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MIS Systems Thread, Programatic data extraction from SIMS.net Data Base in Technical; Originally Posted by PhilNeal Schools can access the SIMS business objects layer for their own purpose FOC; these can read ...
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    Quote Originally Posted by PhilNeal View Post
    Schools can access the SIMS business objects layer for their own purpose FOC; these can read and write to the SIMS DB. We also provide the command line reporter to schools FOC as an easy way outputting a wide range of data to be used elsewhere. If the LA is the licence holder you will need their permission to make use of these facilities.

    We also provide an IMS link FOC which will automatically maintain an external system with pupil names, groups and staff names. Most VLEs are either using or planning to use this link. We are in discussions about developing an IMS write-back of assessment data. SIF may or may not overtake this if Becta can reassure us that standard SIF doesn’t expose schools to data protection risks.

    If you use SIMS business objects to write data back to SIMS we will deal with any data issues i.e. fix them in the normal way. We get about 5 cases a month of schools that have written to the SIMS DB directly and caused corruption. Typically a school in this position doesn’t mention that this is what they have done and as a result we spend days trying to find out if SIMS could have caused the data to be in the state it is in. If you write back to the database directly we will charge for any data fixing that is required.

    We employ 4 staff that permanently assist with third party support so we do charge for the commercial use of SIMS business objects.
    @Phil Neal,

    Please could you define SIMS Business Objects as this is a very generic term?
    Are these Business Objects accessible from a non Microsoft OS?

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    Actually I beg to differ. READ ONLY access cannot in any way, shape or form damage the DB.
    I've ground systems to a halt by just reading from a database in an aggressive manner.

    regards

    Simon

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    Quote Originally Posted by SimpleSi View Post
    I've ground systems to a halt by just reading from a database in an aggressive manner.

    regards

    Simon
    You shouldn't be bale to with a well constructed query and a normalised database.

    But as sims doesn't have the latter the former is a bit hard.

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    Quote Originally Posted by penfold_99 View Post
    You shouldn't be bale to with a well constructed query and a normalised database.

    But as sims doesn't have the latter the former is a bit hard.
    @Penfold are you confirming that direct reads from SIMS could have a hugely adverse affect on the performance of the database ? Could explain a lot

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    Quote Originally Posted by SimpleSi View Post
    I've ground systems to a halt by just reading from a database in an aggressive manner.

    regards

    Simon
    Actually Simon I think you'll find you took a massive performance hit, but the DB wasn't damaged, so my point stands that read-only access to a DB will not destroy it.

    SQL optimisation is a different topic altogether.

    Obviously you'd need to evaluate any queries run against the DB by getting a baseline of the server's performance before, then again while the query is running, so you can evaluate how much of a performance hit you'd be taking.
    That should form part of your normal tasks anyhow and should slot in under your change management processes.

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    There are a number of points raised above – hopefully this answers them:

    • Inefficient code will cripple a database but read only access shouldn’t corrupt it.
    • The business objects are functions written in C#; they are what our developers use to read and write to the database.
    • We have offered to write a write back IMS link if someone would like to finance it; to date nobody has and I am hesitant to invest more in this until the SIF agenda is resolved. DCSF/Becta have said that they expect SIF to be the way forwards. For over 24 months we have been pointing out that standard SIF could cause schools to break data protection law. The ZIS manufacturers have begun to address some of the issues we have raised by introducing data filters that control the level of access to the student data object that applications have. Under SIF if you can see a student’s name you can also see their most private details and that isn’t correct.

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    Quote Originally Posted by PhilNeal View Post
    There are a number of points raised above – hopefully this answers them:

    • Inefficient code will cripple a database but read only access shouldn’t corrupt it.
    • The business objects are functions written in C#; they are what our developers use to read and write to the database.
    • We have offered to write a write back IMS link if someone would like to finance it; to date nobody has and I am hesitant to invest more in this until the SIF agenda is resolved. DCSF/Becta have said that they expect SIF to be the way forwards. For over 24 months we have been pointing out that standard SIF could cause schools to break data protection law. The ZIS manufacturers have begun to address some of the issues we have raised by introducing data filters that control the level of access to the student data object that applications have. Under SIF if you can see a student’s name you can also see their most private details and that isn’t correct.
    @Phil Neal,

    Thanks for the clarification on the points above, and the problems with SIF re data protection.

    Will you be reliant on MS implementation of ZIS? or will be be compaible with Open ZIS - Open Source Zone Integration Server (ZIS) - Zone Integration Terminal (ZIT).

    With regards to the IMS write back link, what is the rough cost?

    Would it be possible to get documentation on the database tables? As i would like to write a module for moodle which transferred quiz results back to SIMS.net.

    We currently have a test sims.net installation in place for our in-house development and updated testing.

    If the documentation was forth coming it would remove the burden of development costs for you.

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    Quote Originally Posted by klawd View Post
    @StArbiter



    If its the same NDA we were sent, then you have potentially already violated Paragraph 7. The NDA is full of strange clauses. I can't give examples for obvious reasons, and since you are already bound by it, there is little point....

    I certainly would not sign it, neither was the the school management prepared in its current form.
    If point 7 is one of those 'this NDA is covered by this NDA' clauses, it is an unenforceable clause. ie. you can't be covered by a clause unless you sign it...

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    Penfold in answer to your queries:
    • SIF is independent of MS technology
    • IMS write-back I haven't got a firm price but £50K is not unlikely
    • we aren't geared up to support direct table access. We support access via BOs because it means we are free to alter the underlying data structures without worrying about affecting third party access

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    Quote Originally Posted by PhilNeal View Post
    Penfold in answer to your queries:
    • SIF is independent of MS technology
    • IMS write-back I haven't got a firm price but £50K is not unlikely
    • we aren't geared up to support direct table access. We support access via BOs because it means we are free to alter the underlying data structures without worrying about affecting third party access
    @Phil Neal,

    Thanks for the reply.

    I am aware SIF is a specification but will you be using MS technology to implement the specification?

    With regards to the BO's is it possible to get some usage examples of how to to pass information to the dll's and information from them?

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    Penfold, I don't really understand your MS question. To build an agent we will use our normal programming tools which are MS based - there are also kits available that we will use that are not. A third party won't interface with our agent but with whatever ZIS has been deployed.

    If you lodge a query through your service desk you can get the complete documentation on our API.

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    Quote Originally Posted by PhilNeal View Post
    Penfold, I don't really understand your MS question. To build an agent we will use our normal programming tools which are MS based - there are also kits available that we will use that are not. A third party won't interface with our agent but with whatever ZIS has been deployed.

    If you lodge a query through your service desk you can get the complete documentation on our API.
    @Phil Neal.

    Thanks for the explanation it answers my question.

    A better way for me to put across my point, why not develop for LDAP instead of Active Directory, as AD is derived from LDAP people with out Active Directory would still be able to use SIMS.net.

    It's a bad analogy but hope you can follow it.

    Does the request have to come from our LA or can it come direct from us?

    Sorry for the million and one questions but we are trying to maximise the benefit of sims.net by integrating into every area of the school, and displaying data in different formats and not necessarily on a windows platform.

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    The SIMS licence holder is the one that can request the documentation so I suspect that is your LA. Your support unit will also want to know that you are calling the BOs from your own software.
    Last edited by PhilNeal; 16th February 2009 at 08:49 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by PhilNeal View Post
    Schools can access the SIMS business objects layer for their own purpose FOC; these can read and write to the SIMS DB. We also provide the command line reporter to schools FOC as an easy way outputting a wide range of data to be used elsewhere. If the LA is the licence holder you will need their permission to make use of these facilities.

    We also provide an IMS link FOC which will automatically maintain an external system with pupil names, groups and staff names. Most VLEs are either using or planning to use this link. We are in discussions about developing an IMS write-back of assessment data. SIF may or may not overtake this if Becta can reassure us that standard SIF doesn’t expose schools to data protection risks.

    If you use SIMS business objects to write data back to SIMS we will deal with any data issues i.e. fix them in the normal way. We get about 5 cases a month of schools that have written to the SIMS DB directly and caused corruption. Typically a school in this position doesn’t mention that this is what they have done and as a result we spend days trying to find out if SIMS could have caused the data to be in the state it is in. If you write back to the database directly we will charge for any data fixing that is required.

    We employ 4 staff that permanently assist with third party support so we do charge for the commercial use of SIMS business objects.
    Hi there,

    Could you help me in knowing how to get access to start using the Business Objects Layer (or even the command line reporter tool)? Reading the rest of the thread, I have contact capita support, who passed me on to professional services (which sounded like I was going to get charged). They say I have to speak to a particular person - who is unfortunately not available until next week. If I am understanding it correctly the tools are already present, it is just getting access to the documentation so that one knows what to call and how.

    You description makes it sound as if getting access to these should be easy and straightforward, but either I am not using the right terminology or the people I have spoken to are not familiar with them.

    I would really appreciate it if you were able to give me a hint on exactly what I should be asking for.

    Many thanks

    Jonathan
    Last edited by ArchersIT; 16th February 2009 at 01:07 PM. Reason: clarity (hopefully!)

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    Ask for the CommandLine Reporter documentation in the first place - I suspect you go through Chelmsford so I will alert them.

    Basically any report that you can create in our Report Generator can be called through the Command Line Reporter from your own program. You shouldn't need Professional Services to get this going.

  16. Thanks to PhilNeal from:

    ArchersIT (18th February 2009)

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