Creating a New Knowledge Module for Sample Data Sets Generation

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The posts in this series assume that you have some level of familiarity with ODI. The concepts of Interface and Knowledge Module are used here assuming that you understand them in the context of ODI. If you need more details on these elements, please refer to the ODI Tutorial for a quick introduction, or to the complete ODI documentation for detailed information..
In particular, to learn more on Knowledge Modules, I strongly recommend the Knowledge Module Developer's Guide - Fundamentals that comes with the product. You will have to download and install ODI to access this document in the Documentation Library.

This post will look into "when" and "how" to create a knowledge module. Then it will walk through some of the choices that can be made when designing a Knowledge Module.

To illustrate the descriptions, we are working on an example described previously in this post.


1. WHAT BELONGS TO A KNOWLEDGE MODULE?

The first element to look into is what parts of the logic of your code are reusable. What you are typically looking for are the following:

  • Sequences of steps that are repeated commonly, even though some steps may be optional. For instance: creation of a staging table, creation of a script or parameter file for a utility, invoking an external program, extraction of data from a database, etc.
  • For each step, identification of the non variable parts vs. the variable parts. For instance, in a select statement, the body of the code remains the same. In the following example, the elements in brackets are variables, the others are fixed:
    • Insert into [TableName] ([ListOfColumns]) select ([ListOfColumns and Expressions]) from [List of Tables] where [conditions]

  • For your module to be re-usable, you want to make sure that no information that physically relates your code to any system or table structure is left out of the code. The idea behind the KMs is that as developers will build their transformations and mappings, ODI will "fill in the blanks" with the appropriate data.

The easiest way to get started with a knowledge module is actually to take an existing one and modify it. As the syntax has already been validated in existing KMs, the amount of work required to produce valid code will be greatly reduced.
In most cases, column names, mapping expressions do not belong to a knowledge module. The exception would be administrative columns that you add as part of the logic of your KM. For instance, most Incremental Update knowledge modules that ship with ODI create an IND_UPDATE column to differentiate records that will be updated from those that will be inserted. These columns definitely belong in the code of the KM.

 

Likewise, you may want to create your own tables (administrative tables, audit tables, etc.) with a very static name. These can be created by the Knowledge Module. But in general, it is better to dynamically generate the table name after the table being loaded, to prevent multiple processes running in parallel from trying to use the same intermediate table.


2. DO I HAVE A CASE FOR A KNOWLEDGE MODULE?

Any technique used to extract data out of a database (or file, or messaging system, or web service for that matter) can be a good opportunity to create a new KM. The same is true for loading techniques and integration techniques: inserts, updates, slowly changing dimension, etc.

In the scenario that we are contemplating, we want to insert data (albeit random data) into a table, so we probably have a good case for a knowledge module.

The first step is usually to look for available techniques, try the code independently of any knowledge module, and check out how it behaves: how is performance? How does the code behave when data volume grows? You want to make sure that the code you will integrate as a template is as good as it can be before you share it with the entire corporation!

Typically, extracting from a source system to stage data is done in an LKM. Loading data into a target table is done with an IKM. In our case, we will clearly create an IKM.


3. RANDOM DATA GENERATION: CODE GENESIS

For our example, will start with a KM that works exclusively for Oracle Databases. Adaptations of the code will be possible later on to make similar processes run on other databases.

The Oracle database provides a fantastic feature that we can leverage to generate a large number of records: group by cube: it returns all the possible permutation for the selected columns. So the following code:

select NULL from dual group by cube(1,1,1)

returns 8 records (2 to the power 3). Add columns for the list for the permutations, and you are adding an exponential number of records.

Now when I played with this function on my (very) little installation of the database, I seemed to hit a limit for (very) large permutation numbers. I have to admit that I am not using the function in its expected fashion, no I cannot really complain. But at least I can easily generate 1024 records (2 to the power 10). Now from a usability perspective, I do not really want to use that number for the users of my KM (1024 has a geeky flavor to it, doesn't it?). How about generating a table with just 1,000 records?

The following code will do the trick:

select NULL from dual group by cube(1,1,1,1,1,1,1,1,1,1)
where rownum<=1000

Note that so far, all the instructions we have are hard-coded. We still do not have anything that would be dynamic in nature.

Now we need to use the above query to create some table with our 1,000 records. Again, we can hard-code the table name - but this does not make for very portable code. In particular, from one environment to the next, the database schema names will vary. We have three options to create our staging table, from the least portable to the most portable:

  • Hardcoded table name and schema name: myschema.SEED
  • Dynamic schema name, hardcoded table name: let ODI retrieve the proper schema name and automatically update the code at execution time:  (Generated code: myschema.SEED)
  • Fully dynamic table name and schema name (usually, dynamic tables are named after the target table with some sort of extension): _SEED (generated code: if you are loading TRG_CUSTOMERS, then the SEED table name is myschema.TRG_CUSTOMER_SEED)

Best practice is of course to use the last one of these options to allow for multiple processes to run in parallel. To keep our explanations simple, we will use the second option above - but keep in mind that best practice would be to use the fully dynamic one.

 

As we will use our KM over and over, it is important to make the developer's life easy. Steps have to be included here to create our seeding table, drop it when we are done, and make sure before we create it that it is not there from a previous run that could have failed.
The typical sequence of steps for a KM creating any type of staging table is:

  • Drop table (and ignore errors - if there is no table, we are fine)
  • Create table (re-create it to reflect any possible meta-data changes)
  • Load the table with staging data - in our case a sequence of numbers that we will be able to leverage later on for filtering... (please be patient: we will come back to this). Here a rownum will do the trick...

Now that we have the code to insert data into our staging table, we can put all the pieces together and have the first three steps of our knowledge module. Keep in mind that you have to be consistent from one step to the next as you name your table. The actual knowledge module with all the matching code is available here (look for KM_IKM Oracle - Build Sample Data - Gen II.xml).

 


4. COMPLETING THE CODE

So far our table only has 1,000 records. Not much in terms of volume. But all we need now to create a table with 1,000,000 records... is a Cartesian product (you know, the one thing your mother told you NOT to do with a database? It comes very handy here!):

insert into [Target] ([Columns]) Select * from SEED S1, SEED s2

And if we want to return less records, all we have to do is filter on the S2 table. For instance the clause:

where S2.SEED_ID<=10

will return 10,000 records!. Remember when we stored rownums in this table earlier? This is where it becomes very handy...

So far the only thing we have done is to generate a fairly large number of records. Where the exercise becomes even more interesting is if we can generate data for each record that matches our requirements for sample data. In a previous post we have seen how to generate User Functions in ODI to abstract this type of random generation. The code for the sample data generation typically does not belong to the Knowledge Module as it would not give us enough flexibility for all the possible combinations out there.

The User Function examples used before can generate numerics and strings. We could expand their design to generate random phone numbers, or random social security numbers... and work with random data that will now look like real data, instead of exposing sensitive information.

5. ADDING FLEXIBILITY TO THE KNOWLEDGE MODULE

The fact that User Functions do not belong to the code of the Knowledge Module does not mean that there is no flexibility in the Knowledge Modules. Here, we are building a sample table out of thin air: it is very possible that the table does not exist in the first place. Or if want to run multiple tests with different amounts of records each time, we may want to truncate the table before each new run.

KM options are a very simple way to toggle such behaviors in a KM. We can create 2 options: CREATE_TABLE and TRUNCATE. Then create the appropriate steps in our KM:

  • Create Target Table
  • Truncate table

When you want to associate an option to a given step, edit the step itself; then click on the "option" tab and un-check "always execute". Select only the appropriate option in the list and click OK...

 

KM_Option.PNG

As we define the options, it is also good to think of the most common usage for the KM. In our case, chances are we will often want to create the table and truncate it for successive runs: we can then define that these steps will be executed by default (set the default for the variables to "Yes". More conventional KMs would typically have these options, but their defaults would be set to "No".

We now have a complete Knowledge Module that can be used to generate between 1,000 and 1,000,000 records in any table of your choice, complete with options that will let the users of the KM adapt the behavior to their actual needs...

Again, if you want to review all the code in details, it is available here (look for KM_IKM Oracle - Build Sample Data - Gen II.xml).

Enjoy!

Screenshots were taken using version 10.1.3.5 of ODI. Actual icons and graphical representations may vary with other versions of ODI.

Comments:


Hi Christophe, Very interesting technique! I already needed of "random" data and used a similar way but with the "connect by" clause. I mean, to create sample data for N types of columns (number, date, etc) just do, in a KM as you suggested: select level col_Number, 'Alpha' || level col_Alpha sysdate + level/24 col_Date /*varing by hour*/ from dual connect by level < 100000000 In this way all you need to do is choose the number to be put in the last line of the command and can be a KM option! Just as a suggestion of one more technique in ODI.... Best Regards, Cezar Santos www.odiexperts.com

Posted by Cezar Santos on October 02, 2009 at 11:07 PM PDT #

Thanks for your input Cezar. Connect by will definitely do the trick here. I had used it in other, more traditional hierarchical cases, but it makes for a more flexible implementation! Thanks!

Posted by Christophe Dupupet on October 04, 2009 at 10:46 PM PDT #

You're welcome... I don't now why but the last line of the sql isn't showed right in the my first comment.. It should be: connect by level "signal of less than" 10000000 The signal isn't showed... Thanks Chirstopher.

Posted by Cezar Santos on October 05, 2009 at 12:18 AM PDT #

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