FlowForce Server

Overview diagram of Altova FlowForce Server components
FlowForce® Server automates data transformation, report and document generation, and other tasks on dedicated servers, virtual machines, or workstations scaled for the scope of the project. Jobs are triggered by date and time, detection of new input data, or by HTTP command. FlowForce Server empowers data architects, analysts, and other IT professionals to efficiently complete enterprise-level data integration tasks.

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Triggers

FlowForce Server supports definition and execution of triggers to start data transformation jobs based on various criteria including time triggers for one-time or repetitive execution, file triggers to start a job when a specific file changes or when a new file is created in a hot folder, or remote triggers that poll for changes on an HTTP server. More 

Security

FlowForce Server includes security features to allow multiple departments within an enterprise to share a physical server without compromising data integrity. This promotes efficient use of today’s multi-processor servers and workstations through automated resource allocation for peak loads and centralized system configuration and management. More 

Web Interface

Administrators and users can manage and monitor FlowForce Server locally or remotely via an intuitive Web interface displayed in any Web browser on any workstation on the network.More 

Free Trial

FlowForce Server, MapForce Server, and StyleVision Server are available for a free fully-functional trial in versions for Windows, Linux, and Mac OS at the Altova server products download page. Altova server products are licensed per year, per server, based on the number of cores available on the machine. Annual licensing allows enterprises of all sizes to easily scale functionality as needs change.More 

FlowForce Server Highlights

  • Automates execution of MapForce Server to perform data transformations
  • Automates execution of StyleVision Server to render reports, documents, and e-forms
  • Activates job execution by time, file, or remote triggers
  • Supports flow control with loops, conditions, result evaluation, and error handling
  • Cached job results deliver instant response to http requests
  • Detailed execution logging
  • Access control via roles, permissions, and privileges
  • Intuitive Web interface to manage all server activities

Integration of Altova Server Products

FlowForce Server may be configured with or without RaptorXML Server, MapForce Server, or StyleVision Server, depending on the needs of your enterprise. For the most cost-effective solution, choose only the specific products you need. If needs change in the future, you can add other server modules. Each server is an independent product, licensed separately.

Built-in Operations

FlowForce Server includes built-in functions for common file system operations - copy, delete, move, etc., an FTP client, a mail function to send customizable event notifications, a command line shell, and more, to empower users to efficiently perform routine housekeeping steps associated with data transformation and reporting tasks.

Cross-platform Support

  • Windows Server 2008 R2, Windows XP, 7, 8 or newer
  • Linux (CentOS 6, RedHat 6, Debian 6, & Ubuntu 12.04 or newer)
  • Mac OS X10.7 or newer

 

 

Triggers

FlowForce Server Job Triggers

A flexible and highly customizable system of job triggers lets you schedule FlowForce Server processing based on each job's unique requirements.

Time triggers start one-time or repetitive job execution, file system triggers start jobs when a change is detected in a file or folder, or HTTP triggers poll a URI for changes.

Multiple triggers may be defined per job and several triggers can be active simultaneously. Whenever any trigger is fired, all execution steps of the job are processed.

FlowForce Server Job Triggers created in the job definition interface

Active Triggers

The Home screen of the Web interface lists all active triggers that will start future execution of FlowForce Server jobs along with the date and time of the next run for time-based triggers.

Another section of the Home screen displays all currently running jobs, with activation times and further details.

Time Triggers

Time triggers offer options to schedule execution by start and end time on days of the week, dates in the month, and more. You can schedule jobs to repeat at specified intervals, and even run multiple instances simultaneously if workflow requires.

Trigger Files and Execution Steps

FlowForce Server lets you capture the names of new files that arrive in a watched folder. Each trigger file name can be defined as an input parameter for job execution steps, including data mappings executed by MapForce Server or transformations performed by StyleVision Server.

Caching Job Results for On-Demand Web Services

FlowForce Server lets administrators configure jobs as on-demand Web services, using the HTTP protocol. This allows users to execute a FlowForce Server job as easily as opening a Web page in a browser window. However, if the FlowForce Server job takes a long time to process, for instance because the job requires complex database queries or needs to make its own Web service data requests, the result might not be available for several minutes, creating an unacceptable user experience.

Caching job results solves this problem. FlowForce Server administrators can schedule execution of a time-consuming job and cache the results. The cached data can then be provided when any user executes the job as a service, delivering instant results. A job that generates a customized sales report for the previous day would be a good application for caching.

FlowForce Server is powered by RaptorXML for lightning-fast validation and processing. RaptorXML is also available as a cross-platform server product.

 

 

Security

FlowForce Server Security and Access Control

FlowForce Server includes a robust set of security features to control access to the system.

Administrators can configure security features to permit multiple departments or user teams to share use of a single powerful physical server without compromising each other's server objects or private data stores anywhere on the network.

FlowForce Server user settings provide one layer of access control

Users and Roles

All access to the FlowForce Server starts by logging in with a valid user name and password. System administrators create new user accounts and assign user privileges. Users are also assigned to one or more operating roles within the system

Roles can be defined in a structure where one role is a member of another role and inherits all the wider role's privileges. In addition, the narrower role can confer unique privileges. For instance, a role might be called Director of Manufacturing and be a member of the Manufacturing Department role, which in turn is a member of the Employees role.

This system allows administrators to easily configure groups users with identical privileges and creates a hierarchical organization of powers and responsibilities.

Containers

A container is similar to a folder in a file system. FlowForce Server containers create a hierarchical structure for storing configuration objects and even other containers. Administrators define access to containers by assigning access permissions for each role, and roles are in turn assigned to users.

Two predefined containers exist in FlowForce Server: /system contains built in system functions to allow FlowForce Server jobs to copy, move, or rename files, create directories, etc., and /public is the default container for mappings deployed from MapForce and stylesheets uploaded from StyleVision.

Administrators may create additional containers as needed, for example to isolate the resources of departments or other groups of users.

Credentials

A credential is a stored operating system login used to execute FlowForce Server jobs.

FlowForce Server jobs start automatically when a defined job trigger condition is met. FlowForce Server runs the job using a specific operating system user account, ensuring that job steps may not access unauthorized data, either accidentally or intentionally.

Every FlowForce Server job MUST have an assigned credential for the job steps to be executed. Additionally, the operating system user referenced by the credential must have sufficient access permissions to directories holding FlowForce Server components.

Credentials can be defined as standalone "objects" and assigned to multiple FlowForce Server jobs, or a credential can be manually entered for any specific job.

 

 

Web Interface

FlowForce Server Web Interface

The FlowForce Server Web-based user interface provides operating information and all system administration functionality from anywhere in the network.

The Web interface enhances functionality in cross-platform environments since the interface can be displayed in any Web browser on any workstation on the network. Access to administrative resources and other server objects is defined by the log-in profile for each user.

Initial installation of FlowForce Server on any supported platform is simplified with a default configuration setup page. The full HTML help system with complete step-by-step instructions is just a click away.

Web interface view of the FlowForce Server Job Log

Job Log View

The FlowForce Server job log view provides a detailed history of all system activity available from anywhere on the network. Each message line describes one step in one instance of a FlowForce Server job, and may include hyperlinks to more information. By default users can only see log entries related to their own configurations, but Administrators can permit access to the full log.

The Log View offers several alternatives to help you find critical information quickly. The options bar above the list lets you filter items displayed by a particular job or by Message severity. You can also sort the list by any of the column headings Date, Severity, Module, User, or Instance ID in ascending or descending order.

When the FlowForce Server is running multiple simultaneous jobs and instances, sorting by Instance ID can let you more easily review the job history.

Job Definition

The FlowForce Server Web interface provides intuitive access to all job definition options and functionality.

The FlowForce Server job execution step illustrated at the right defines a StyleVision Server transformation. The HTML output file has already been defined, and RTF, PDF, or Word document output can be added by simply clicking one of the plus buttons and specifying the output file name.

The buttons labeled Choose step and For-each step let you construct expressions for conditional processing or repeated execution of a job step.

An error/success handling step button (not shown in the image) allows you to define specific actions that take place upon step completion. For instance, you can perform cleanup actions to remove unneeded intermediate files or generate notifications if errors occur.

FlowForce Server job definition via the Web interface

 

 

RaptorXML Server

FlowForce Server and RaptorXML Server

Altova RaptorXML Server is a high-performance XML and XBRL server optimized for today's multi-CPU, multi-core computers and servers. RaptorXML Server and RaptorXML+XBRL Server can be defined as FlowForce Server job steps to validate XML, perform XQuery and XSLT operations, and validate XBRL instance documents and XBRL taxonomies.

A FlowForce Server job can combine RaptorXML Server functions with MapForce Server data mappings, StyleVision Server report generation, and built-in file system operations to create a complete automated, high-performance solution for data transformation and reporting for XML, XBRL, database, flat file, EDI, Excel, and Web Service data sources.

FlowForce Server Log showing instance of RaptorXML in a job

Standards Support

RaptorXML provides strict conformance with all relevant XML and XBRL standards, including support for the very latest recommendations, and has been submitted to rigorous regression and conformance testing. Visit the RaptorXML page for a complete list of supported W3C, OASIS, and XBRL standards.

Free Trial and Installation Note

FlowForce Server and RaptorXML server are available for a fully-functional free 30-day trial at the server products download page. The FlowForce Server installer conveniently includes options to install the Altova LicenseServer, MapForce Server, StyleVisionServer, and RaptorXML Server.

FlowForce Server and RaptorXML Together

Recent Altova Blog posts describe a FlowForce Server job with RaptorXML:

 

 

MapForce Server

FlowForce Server and MapForce Server

Altova MapForce Server is based on the built-in data transformation engine developed for MapForce and performs data transformations for any combination of XML, database, flat file, EDI, Excel, XBRL, and/or Web service using preprocessed and optimized data mappings stored in MapForce Server Execution files. When MapForce Server operates under the management of FlowForce Server, data mappings can be executed as FlowForce Server job steps.

Parameters defined in the FlowForce Server job allow users to specify runtime input and output filenames or query databases as required by the mapping.

MapForce data mappings can be deployed to FlowForce Server for execution by MapForce Server
MapForce input components may be defined at runtime

Data Mapping Input

When a data mapping file is selected as a job step, FlowForce Server automatically extracts all input file names and offers the option to supply a new input file at runtime. The original input component defined for the mapping in the image at the left was gpxInput.xml.

 

 

StyleVision Server

FlowForce Server and StyleVision Server

Altova StyleVision Server is based on the built-in report and document generation engine developed for StyleVision. StyleVision Server renders XML and/or XBRL data into HTML, RTF, PDF, or Microsoft Word files based on StyleVision stylesheets. A StyleVision stylesheet can be deployed to Altova FlowForce Server and executed by StyleVision Server as a FlowForce Server job step to automate business report and document generation.

All required design elements are uploaded with the stylesheet, and parameters defined in the FlowForce Server job allow users to specify input and output file names, or generate output in multiple formats from a single input source.

StyleVision designs can be deployed to FlowForce Server for execution by StyleVision Server
StyleVision allows users to choose which supporting design elements to deploys with .PXF files

StyleVision PXF Files

The Portable XML Form (.PXF) file format packages SPS stylesheets with all required files for the design, including the XML schema file, source XML file, image files used in the design, and XSLT files for transformation output formats. Users can choose which files to upload. For instance, if only .HTML output is required, generated XSLT files for other formats may be deselected.

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