May 2010

Subscribe to the online version of Database Trends and Applications magazine. DBTA will send occasional notices about new and/or updated DBTA.com content.

Trends and Applications

You're probably familiar with the old saying that "it's not what you know, it's who you know." That may have been true back in the days when conversations about competitive advantage concerned memberships at prestigious golf clubs and lavish expense accounts; in the days when data was regarded as mere records of transactions, production and inventory levels. Today's conversations about competitive advantage may still include talk of personal relationships. More frequently, though, these conversations reflect the relatively recent appreciation of the intrinsic value of enterprise data - a value seen not just by senior executives, but also by employees in virtually every department. There is broad consensus in most organizations that enterprise data, and perhaps more importantly, the ability to analyze large volumes or smaller subsets of data at will, in real time, are crucial business differentiators.

Application monitoring started off with a simple need - to help an administrator or manager of an application, monitor and manage its performance. It was narrow in scope and limited in use - to monitor a single application and provide metrics useful for managing that application only. Monitoring tools were often provided by application vendors, but the growing and complex nature of IT environments necessitated the entry of third-party monitoring tools. These were more specialized, with the ability to centrally monitor several different applications. They helped administrators gain visibility across several different applications, understand where problems occurred, and helped to quickly resolve them.

Mergers and acquisitions often come quickly and when they do, it is critical to have tools and utilities capable of scaling to meet new challenges so operations continue seamlessly, customer service standards are upheld, and costs are contained. This was the case for UGI Utilities, a large natural gas and electric service provider in the eastern U.S. In 2006, UGI acquired the natural gas utility assets of PG Energy from Southern Union Company. A longtime customer of BMC, UGI found it was aligned with the right software company to provide implementation of mainframe service management solutions as well as first class support to get the job done and successfully integrate the newly acquired company's data into its environment, saving time and money.

Today it's all about optimizing the business. IT is being charged with finding ways to simplify and automate business processes, making them both more reliable and less expensive to operate. It's a never-ending process, and as time goes on, the demands get greater. Yet while IT has largely been successful to date in helping other parts of the organization save time, money and effort, the same cannot be said for itself.

Columns - Applications Insight

Until recently, IT professionals have been conditioned to regard response time, or throughput, as the ultimate measure of application performance. It's as though we were building automobiles and only concerned with faster cars and bigger trucks. Yet, just as the automotive industry has come under increasing pressure to develop more fuel-efficient vehicles, so has the IT industry been challenged to reduce the power drain associated with today's data centers.

Columns - Database Elaborations

It is rare to find an implemented database devoid of reference tables. Reference tables provide valid values for drop-down lists and in a slightly obtuse way, also allow for expression of a domain or user-defined data type within the database design. Nominally a reference list is but a list of values to be referenced. In practice, the implemented structure of a reference table is driven by small nuances regarding how each list is used. The signifiers may consist of a code or number that creates a short-hand way of expressing a state or value. Yet in addition to such simple codes, a "medium length" name column or even a column to contain a lengthy text description should exist in support of these codes. The names may be used in drop-down lists so that people need not memorize many code values, and the descriptions can assist help-functions by providing users with more understanding of a value's meaning or intended use. For operational applications it may be worthwhile to have an attribute expressing the order in which items should be displayed, unless alphabetical display is a preference. If codes are maintained via online screens, an indicator may be helpful in flagging values that are part of the system and not to be removed or deactivated via those online screens.

Columns - DBA Corner

Have you heard about stream computing? Basically, it involves the ingestion of data - structured or unstructured - from arbitrary sources and the processing of it without necessarily persisting it. Any digitized data is fair game for stream computing. As the data streams it is analyzed and processed in a problem-specific manner. The "sweet spot" applications for stream computing are situations in which devices produce large amounts of instrumentation data on a regular basis. The data is difficult for humans to interpret easily and is likely to be too voluminous to be stored in a database somewhere. Examples of types of data that are well-suited for stream computing include healthcare, weather, telephony, stock trades, and so on.

Columns - SQL Server Drill Down

One thing I really enjoy about the SQL Server community is its vibrancy. I'll give you details on the SQL Server community's explosive growth in a moment, but let's start by comparing Microsoft SQL Server's user community with those of other significant database platforms.

MV Community

The 2010 Revelation Software Users' Conference recently kicked off with opening remarks by Mike Ruane, president of Revelation Software, followed by a keynote by Tom Wilson, president of Database Trends and Applications magazine and Unisphere Research. Wilson addressed "The Year Ahead in Information Management," highlighting key trends overall in IT and their relevance to the MultiValue arena.

Entrinsik, Inc. has announced an agreement with AVATECH, a provider of high quality IT solutions for the industrial, governmental and educational sectors, for the distribution of Entrinsik's Informer Web Reporting software to new customers and partners throughout Europe. Informer is a web-based reporting and analysis solution that provides technical, business, and front-line users with real-time access to information from multiple systems, platforms, or locations.

NorthgateArinso (Northgate) has announced a long-term partnership with sporting goods powerhouse Kittery Trading Post, providing the Reality solution to Kittery's operating platform. Kittery Trading Post has been a pillar of the sporting goods market since 1938 and specializes in hunting, fishing, camping, canoeing and winter sports - providing a one-stop shop for the outdoors adventurer. It was recently awarded first place by Esquire Magazine in its list of the Great Men's Stores of America.

Rocket Software is in the middle of a large project to rebrand U2 products as its own. While it's relatively easy to change the product names on the CDs and splash screens, it takes longer to update all the documentation, error messages, and installation paths, notes Susie Siegesmund, vice president and general manager of Rocket U2. As part of this project, on September 30, 2010, Rocket will remove old documentation from the Rocket website and replace it with the latest versions. Siegesmund suggests that anyone who wants to keep older versions of the documentation should download them before that date.