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MIS Systems Thread, Programatic data extraction from SIMS.net Data Base in Technical; We ae SIMS partners and as well as providing classroom management software, we also write extractors for various partners in ...
  1. #16
    jenny_urey's Avatar
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    Re: Programatic data extraction from SIMS.net Data Base

    We ae SIMS partners and as well as providing classroom management software, we also write extractors for various partners in education; what data do you want to generate? We may be able to help you. Mail me if you want further information... will help if i can.

    Jenny
    Training Officer

  2. #17

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    Re: Programatic data extraction from SIMS.net Data Base

    @NetworkGeezer: That is what they call the SDK??? That's ridiculous. That's not an SDK, it's a (poor) data converter.

    The cumerbsome command line report tool falls far short of 'adequate'.

    Quote Originally Posted by jenny:urey
    we also write extractors for various partners in education
    Are they free to schools?

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    Re: Programatic data extraction from SIMS.net Data Base

    If you want access to the SIMS database, then why not just query the SQL
    database directly?

    You don't require an SDK to do that.... just some SQL and programming knowledge. With a little time you can fabricate your own APIs to extract data how you want it.

    Its your database, running on your server, do what you like with it!

  4. #19

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    Re: Programatic data extraction from SIMS.net Data Base

    Apparently this violates the licence.

    Quote Originally Posted by klawd
    Its your database, running on your server, do what you like with it!
    Exactly. If only Capita would realise this!

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    Re: Programatic data extraction from SIMS.net Data Base

    Our stance on this is that tapping directly into SIMS tables is that it invalidates our warranty. Basically if you hack into tables and you mess things up we will charge for putting it right.

    We provide the SDK which many people are happy with and we also support the use of our business objects. Your support unit would need to be involved if you take the BO route as they would need to support you.

  6. #21

    webman's Avatar
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    Re: Programatic data extraction from SIMS.net Data Base

    Thanks Phil. Is NetworkGeezer right in saying (previous page) that the SDK is basically CommandReporter.exe?

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    Re: Programatic data extraction from SIMS.net Data Base

    @PhilNeal

    Yes, but if using the BO requires signing a NDA that includes some totally unreasonable clauses, where does that leave us?

    Perhaps you could explain if we have been badly advised by our LA, who said we could aquire the BO but would have to sign a NDA that they sent to us from Capita.

    We did not sign the NDA. We are however willing to negotiate a new NDA if this is an option.

    Perhaps you could advise on the next steps?

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    Re: Programatic data extraction from SIMS.net Data Base

    Yes the SDK is a command line reporter.

    Klawd I'm happy to receive a PM or email from you to explain your concerns.

  9. #24

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    Re: Programatic data extraction from SIMS.net Data Base

    I wish to have our SIMS data match up with our LDAP data. This involves extracting some data from SIMS. If I understand correctly, I can use the CommandReporter tool for free to extract XML data from SIMS. CommandReporter seemed to be already installed on my SIMS server, there was nothing to download or install. Other options exist (using SQL, some defined API) but involve license violations/NDAs/paying.

    This XML tool works, but isn't an API. There's a bunch of us want the same thing, so let's just get on and write one - a simple API front end to the CommandReporter tool. I'd suggest something Windows-based that installs on the SIMS server and provides a bunch of REST function calls available over HTTP, then we can write a bunch of libraries for everyone's favourite languages to access that API.

    Does every SIMS server have a web server (i.e. IIS) on it already? Would, therefore, ASP be the most appripriate thing to code the server-side part in? Or would it be better to provide a seperate minimal web server?

    --
    David Hicks

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    Re: Programatic data extraction from SIMS.net Data Base

    Thanks for the confirmation Phil.

    @dhicks: Yes from what I understand, commandreporter.exe is available in all SIMS workstation setups in the main SIMS .net directory.

    The thing about this so-called SDK is that data is not available real-time. Reports have to be created within SIMS in advance of when you need the data. It must also be scheduled to run at intervals, and depending on your requirements, your application will probably have to parse the output of the "SDK" to get it into a format you can easily work with.

    I do like the idea of getting data via REST/XMLRPC/SOAP; but I'm guessing all our data requirements differ so much it will be awkward developing a one-size-fits-all approach ourselves.

    From a software development point of view it is a very cumbersome method of utilising the school's data in our own apps; almost worthy of WorseThanFailure, if only just for a CSV/XML export facility being called an SDK.

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    Re: Programatic data extraction from SIMS.net Data Base

    @Klawd - we signed the NDA and didn't see any particular problem with it - I am worried now as to what you may have seen that we missed - it looked like a bog standard agreement ?

    Currently we are using both the SDK and IMS to routinely extract the data we need. Neither has any licence cost and support comes from the LA team. We may use the business objects to write data back but just waiting for the new SIMS web parts before going down that route.

  12. #27

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    Re: Programatic data extraction from SIMS.net Data Base

    Quote Originally Posted by PhilNeal
    We provide the SDK which many people are happy with
    Phil, you do not provide an SDK as such - you provide a couple of command line exporting tools. An SDK is a set of tools and API calls for interacting at a relatively low level in the system - not calling a commandline application...

    Also, please don't say that many people are happy with something as there are quite obviously a good number who aren't happy with this, and there are even those who choose to invalidate their warranty by direct SQL interaction.

    Why is interfacing with the SQL data a warranty voiding activity? Surely you could take a more flexible and sensible stance on this - ie. interacting with the database is acceptable if it is exporting, but if it is importing then it is not supported and any resulting mess is chargeable? The current one size fits all denying access is not working. The tools provided are not suitable for the task and it causes a good amount of hassle for an industry that is well known for having limited resources (we don't have the time or money to pay for extras or third party people to create things for us).

    For example, I have been asked to export various data from SIMS for integrating with a locker management package. I would normally write this in c# - a .net language. And as such it should be *very* easy for me to interface with SIMS.net and export that data. Instead it is an absolute mess of commandlines etc...

  13. #28

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    Re: Programatic data extraction from SIMS.net Data Base

    [Webman wrote:]
    > The thing about this so-called SDK is that data is not available real-time.
    > Reports have to be created within SIMS in advance of when you need
    > the data.

    I don't see this as being a particular problem - just create a bunch of reports that extract various chunks of data from SIMS as XML. Okay, so the API calls become things like getAllStudents() that return a large recordset that you then have to sort through rather than getStudentByName(x). It's just like programming with most database-backed systems these days, but instead of writting a database query in SQL you set it up in SIMS. I understand you can import/export reports (sorry, don't have SIMS at hand to check at the moment), so we
    could include the reports along with the API.

    [Webman wrote:]
    > I'm guessing all our data requirements differ so much it will be awkward developing a one-size-fits-all approach ourselves.

    We can't all be that different - we all do pretty much the same job, there must be a fair bit of commonality. Anyone who wants particular functionality can simply add a report and some associated code to the API bundle.

    [localzuk wrote:]
    > Why is interfacing with the SQL data a warranty voiding activity?

    I can sympathise with Capita's point of view here - they don't want to have to deal with every script kiddy who Learnt SQL In 24 Hours and decided to start making modifications to their SIMS database. Bearing in mind SIMS' age, and the fact that it's moved platforms / databases several times (and the fact that, if I remember correctly, it used to marketed as being made "by teachers, for teachers"...), I'm sure the database is a tad on the hairy side and takes a bit of getting used to.

    --
    David Hicks

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    Re: Programatic data extraction from SIMS.net Data Base

    David, I agree on some of your points (and also entirely with localzuk...)

    What about daily report exports into CSV/XML with the data then being inserted or updated into an existing MySQL/MSSQL database for our own use? Essentially we end up with our own stale, day-old SIMS database via a mish-mash of data exports.

    If we hack away on something ourselves that we have to settle for, where is the incnetive for Capita to give us a proper SDK or API? Or should that be in the Blue Skies forum?

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    Re: Programatic data extraction from SIMS.net Data Base

    > David, I agree on some of your points (and also entirely with localzuk...)

    I think we're all agreed that what we're discussing is a somewhat second-best solution, and that a proper solution is a proper API. Note that "proper" doesn't involve NDAs. I don't have a problem with my workplace having to meet random legal requirements for me to get work done, but I'm not surrendering any personal legal rights without a fee.

    You'd think if Capita had a nice, freely-available, API they could then market SIMS as central all-in-one solution for a school's data storage needs. They could boast that you could interface it with most anything - authentication servers, locker managements systems, etc, etc. The best part is that they probably wouldn't even need to actually do much to implement this - simply publish an API and provide a website for people to post code on.

    > What about daily report exports into CSV/XML with the data then being
    > inserted or updated into an existing MySQL/MSSQL database

    How is running a report from CommandReporter and getting a bunch of XML data back any different than running an SQL query? Surley SIMS reports don't take that long to run?

    > If we hack away on something ourselves that we have to settle for,
    > where is the incnetive for Capita to give us a proper SDK or API?

    We could replace "settle for" with "exactly meets our needs" - we can write an API that works however we like, as opposed to whatever Capita comes up with.

    --
    David Hicks

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