The Control Center

We believe that a powerful tool for practioners does not need hundreds of configuration options, where you have to twiddle with every possible setting. These kind of “expert” user interfaces are, in our opinion, usually a sign of laziness or inexperience on the part of the developer. When designing the Disco user experience, we see it as our job to make all the choices that we sensibly can, so that our users don’t have to. We designed Disco to automatically configure and discover many settings and parameters under the hood. When we, or our software, can truly make a decision, we do, so that you can concentrate on the really important stuff.

In some situations, though, it makes sense to take a look under the hood. This is why Disco has a Control Center. The control center is a place to inspect the Disco system internals, and to optimize them.

You can enter the control center by clicking on the Disco logotype, on the upper right of the Disco toolbar (see Figure 1).

_images/Control-Center-1.png

Figure 1: Click on the DISCO logo in the upper right corner to get to the control center.

In the control center screen, you can find the following three elements (see Figure 2):

Software (1)
The Software tab shows you information about the current software version (see Software Version and Revision History).
System (2)
The System tab will start a system benchmark and lets you optimize your hardware setup (see System Benchmark).
Exit (3)
The Exit button closes the control center view and brings you back to the Disco view, where you came from.
_images/Control-Center-2.png

Figure 2: The control center has a Software and a System tab. The Exit button closes the control center view again.

Software Version and Revision History

When you enter the control center, you are presented with our Software overview (see Figure 2). Here, you can see the version of Disco you are currently running, when you have installed it, and check whether there is an update available online.

We have also included a detailed revision history, as a way for you to review the changes we have made to Disco over time. That way, even if you don’t have time to read the release notes after installing an update, you can still come back here to check whether you may have missed a useful new feature or bug fix.

System Benchmark

On the top of the control center view, you can switch to the System overview - see (2) in see Figure 2, which gives you a lot of useful information about the software and hardware platform that Disco relies on. The power users among you may appreciate that we even included a benchmark for important hardware components, which gives you a quick overview about the performance of your system, and about where it makes the most sense to improve your setup for maximum performance.

There is no data limit in Disco. Furthermore, Disco is very fast and highly optimized to work with the type of data that process mining needs. So, normally you should be able to analyze many millions and even billions of events without any problems.

If you are concerned about large data sets, two things are good to know:

  1. When you import a CSV file, the data is being sorted based on the timestamps during the import step (see Importing Data Sets). If you have a very large data set this may take a while. However, once you have imported the data working with Disco should be interactive again. For process mining, the interactive exploration is very important. So, you should make sure that after importing your data interactive usage (mining, filtering, etc.) is possible for your data set.
If you feel that the mining and filtering after the import is taking too long, you can first optimize your setup (see below). If this does not help enough, you can try to (a) get a computer with better performance or (b) perform your exploratory analysis first on a smaller sample and then later repeat the key analyses on the full data set. Refer to Recipes: Saving, Sharing, and Re-using Filter Combinations to learn how you can repeat previous analyses on a new data set.
  1. If you should run into performance issues, you can take a look at the System benchmark to see whether you can optimize your setup. In the System benchmark, you will get some feedback about the following five software and hardware components that are important for Disco:
Platform (1)
As shown in (1) in Figure 3, the Platform section gives you an overview about your operating system and the Java Virtual Machine version that is installed on your computer. Note that if you are running Disco with a 32 bit version of Java, this will limit the amount of system memory that Disco can use. So, even if you have plenty of memory available on your computer, allocating more of it for Disco (see Increasing Your Main Memory) will not work. To alleviate this problem, you can install the latest 64 bit version of Java from Oracle at http://www.java.com/.
Processor (2)

As shown in (2) in Figure 3, Disco benchmarks your CPU. Typically you cannot change this but Disco parallelizes a lot of the analysis. So multiple cores are better. [1]

Keep in mind that in contrast to BI-centric setups, where the data structures are pre-calculated over night and then offered to the viewer in an interactive dashboard, Disco creates all of the analyses from the raw data, in the moment at which you import or filter your data. This gives you the maximum flexibility for your process mining analyses. At the same time this means that many analysis tasks in Disco rely on the performance of your processor, and the number of processing cores it has available.

So, wherever possible, we have made Disco aggressively multi-threaded and parallelized, so that we can harness the performance of your CPU as much as possible, and reduce waiting times for you. The processor overview and benchmark in the control center gives you a quick estimation of your processor’s single- and multi-core performance.

_images/Control-Center-3.png

Figure 3: The first two components profiled in the system benchmark are your Java and operating system platform (1) and the processor (2).

Memory (3)

Disco’s analysis is not limited by the RAM, because any data that does not fit in the main memory is written back to the hard disk and read from there transparently when you mine or filter your data. We have gone to great lengths to optimize the memory management of Disco so that, even when you have just one or two gigabytes of RAM installed, you can still analyze very big data sets. However, because accessing data in the RAM is always faster than reading it from a hard disk you may want to increase the amount of memory Disco can use, especially when you work with very large and complex data sets.

Per default Disco only uses 1 or 2 GB of RAM (depending on the operating system). The Memory section, see (3) in Figure 4, gives you information about the amount of available and currently used system memory. If you have more available, you can use the ‘Optimize memory’ button to increase the amount of RAM for Disco right there (see Increasing Your Main Memory).

_images/Control-Center-4.png

Figure 4: The third component in the system benchmark is your computer’s main memory (3).

Disk (4)

On most computers, your system memory is way too small to hold all the data required for analyzing a large data set. This is why Disco intelligently uses your hard disk to buffer event log data, and to store intermediate analysis results. The Disk section, see (4) in Figure 5, shows you on which hard disk Disco is currently storing your data, and gives you information about how much storage is still available, and about the performance of accessing that hard disk.

The speed of the hard disk makes a difference if you are working with large logs. For example, SSD disks are better for analyzing large data sets. But especially you do not want to have your C-Drive being some Network drive, because then every analysis of the raw data goes through the network. Furthermore, Disco stores the data that you import in its workspace. The data is stored in a very compact and optimized manner, but if you are importing large data sets, you will still need sufficient free disk space to analyze them in Disco.

If your main hard disk is very slow, or limited in space, Disco gives you the option to change the disk it uses (see Changing Your Hard Disk). If you default installation has too limited space to hold your workspace, you can also change the workspace location on your disk (see Changing Your Workspace Location).

Internet connection (5)
Disco optionally uses your internet connection to download updates, and to deliver in-app feedback. For the sake of completeness, we have added a benchmark for your internet connection speed, see (5) in Figure 5, so now you can also check whether you will receive our next update in seconds, or just milliseconds.
_images/Control-Center-5.png

Figure 5: The last two components in the system benchmark are the Disk (4) and your Internet speed (5).

We would like to emphasize that, for the vast majority of Disco users, using the optimizations available from the control center should not be necessary. If you are not exactly sure about the impact of your optimizations, you should probably leave that decision to Disco and continue working with the default settings. However, if you are an advanced user, or you are constantly dealing with very large and complex data sets, these optimizations can greatly improve your performance.

If you need help optimizing your system, or you experience problems after changing your configuration, please contact us at support@fluxicon.com.

Increasing Your Main Memory

Per default Disco only uses up to 1 or 2 GB of RAM (depending on the operating system). And for most Disco users, this default amount of system memory should be more than sufficient, because Disco intelligently buffers your data to the hard disk once it becomes too big for the main memory. However, if you are dealing with very large or complex data sets, increasing the amount of memory for Disco can significantly improve performance.

You can increase your main memory in Disco in the following way: Click on the Optimize memory button in the Memory section of the System Benchmark (see the big arrow in Figure 4). This will bring you to the Optimize memory screen shown in Figure 6. In this screen you see the following controls:

Slider (1)
Using a simple slider, you can seamlessly adjust the amount of system memory that Disco is allowed to use. Disco will automatically suggest and set a memory limit that it thinks is optimal, based on the amount of memory that your computer has. You can also set the amount of memory a little higher than Disco recommends, but don’t pull the slider completely up the right, because your computer needs the RAM also for other tasks than running Disco.
Reserved memory (2)
In the Reserved memory section you can see which amount of memory is currently set to be used by Disco (based on the slider position above).
Set recommended limit (3)
If you were moving the slider around but ultimately would like to get it back to the position that Disco recommends, you can press the Set recommended limit button. The slider will be moved again to the recommended amount of memory.
Apply changes (4)
Click the Apply changes button once you have set the desired memory amount to confirm this new RAM setting. Disco will let you know that it needs to restart (see Figure 7), and once you have restarted the application you will be using Disco with the new amount of memory from now on.
Cancel (5)
If you click the Cancel button, you will leave this view to return to the System Benchmark view without having made any changes to the memory settings. You can also exit the control center completely by clicking the “Back” button on the upper left.
_images/Control-Center-IncreaseMemory.png

Figure 6: Click on the Apply changes button to confirm the new amount of RAM that Disco can use.

After pressing the Apply changes button, you need to restart Disco to let it work with the new RAM setting. You can press the Quit Disco and apply changes button (see Figure 7), wait until Disco has quit completely, and then start Disco again to immediately use the new memory settings.

If you press the Restart later button, you can continue working without restarting Disco and the new RAM setting will be used later once you restart Disco in the future.

_images/Control-Center-IncreaseMemory-2.png

Figure 7: Click the Quit Disco and apply changes button, wait until Disco has quit completely, and then start Disco again to use the new memory settings.

Changing Your Hard Disk

Disco stores all your workspace data, and temporary analysis results, on your hard disk. Instead of just using a standard database for storing the data that you import to Disco, Disco uses a proprietary data storage system that is optimized for the process mining use case and makes Disco way faster than it could be otherwise. By using our optimized storage layer and leveraging an intelligent caching and buffering architecture, we can ensure that access to data on that “scratch disk” is lightning fast.

For most users, the default workspace location, which is on your system hard disk, should be the optimal choice. However, some of you may work in resource-constrained environments, such as when your home directory is located on a remote file server, or when your system hard disk is very small or slow for other reasons. In these situations, it makes sense to switch the hard disk Disco uses to another, faster or more spacious disk. This can allow you to significantly improve analysis performance, or to analyze large data sets which do not fit on your system disk.

You can change the hard disk that Disco uses for storing your data and analysis results in the following way: Click on the Change disk button in the Disk section in the System Benchmark (see the big arrow in Figure 5). After clicking the button, Disco will benchmark the performance of all your connected hard disks, and will then show you a dialog similar to the one shown in Figure 8.

_images/Control-Center-ChangeDisk.png

Figure 8: The disk performance benchmark that you get after pressing the Change disk button in the Disk section in the System Benchmark.

Once you get to the disk performance comparison screen, you see the following elements:

Current Disk (1)
On top, Disco will show a summary of your currently used disk, and you can decide to keep using that disk by clicking the adjacent button. For example, in Figure 8 the currently used disk has a much better performance than the second disk, which is why we would press the Use this disk button at the top to keep using this disk.
Other Disks (2)

Below, you can see a list of disks that you can change to, with performance and usage overviews. At the bottom of every disk section, you can find a short summary telling you whether it is a good idea to use this disk for Disco. If you decide to use any of these disks instead of the currently used one, you can press the corresponding Use this disk button to do so. For example, in Figure 9 the currently used disk is much slower than the second disk that is available. So, we can better switch to using this disk for Disco in the future.

When you decide to change your used disk, Disco will first back up your current project as a Disco project file (see also Exporting Projects) to your desktop. Then, it will migrate all your project data to the newly chosen disk, after which you can continue working. For large workspaces, and depending on the performance of the disks involved, this migration may take some time. Afterwards, you can simply continue working where you left off and Disco will remember your new disk setting in the future.

Note

If you decide to change the disk used by Disco, you will need to make sure that this disk is available every time you use Disco.

Choose Custom Location (3)
In some situations, you don’t want to change the disk but need to influence the location on the disk where your workspace is stored. Refer to Changing Your Workspace Location to learn how to do that.
Cancel (4)
If you click the Cancel button, you will leave this view to return to the System Benchmark view without having made any changes to the disk settings. You can also exit the control center completely by clicking the “Back” button on the upper left.
_images/Control-Center-ChangeDisk-2.png

Figure 9: If there is a better disk available, you can click on the Use this disk button to use the new disk for storing your workspace data and analysis results.

Changing Your Workspace Location

In the disk performance benchmark screen (see Changing Your Hard Disk) you also have the option to change the location (the precise folder) where your workspace is stored. This might be necessary if, for example, your default location is very limited in space and you want to analyze large data sets.

To change the workspace location, click on the Choose custom location... button - see (3) in Figure 8. Then, navigate to the directory, where you would like to store your Disco workspace in the future and click Save.

A Disco project file called Disco Workspace Backup.dsc will be created on your desktop. This project file contains all your analyses from your current project and serves as a backup in case something goes wrong with your workspace migration. You can open it in Disco like any other project file you have created (see Managing and Sharing Projects).

After you have set the new workspace location, a folder called Fluxicon will be created in the new location you have chosen. In this folder, you will find a Disco folder and in this Disco folder the new workspace folder that holds all your files from your current project. You can simply continue working with Disco operating from this new workspace location from now on.

Footnotes

[1]For example, the Overdrive component introduced in Disco 1.7 (see https://fluxicon.com/blog/2014/07/disco-1-7-0/) linearly reduces the time it takes to calculate the metrics from which we derive the process maps with additional CPU cores.