Update to Installing UniVerse on CentOS post

I’ve been asked a few times on how to get the U2 DBTools products, like XAdmin to connect to their VirtualBox machine. I obviously left something out in the article, so I’ve went back and updated the post for how to configure your firewall. You can follow these same steps for UniData as well.

Just to make sure you don’t miss it, I decided I should also duplicate it here…

Configure firewall

If you want to access UniVerse (say using XAdmin from the U2 DBTools package), you will need to modify your iptables configuration.

First, in my case I have the VirtualBox network adapter set to ‘Bridged’. Now, in a shell window update iptables ‘sudo vi /etc/sysconfig/iptables’

In vi, before any LOG or REJECT lines, add ‘-A INPUT -m state –state NEW -m tcp -p tcp –dport 31438 -j ACCEPT’.

Once that is done, you simple run ‘service iptables restart’ to pick up the changes.

The updated iptables file

The updated iptables file

XAdmin once connected

XAdmin once connected

Installing UniVerse on CentOS 6.2

July 8, 2012 1 comment

Previously we looked at installing UniData on a Linux machine. This time around we are going to install UniVerse on a CentOS 6.2. I’ve chosen CentOS as it is essentially a re-branded (de-branded?) version Red Hat Enterprise Linux. RHEL is officially supported by Rocket Software, making CentOS a great free OS for playing around with U2 databases.

As always, I suggest you do this in a Virtual Machine so that you can create as many dedicated test systems as your heart desires (or storage limits). For this I’ve used Oracle’s Virtual Box which is available for free.


Okay, so to start, let’s make sure we have everything we need to do this:

  1. Suggested: Dual Core CPU or better (particularly if running as a VM)
  2. Suggested: 2GB RAM or better (particularly if running as a VM)
  3. Virtual Box software
  4. Latest CentOS LiveCD/LiveDVD ISO (as of 2012/06/07, version 6.2)
  5. UniVerse Personal Edition for Linux

Preparing the VM

After you have installed Virtual Box and have it running, we will need to create a new image to run CentOS. Doing this is as simple as clicking the ‘New’ button and follow the prompts.

Create a new Virtual Machine

Most questions can be left as is, except for the operating system. For the operating system, set it to ‘Linux’ with version ‘Red Hat’.

My old laptop has 2GB of RAM, so I’m assigning 1GB to this machine image.

Setting the Virtual Machine's  memory

I stick with dynamic allocation of my disks for most testing as it is easier to move the smaller images around. For more serious work, you might be better served creating a fixed disk size as it generally performs better.

Selecting the disk type

The default 8GB disk is just fine. You can always create and add more disks later.

Now that you have your machine image ready, select the image and click on the settings button. In this screen click on the storage option and select the DVD drive from the IDE Controller. On the right-side there is a small CD/DVD image you can click on then select the option that let’s you choose a CD/DVD image. This will let you select the CentOS ISO you downloaded so we can boot from it.

Virtual Machine settings

While in the settings screen, you should also add a shared folder and click on the read-only and auto-mount checkbox options.

Installing CentOS

CentOS-UniVerse [Running]

If you are not installing this as a virtual machine, you can burn the ISO image to CD/DVD and start the machine with the CD/DVD in the drive (or on modern machines, via USB drive). Only do this is you know what you are doing or are intending to have CentOS as the sole operating system. From here on in, I’ll be assuming you are taking the VM route.

Select the VM image and click on the start button.

CentOS should auto-boot from the CD/DVD image. Once it has loaded and is sitting at the desktop, there is an ‘Install to Hard Drive’ option. Click on this and follow the installation instructions CentOS provides you. Generally speaking, the default options are the ones you want.

Early on in the installation CentOS will issue a ‘Storage Device Warning’. This is for your newly created 8GB disk. In this case you can select ‘Yes, discard any data’. Warning: If you are not doing this in a VM, you must know what you are doing or you risk losing data.

Storage Device Warning

Where it asks you for hostname, you can leave it as the default. I’ve taken to naming them {OS}.{DB} in lowercase; so in this case I’m naming it ‘centos.universe’.

Once the installation is finished, you can restart the VM image. Be sure to remove the CD/DVD image so that it boots from the hard drive. It will ask you a few final questions once it restarts (such as entering a non-root user) before it takes you to the login prompt.

To make our life easier, once we have logged in, we will add ourselves to the list of allowed sudoers. To do this, open a terminal window by selecting Applications -> System Tools -> Terminal. I also added this shortcut to the desktop since I use it so much.

In the terminal, switch to the root user by running ‘su -‘. We can now edit the list of sudoers using visudo. At the end of the file, add ‘{user} ALL=(ALL) ALL’ where {user} is the username you created for yourself earlier.

Now is a good time to shut down and take a back-up of the image so you can clone as many freshly minted VM’s as you want. I also try to do some common tasks such as installing/updating gcc (terminal: ‘sudo yum install gcc’), installing Google Chrome (http://google.com/chrome) and ant (terminal: ‘sudo yum install ant’) first.

Installing UniVerse

Download UniVerse Personal Edition inside your VM image and place it into a temporary directory.

While you are waiting for it to download, you can create the ‘uvsql’ user we will require later. From the ‘System’ menu, select ‘Administration’ -> ‘Users and Groups’. Once you have the program up, click on the ‘Add User’ button, then fill in the username and password fields. Click ok and exit out of the user manager.

Create uvsql user

Open up a terminal window then change to your temporary directory where the UniVerse download is located. The first step will be to extract everything from the compressed file; to do this you can type in ‘unzip UVPE_RHLNXENTINT_11.1.9.zip’. Replace ‘UVPE_RHLNXENTINT_11.1.9.zip’ with whatever the downloaded filename is in your case.

The next step will be to extract the uv.load script to install UniVerse. To complete this step, run this command to extract it from the STARTUP archive: ‘cpio -ivcBdum uv.load < ./STARTUP'

You can now run uv.load as root with the following command: 'sudo ./uv.load'. Select 1 on the first prompt to install UniVerse with 'root' as the default owner. This is okay as we are just building a dev system.

On the next screen select option 4 to change the 'Install Media Path' to whatever the path of the temporary location you extracted UniVerse into. In my case it was '/home/itcmcgrath/temp'. The rest of the options are okay being left set to the defaults. Press [Enter] to continue with the installation process.

UniVerse will now be installed then put you into an administrative program. [Esc] out of this to drop to a UniVerse prompt then type in 'QUIT' to drop back to the command line.

There you have it, a working UniVerse server running in a Virtual Machine. Shutdown your VM and take a copy of the machine image so you have a fresh copy of UniVerse in easy reach.

Installation completed

Update: Configure firewall

If you want to access UniVerse (say using XAdmin from the U2 DBTools package), you will need to modify your iptables configuration.

First, in my case I have the VirtualBox network adapter set to ‘Bridged’. Now, in a shell windows update iptables ‘sudo vi /etc/sysconfig/iptables’

In vi, both any LOG or REJECT lines, add ‘-A INPUT -m state –state NEW -m tcp -p tcp –dport 31438 -j ACCEPT’.

Once that is done, you simple run ‘service iptables restart’ to pick up the changes.

The updated iptables file

The updated iptables file

XAdmin once connected

XAdmin once connected

Disclaimer: This does not create a UniVerse server that will be appropriate to run as a production server.

NoSQL Matters 2012

At the end of May, I flew to Germany to both attend and present at the first NoSQL Matters conference.

It was an excellent event, with a turn out of roughly 250 people and 30 presentations. Google presented, 10Gen presented and even Salvatore Sanfilippo of Redis fame presented.

My slide deck (introducing Rocket U2 databases and some of the basics of the MultiValue model) is freely available on the conferences website, so be sure to check it out: Rocket U2 Databases & The MultiValue Model.

Prior to this conference, I presented a range of topics at U2 University in Denver. If you are in Europe or Australia, I highly encourage you to come along to U2U UK Cheshire or U2U Australia in Sydney. I’ll be presenting on HTML5, Security, U2 Dynamic Objects as well as running a lab on the U2 Basic Code Coverage Project. Be sure to attend the U2 Leadership panel where you can ask us questions as well as provide you feedback.

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Statement Code Coverage Testing – Part 2

November 26, 2011 1 comment

Back in November 2009 I posted the “UniBasic Code Coverage” project as an open-source project. Back then it was stripped version based on one I set up for my then employer. The version for my employer used an in-house pre-processor that greatly simplified the work I needed to do for it work with our source files.

I have now released the v0.2 (update: v0.8) development version which has fixed several bugs, added the ability to specific a customer pre-process for those don’t use string UniBasic and provided improved the documentation on installing, using and contributing.

As you will already be aware, the source code for this is hosting on the UniBasic Code Coverage Project at SourceForge in a Subversion repository. If you have Subversion installed, you can checkout the code with the following command:

svn co https://ucov.svn.sourceforge.net/svnroot/ucov ucov

If you are running UniData or UniVerse on Windows, I highly recommend you install Tortoise SVN as it greatly simplifies working with Subversion.

On the SourceForge site you will not only find the Subversion repository for all the code, but also ‘Tracker’ which will allow you to submit Feature and Bug tickets. If you need help with anything, you can submit a Support Request as well.

If you wish to contribute to the code or documentation, you can introduce yourself on the Developer Forum. The best way to submit code or doc is by generating a Diff of the changes, as well as what the behaviour was before the change and what it was after the change.

When you have used UBC, be sure to fill out a Review. All constructive input is welcome and appreciated!

Replacing Legacy Reporting with U2 DataVu

November 5, 2011 2 comments

International Spectrum has published the first article I have ever written for a magazine.

The title of the article is “Replacing Legacy Reporting with U2 DataVu” and you can find it here on page 12.

Here is a quick tease:

We all know what they look like: hard-to-read reports with mono-spaced fonts and — aside from the columns of text and the occasional company header — completely barren. More often than not, customers must log into a terminal session in order to generate, print, or view the reports. These reports are almost never available in easily consumable or distributable formats such as PDF.

Let me know what you think!

Application Level Caching

August 26, 2011 Leave a comment

Everyone here probably knows the various levels of caching that exist on a modern computer: From multiple CPU caches through to disk cache and even caching in the database engine itself. If you want to quickly touch up on some caching concepts/terminology, check out this short slide deck from Serhiy Oplakanets on Caching Basics

What I’m going to do shortly is outline some other methods of gaining significant performance improvements on your UniData and UniVerse systems.

There really isn’t anything special outside of U2 that you will need to do to get benefits from this, although a few extra tricks that do require either additional hardware or OS work can give quite a boost

First, just to make sure everyone is on the same page: Since UniData and UniVerse support hash-tables as their file (table) structure, you can simply use a file as a gloried key-value store. Key-value stores are ideal for caching.

I’ve dividing this post into 4 sections:

  1. Session Level Caching
  2. Account Level Caching
  3. Improving the above (SSD and RAM Disk)
  4. In Summary

Let me know what you think.


Session Level Caching


COMMON provides a method of keeping a small in-memory cache for the entire duration of a session. Simply declare an array in a named common block and away you go.

A real world example, I’ve seen this used for when a dictionary item made a SUBR call to a subroutine that in turn would read a multitude of control items to process the original record. This dictionary item was called nightly by an external reporting tool on a large number of records.

The original solution had an unacceptable run-time and after some profiling, it was determined that the READs of the control items were the main culprit. Since it was known that the control items would not change (and should not) during the processing, it was determined that caching the control items in-memory after they were read would reduce the run-time.

The solution involved: An array of ‘x’ elements. When a control item needed to be read in, it checked this array via a simple look-up and if it existed, it used it. If not, it would read it from disk and store it in the array.

The result: 10+ hour run-time was now less than 1 hour.


Account Caching


Alright, so you have a system that needs to handle some messages (perhaps via some form of SOAP/REST web service) The majority are read requests with a few write requests for good measure.

One of these messages is to ‘Get Products’. This message returns a list of products (ID, name and latest available version) that a customer currently has.

In your system, there are 2 files used by this request. ‘CUSTOMERS’ and ‘PRODUCTS’. CUSTOMERS<30> is a multivalued list of record ids for ‘PRODUCTS’. PRODUCTS<1> is the name of the product and PRODUCTS<11> is the latest available version.

Traditionally for each ‘Get Products’ request your system would read in the appropriate record then read in all the linked records from PRODUCTS to compile the response to the query. Assuming an average customer has 10 products, the average disk reads for this query is 11

Now this query is being called a lot, all these extra disk reads and processing are beginning to cause performance impacts. Thankfully, because your database supports key-value storage, you can quickly implement a cache to sit in between the receipt of the message and the processing.

All that is needed is a new file called ‘CACHE.GETPRODUCTS’. @ID is the CUSTOMERS id requested in the query, <1> is the date requested, <2> is the time requested and <3> is the response generated

Now, when ‘Get Products’ query is received, it will first do a read of the cache file and if it exists, simply return <3>. If the entry doesn’t exist, it will hand the request/response off to the usual processing routine. The subsequent request will then be stored in the cache before being returned.

Assuming the average declared above, a cache hit will result in 1 disk read and a cache miss will result in 12 disk reads and 1 write. If – for ease of math – we treat a write equal to a read, you only need a 16.7% Cache hit rate for it to perform better. That isn’t even taking in to considering CPU usage reduction, better disk cache performance, etc.

How you handle cache invalidation is dependent on your situation. It could be as simple as clearing it every ‘x’ period, as straight forward ignoring the cache record if it is older than ‘y’ time or as complex as individually invalidating records based on when the appropriate records in CUSTOMERS or PRODUCTS change.

What has been implemented here is a cache that is available not only in the current session, but to any program running or that will be run in the account(s) that have access to this cache file.


Improving the above


Okay, so you have a more intensive system than the above and you have determined caching can help you out. The problem is, even with the caching it still doesn’t meet your requirements and disk has been determined to be the biggest bottleneck.

You have 2 next steps that can be implemented easily.

The Disk Approach

Simple drop in a shiny new SSD drive or a WD Raptor and move the cache files over there. No need to back them up, mirror them or anything else as caching files are temporary data. As long as your system is setup to recreate them if missing on start-up and treat it as a cache miss if unavailable during operation, you are all set.

The benefit here is faster disk access as well as moving the activity off on to another device/bus.

The RAM approach

Instead of adding new hardware, perhaps you’d prefer to spare 64MB of RAM to the cause. In this case, you would simply create a RAM Drive and move the cache files there. You have now essentially created a RAM based key-value store to use as your heart desires.

For an example of what type of improvements this can have, I took the DOSAC test I previously created and ran it twice. Once with the file on traditional disk and once with the file on RAM Disk. The system stats are identical to last time I ran the test, except it was on Fedora (it comes with multiple 16MB RAM disks pre-configured).



That’s right: Massive improvements, as expected (excuse the display text bug).


In Summary


So, keep this in mind. U2 Databases give you some great flexibility in how you implement your software. Knowing the options available is crucial to being able to get the best results.

As the saying goes, measure twice, cut once. Work out what your performance bottlenecks are then determine the best solution. Some times it is better hardware, sometimes it is code clean up. Sometimes… it might just call for caching.

Announcement: New Job

As some people are already aware, I have left the beach-side in Australia to make a home next to the Rocky Mountains in Denver, Colorado. I finished up at my last job 2 weeks ago now and will be eagerly starting my new role in product management with Rocket Software’s U2 business.

I have a lot to learn in the coming months and hopefully have just as much to share. For me, this is a great move for many reasons. One of the benefits is that I will be able to attend the Colorado Multivalue User Group and meet new interesting people in the MV world and hear/see what everyone else has been doing. If you are there for this months meeting on July 12th, be sure to say hi. I shouldn’t be hard to spot [well, hear :)].

I have no idea what my workload will be like in the coming months, but I assume it will be high as I settle in to a new country, learn the ropes of the company and familiarize myself with a new role. Hopefully you will still see new entries up on this site as I still have a lot to write and several articles on security, performance, tooling and even CakePHP are already part way written.

As always, for those that have the odd question or even if you would like me to write or expand upon something, send me an email to u2tech@y7mail.com and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can. Also, if your on Twitter send me a message and follow me (@itcmcgrath) as I am always looking for more U2 people to add to my Twitter List.

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