3d architectural model study of a town

As part of our blog series “The System Architecture of OPTANO”, our previous two entries focused on the application server (The System Architecture of OPTANO) and the OPTANO Scheduler (OPTANO Scheduler: Optimization on the Server). As optional components, the application server and the Scheduler enhance performance, security and scalability. The database server/database, on the other hand, is essential  as a central communication layer between all system components.

 The database as a miniature world

Whether it’s a program on our computers or an app on our smartphones – every digital application is data-based. This data needs to be stored and managed. A database allows the structured and efficient storage and management of large data volumes by modeling logical connections. To be precise, a database is a logically connected collection of information which describes a part of the real world. The question is: how are the data input and output, analyses and evaluations merged together into this “miniature world”?

The database server in the OPTANO system architecture

The “miniature world” of the OPTANO database server contains information, models, scenarios and plans so that users can work on scenarios together and access data no matter where they are. Yet, how do we create the structure of the OPTANO “miniature world”?

The first step is data modeling, in other words, displaying the logical database structure in an Entity Relationship (ER) Model. In this ER Model, the basic table and relationship structure of the database is developed and illustrated. The result is the clear definition of the objects (entities) which are to be managed in the database, their necessary attributes for information purposes and the connections between different information objects (relationships), in order to gain a standardized and application-neutral data view. The result is a semantic model which is transferred into a logical or relational model in step two.

With the aid of SQL as a data definition language, the relational model is compiled into a specific database scheme. Data types, value ranges, relations and views (tables, columns, charts, etc) are defined next.

OPTANO and Microsoft SQL

OPTANO uses Microsoft SQL Server (Version from 2008; certified by Microsoft) as a database management system.

Versioning on the database

In the OPTANO database you can define whether an entity is to be versioned or not. Generally, the disadvantage of versioning is that software functions more slowly. In order to avoid this, we have moved versioning onto the OPTANO database. This works quite easily in OPTANO Architect: here, the entity to be versioned simply gets a corresponding tick in its view and, after deployment, any changes to the entity will then be stored in the database. Moving versioning to the database does not only mean that OPTANO works faster but it also lets you archive a large number of versions. Read more about versioning in our blog entry OPTANO – Versioning onstage and backstage.

OPTANO Architect Versioning

Diagram – OPTANO Architect: Marking the entity to be versioned

Master data and scenario data in OPTANO

Two different types of entity can be modelled in the OPTANO database: master data as well as scenario data. This classification can considerably influence the amount of processing and time required for creating future scenarios and plans. This is why this should be considered early on during database development. Why is this distinction so useful? First of all, let us give a definition of each data type:

Master data

Master data is static data which remains unchanged over a longer period of time. It contains long-term, valid information on the basic features of an object or entity and is thus used for identification and referencing. Master data objects can be: clients, articles, factories, machines or similar.

Master data is often used by several applications or in several corporate sectors and is also provided to applications by other systems such as SAP. The advantage of these connected components is a regular and automatic update of the data to a great extent. We have described in detail how connecting OPTANO to other external appliances works in our blog entry OPTANO SAP Connection.

Scenario data

In contrast to the relatively static master data, scenario data is, as variable data, time-related, process-oriented or order-relevant. It is subject to many fluctuations and is updated frequently. Orders and capacities are examples of typical scenario data.

Master data and scenario data in scenarios

Master and Scenario data both form the basis for scenarios in OPTANO. A scenario will always include all relevant information such as the input and output data of a planning issue. And this is where the actual advantage of the definition of master data becomes evident: Master data merely flows into the scenario as a copy so scenarios can be processed without having to change the actual dataset. This means, in turn, that master data can be used again and again for its deployment in the next scenario as it is still  available in its original form (i.e. unchanged). In addition, synchronizing between master and scenario data is also an  option.

Read more on scenarios in general and detailed planning in our blog What-if Scenarios in Production Planning

Master data and scenario data in modules

The difference between master and scenario data can be deployed to your advantage in the modular structure of OPTANO: OPTANO consists of any number of modules whereby the number is client or project-specific. Furthermore, the function of each module is project-specific and this is how master data can effectively be made available as a data source for further modules in a so-called “master data module”.

Our example shows the modules “tactical planning” and “strategic planning” which both use different scenario data but access the same master data of the “master data module”. In this way, the workload is simply reduced when it comes to data storage and updating for the application.

Module Selector

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