January 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

With the increased merging of disparate core business systems in the enterprise - as well as the emergence of additional systems in the form of enterprise resource management, customer relationship management, hierarchical storage strategies, and other business-driven initiatives - many companies today find themselves moving mountains of data on a daily basis. Business intelligence (BI) initiatives in particular typically rely on data warehousing strategies to provide critical information and reports to management in support of business decisions. Such strategies often require the timely transfer of enormous amounts of data from line-of-business systems. Too much time taken in data transfer can adversely impact a company's agility and could mean lost windows of business opportunities. It can also encroach on processing resources better devoted to core business applications.

If you have ever been involved in configuring, installing and maintaining enterprise software, I don't have to tell you that it's time-consuming and complex. The cumbersome process of installing and tuning the operating system (OS), middleware, and database, then integrating and configuring the software is manual and error-prone. Even if you get it all correct, the process alone can delay time-to-value for the end user and introduce challenges for independent software vendors (ISVs) looking to shorten sales cycles. The whole process is daunting and expensive, discouraging customers and inhibiting sales. In order to maximize their financial return and eliminate installation and maintenance challenges, many ISVs are building appliances - versions of their product, packaged with a "just enough operating system" required to perform the desired tasks. Pre-configured for specific use cases, these compact, self-contained appliances can be deployed in a matter of minutes, requiring only last mile setup.

Enterprises that downplay the importance of storage management may be putting other key enterprise objectives at risk. That's the message from Kyle Fitze, Director of Marketing, Storage Platforms Division, HP StorageWorks. With IT shops facing constrained budgets and data volumes continuing to escalate, Fitze says, greater efficiency in the IT infrastructure is a requirement so that more money and time can be targeted at IT projects that will drive business growth. "Today, we believe that most customers spend upward of 70% of their budget just keeping the systems running and the lights on and everything cooled, on maintenance and operations, and the remainder of their budget on innovative IT projects," he observes. What HP would like to do, "is flip that ratio, so that customers, while they spend less on IT overall, are spending a smaller percentage of their budget on operations and the larger percentage then on innovation and business intelligence, and the kind of IT projects that can help them navigate these rough waters of economic decline."

Columns - Applications Insight

Google's first "secret sauce" for web search was the innovative PageRank link analysis algorithm which successfully identifies the most relevant pages matching a search term. Google's superior search results were a huge factor in their early success. However, Google could never have achieved their current market dominance without an ability to reliably and quickly return those results. From the beginning, Google needed to handle volumes of data that exceeded the capabilities of existing commercial technologies. Instead, Google leveraged clusters of inexpensive commodity hardware, and created their own software frameworks to sift and index the data. Over time, these techniques evolved into the MapReduce algorithm. MapReduce allows data stored on a distributed file system - such as the Google File System (GFS) - to be processed in parallel by hundreds of thousands of inexpensive computers. Using MapReduce, Google is able to process more than a petabyte (one million GB) of new web data every hour.

Columns - Database Elaborations

The process for designing a database that supports the operational functions of an organization begins with simple understanding. The data architect or modeler needs to obtain a working knowledge of the language comprising the universe of discourse for the solution. This awareness is gathered through many activities, such as talking with the people currently doing the work, sitting with them and watching how they do their tasks, reading over existing training manuals or standard operation procedures. The designer is best served when figuratively walking a mile in the shoes of the future application users. The more that the designer knows about the user needs and goals, the better able the designer is to definitively craft a data model supporting user tasks.

Columns - DBA Corner

My whole career has been based on managing data and producing information and, as such, I am intrigued with the issue of information overload - or the perception that there is too much information. A former boss called me an information bottom-feeder because I always seemed to have a nugget of information or two that applied to her projects and quests. You see, I'm of the opinion that you can never have enough information - at least regarding those things you care about.

Columns - SQL Server Drill Down

I was once asked what I thought Microsoft's overall product trajectory for SQL Server was, in light of Oracle's rather obvious trajectory of acquiring multiple application vendors who will, in turn, deploy more and more of their applications to the Oracle database platform. To be honest, I had a little difficulty perceiving a clear and concise strategy statement for the sort of work going on in Redmond. I could see a lot of great features being developed. And I knew the SQL Server development team had developed a lot of new "plumbing" with each new release - features like Service Broker and Extended Events and exponentially more robust capabilities in the Analysis Services product lines. But the strategy itself was veiled and, since Microsoft wasn't explicitly telling us what the grand strategy was, I had difficulty putting my finger on it.

MV Community

Ashwood Computer, Inc., which specializes in MultiValue database technology, and Wynne Systems, Inc., a provider of business intelligence software, have formed a partnership to offer Wynne Systems' InfoManager business intelligence software to the MV community. According to the vendors, the new partnership will enable Ashwood to provide a high quality software as a service (SaaS) BI product to the MultiValue community while leveraging Ashwood's strong services capability.

Goold Health Systems (GHS) is rolling out its core processing application on the InterSystems CACHÉ high-performance object database platform. The rollout began after successfully completing an in-depth proof-of-concept (POC) project. Headquartered in Augusta, Maine, GHS is a healthcare management company that specializes in providing pharmacy benefit services, clinical services and business process outsourcing services to State Medicaid agencies, non-profit clients and private sector clients.

Onix Systems Group Inc., a provider of budgeting solutions for the healthcare industry, and Entrinsik, Inc., a provider of operational reporting and analysis solutions, have formed a partnership to integrate Informer Web Reporting into the Onix Budget System.

Revelation Software is currently working on OpenInsight for TigerLogic D3. "Just as we have OpenInsight for U2, we will have OpenInsight for D3. Eventually, we hope that OpenInsight becomes a front-end graphical development to the D3 environnment," explains Robert Catalano, director of sales for Revelation. The new product came about after Mike Ruane, Revelation's president and CEO, attended TigerLogic's first user conference in many years in early November. "Many of their users are still using green screen technology or if they are doing it with a graphical front end, it is something like Java, where the skill set just isn't what they have. With the addition of OpenInsight as a front end to D3, they gain the ability to use the same skill set that they have right now, and they get to create a graphical front end to the database that they already have."