Wednesday, January 3, 2007

TLViz – A Little Historical Background

Before TLViz came on the scene, I was part of a team in Hewlett Packard's OpenVMS Engineering that was already enjoying success with readily-reusable (R-R) CSV files as part of the T4 & Friends project (more on this later). These files contained detailed system performance trend data for many different factors that had been extracted from trend data that was originally stored in a proprietary, difficult to reuse format.

Originally, when we created these R-R files known as T4 files, we simply input them to Microsoft Excel. The R-R format allowed us to make full use of the trend visualization capabilities and other features already built into Excel. This immediately extended our ability to visualize the trend data beyond the limitations built into the tools that had originally collected the most important performance data that we had wanted to investigate. Conversion to R-R format by itself gave us an order of magnitude time-saving and productivity improvement compared to previous methods for looking at this trend data.

What we discovered was that Ian Megarity's creation of the TLViz utility changed everything for us, literally overnight. In particular, what TLViz accomplished was to change the productivity equation even further, allowing us to analyze and report on a complex trend data set at least 5 times more quickly than we could have done if we had continued to use only Excel. In one example, a project that had previously taken two weeks was shrunk down to less than half a day.

We also discovered that TLViz was helpful in multiple ways - it dramatically cut analyst time AND it also made it easier and faster to present the results of analysis to others (both expert and non-expert) AND it greatly increased the possibilities for collaboration.

These additional productivity improvements alone made TLViz a worthwhile tool to add to our repertoire for the OpenVMS performance work we were doing. TLViz at its conception was designed for the very specific purpose of looking at OpenVMS System Performance Data. TLVIZ not intended as a general purpose trend visualization mechanism. However, experience with TLViz in the past 5 years has shown that it can be mapped over to the general case and by doing so it can offer some of the same time-saving and productivity and collaboration advantages.

While there are certainly areas for improvement for the general case, TLViz today provides a demonstration of what might be possible to do in the general case of making trend data more accessible to a wider audience with the intention of radically improving productivity, promoting collaboration and encouraging mutual learning.

In the next post, we will outline some other key reasons why we think TLViz is such an important demonstration of what is possible for the general case of trend collaboration that we are advocating in this blog..

In the meantime, to give this a quick try yourself, we recommend you DOWNLOAD TLViz from HP's T4 & Friends page, then DOWNLOAD (a sample readily-reusable file of World Watch data file), and then use TLViz to open rr-example.csv.

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