise Manager 12c is the latest and greatest incarnation of Oracle’s toolset for Enterprise Management (the clue’s in the name), of which Cloud Control (neé Grid Control) is one of the key tools. It can be used for a unified overview of disparate services including servers, databases, and of course OBIEE. Monitoring and alerting is core to EM12c, as well as extremely flexible management of any problems that arise. EM12c also offers natively all of the control and configuration functionality for OBIEE that exists in its sibling that is installed with all OBIEE installations, Enterprise Manager Fusion Middleware Control.

On this blog Mark Rittman wrote in detail about the EM12c in a series of three posts (here, here and here), and Adam Seed gave a detailed example here of how to monitor OBIEE availability using a user login simulated through a "Web Transaction" test.

In this post and the next I am going to expand on what my colleagues have covered, looking firstly at how we can use (dare I say, leverage) Usage Tracking data to drive monitoring and alerting of important areas such as response time and dashboard error rates, and secondly the incorporation of existing JMeter-based performance tests into EM12c.


EM12c has a learning curve associated with it. Just as you wouldn’t expect to grok OBIEE in an instant and a comprehension of the basics of the BI Server, an RPD, Answers, and so on will aid a good implementation, the same is true for EM12c. Just like with OBIEE's SampleApp, Oracle kindly provide a VirtualBox machine preinstalled & configured with EM12cR3 for you to test on. It's on eDelivery, linked to from here, listed under Oracle VM Templates (x86 64 bit), Part Number B73896-01.

Within EM12c objects are defined as Targets. These include servers (known as hosts), databases, database listeners, but also components of parent targets. For example, the overall FMW Domain for OBIEE is a target, but so is the BI Server and each individual java application deployment running on the WebLogic Server managed server (bi_server1) which is itself also a target

Extract of target types listed in EM12c

The data for targets is provided by an Agent typically running local to the target. The data consists of various Metrics which are Collected on a periodic basis. The frequency of a metric collection can be configured, with a different Collection Schedule per Metric. One metric that most targets will provide is Status and this particular metric is collected every minute by default. Other metrics are collected less frequently, from every 15 minutes up to once a day or less.

A targets metric collection settings Alerts within EM12c are primarily handled through Incidents, which are concisely defined as “[…a] situation or issue you need to act on”. Incidents are created from the occurence of one or more Events, which are basically something (not necessarily 'bad') that has been measured by EM12c and deemed of interest.

The reference manual gives a nice illustration of how events and incidents are related, here.

A target’s metrics trigger Events through Thresholds, which can be defined at both warning and critical levels if required. The Status metric mentioned above will have a default Critical Threshold of “Down”, which is how EM12c will raise an alert for a component that is not running.

An Incident raised for the Java Host not running

All of the above is core functionality provided by EM12c and in a sense generic to any target. Each target will have its own metrics for which thresholds can be defined, whether this is the OBIEE Presentation Services “Connection Pool Current Authentications” or the deadlock rate in TimesTen.

To provide flexibility in the monitoring that EM12c provides there is the concept of a Service. A Service can have one or more Service Tests defined within it, and these can be a variety of functions that return metrics, such as availability or performance data. From these metrics, thresholds can be defined just as they are against metric data from a pre-defined target, and thus events and notifications driven. A service test can be of many types, including:

In the remainder of this post I am going to explain how to build an EM12c Service Test based on Usage Tracking data to monitor and alert on things like failing dashboards and dashboard response times.

Usage Tracking

Usage Tracking is functionality available within OBIEE that logs every user request to the BI Server into a set of tables stored in the RCU (BIPLATFORM) tables. If you don’t have Usage Tracking enabled, you should - period. It’s easy to implement (see here for a step-by-step tutorial from Oracle), and provides a wealth of valuable data including when a report ran, which dashboard it was part of, how long it took, how many rows it returned, and even the query that was sent to the database to run it.

The information that Usage Tracking provides supports multiple purposes :

  • Short term system monitoring
    • Who has been using the system?
    • What are the long-running reports?
  • System usage profiling
    • Which dashboards get used the most?
    • Which dashboards never get run?
    • Which users are the most active?
    • When are the busiest times of day?
  • Problem analysis
    • Which reports have failed?
    • What errors have been logged in report failures?
    • Which reports are returning an excessive number of rows of data?
    • Which reports are requiring excessive number of queries on the database (and thus adding load to the BI Server in federating the results)?

Usage Tracking consists of two tables, S_NQ_ACCT for the “Logical” query from the user and S_NQ_DB_ACCT for the “Physical” query (or queries) that get sent to the database. Both tables reside in the RCU (BIPLATFORM) schema and can be queried just as you would any table in the database. They can also be modelled into the OBIEE RPD and reported on through the front end, but that’s a separate topic (have a look at the superb SampleApp v309R2 for inspiration).

For this example, let us look at a simple query against the main S_NQ_ACCT table, showing any dashboards that have failed (SUCCESS_FLG !=0) in the past 30 minutes (START_TS > SYSDATE - ( 30 / 1440 )):

       AND START_TS > SYSDATE - ( 30 / 1440 )   

Knobbling the system to throw an error in OBIEE thus:

OBIEE Dashboard showing an error

We can see the resulting data in Usage Tracking’s S_NQ_ACCT table:

OBIEE Dashboard showing an error

So there’s the error, plain to see if you go looking for it. But – how do we get EM12c to do that for us?

Integrating Usage Tracking into an EM12c Service

Wouldn’t it be useful if our Enterprise Management tool (EM12c) could monitor the rate at which errors were being received by users, and alert us if it goes above a certain rate? I certainly think so. This, and any other Usage Tracking query you care to craft, can be easily integrated into EM12c through the definition of a Service Test using the Oracle SQL Timing test type.

To start with you will create a new Generic Service which is going to be the container for this particular Service Test and any similar ones. Launch the creation process from the EM12c Setup menu in the top-right, then Add Target and Generic Service. I have defined my Generic Service as being called “OBIEE”, associated with an Exalytics system called EXA01. For non-Exalytics, just select the FMW domain (bifoundation_domain) of the system you’re monitoring.

Click Next and leave the Availability definition as “Service Test” and click Next again.

On the Service Test page, set Test Type to Oracle SQL Timing (it doesn’t matter that it’s called a “timing” test even though we’re more interested in the rows returned). Set the Collection frequency to be however often you want to run this check – but make sure the value you choose matches up with the timespan you specify in your SQL otherwise you’ll miss or double-count errors.

Specify your RCU database details and credentials, and then paste your SQL statement into the Query area. Note that whilst the query above brings back details of the failed analysis, the test we’re building is simply looking at the number of rows, so for the sake of brevity our SQL statement could actually just select a single column – it’s the predicate that matters.

Click Next to move to the Beacons definition page. A Beacon is a host from which the test will be executed. For the purposes of this type of test it doesn’t matter from where it runs, but other types of testing (including JMeter that I’ll talk about in the next post) it is very useful to be able to define multiple, geographically separated, execution hosts (“Beacons”). So for now, just click Add and select the pre-defined EM Management Beacon.

On the next screen, Performance Metrics, click the radio button next to the default Total Time (ms) and click Delete. Then with “Based on Service Test” selected in the menu click on Go

Select the metric Number of Rows Fetched and click Continue. Now you can set the desired thresholds for your new metric – how many analyses should fail in the time period (eg 30 minutes) should cause a Warning, and how many would be Critical?
Click Next and leave the Usage Metrics undefined. Click Next to go to the Review page and then Finish to create the service. If all has gone well you should now see your service listed along with a green arrow under “Key Tests” showing that the service test we just built (the only service test so far, therefore the Key Test by definition) is up.

Click on the name of your service and under Key Test summary you should see your service test listed.

Click on the name of it to see the data it has collected – if you’ve only just created it then most likely there will be no data shown. As with all new configurations and targets in EM12c, you have to practice a bit of patience for agents and the like to sync up, to hit their collection frequency, and so on. If you are feeling impatient, you can click on Verify Service Test to get to a screen from where you can manually run it (note that clicking this alone doesn’t run the service test yet).
On the next screen, click on Perform Test to actually run the service test. It should momentarily refresh the screen and show the results, including the number of rows fetched.
To validate the service test, generate some failures in OBIEE if you haven't already (locking the datawarehouse DB account is a quick -if unsubtle- way to do this) and wait for the service test collection interval to come round. You should see an incident raised:
The great thing about defining a service test is that it keeps history, so you can track things like error rates over time. The service page gives an overview:
From the overview you can drill into detail for time periods:
You can also see the metric’s value against the warning and threshold settings:

Using the same Usage Tracking data but displayed through OBIEE, it is possible to see the actual failures and associated dashboards and users:


This is using the Usage Tracking RPD that comes with SampleApp v309R2, merged into the existing RPD running on my system. SampleApp also includes a comprehensive set of dashboards based on Usage Tracking data.


So that wraps up my first post on this subject, demonstrating creating a custom service test to make use of the invaluable Usage Tracking data. Next, I’ll be looking at how we can integrate JMeter tests into EM12c for clever reuse of existing code and a simple way of tracking system performance.