Second day of class in Strasbourg. It started well: I covered IDS extensibility and the students went through the lab without more serious problems than misspelling and keyboard issues.
Life was good until we got to Data Studio..
I went through the presentation quickly since all the students said they were familiar with eclipse. We then moved on to the lab. Fifteen minutes into the lab, most students were still waiting for Data Studio initialization to complete. For some, it took much longer. All that to say that the lab machines were under-configured in memory. I should have mentioned that the lab machines needed at least 1GB of memory and not only 512MB.
Despite the memory problems, most student were able to get through the lab. I suspect that it will be impossible to do the lab on web services since we also need to start WAS CE in addition to Data Studio.
We continued with a discussion on OO and databases followed by a review of web environments with more emphasis on application servers. These went quicker since, as expected, students covered the OO approach in detail during their years at the university. this was a good thing since we were behind in my original schedule.
the day ended with a presentation on WAS CE followed with the lab where they were able to see an application that runs in the application server and accesses Informix. Another decent day, now on to the last one.
The machines configurations caused problems in using Data Studio with WAS CE, I already mentioned that yesterday. This also meant that we could not do the web services lab. To work around this problem, I spent a few minutes showing the students what was involved in creating a web service using the vmware image on my laptop. Of course, it took a lot less time than would be required to do the lab since everything was already setup.
The rest of the class went well. It included a review of the enterprise features such as backup, SDS, HDR, RSS, CLR, ER, CDC (Change Data Capture), and MQ integration. I think we should add a lab on shared disk and HDR since the labs appear to be very well received. They are more fun than just sitting there listening to a speaker. The class ended with a prsentation on cloud computing.
I went through the evaluation and found that the class was a success. I know there are a few adjustments but it was a good start. All in all, it was a good few days.
I took the train to Paris. It takes around 2 hours 15 minutes to cover the 500 kilometers between Strasbourg and Paris. That's an average of over 220 km per hour. The ride was so smooth. It is interesting to note that a plane ride would have taken one hour but the train is actually faster since you can get there just a few minutes before departure and it drops you off in the middle of Paris instead of the "far away" Charles De Gaulle Airport. That's a reminder that we should always use the right tools for the right problem :-)
Last week I stayed at a quaint hotel in Strasbourg. Since the room did not have an alarm clock, I decided to use my watch to wake me up on Monday morning. Considering that there is an eight-hour timezone difference between Denver and Strasbourg, using an alarm is a good idea.
I woke up on Monday 30 minutes before the alarm was supposed to ring. That's long enough to make it worthwhile falling asleep again so I did. I woke up again with a start, picked up my watch and looked at the time: the display was blank!I needed to find out what time it was in a hurry. Maybe I was late for the start of the class! Luckily for me, it turned out that it was the time I was planning to get up at. I guess my brain kept track of the time as I was sleeping. It has worked in the past but I don't find this method the most reliable. At this point, I started using my phone as my alarm clock.
Later that week, when I was in Paris, I had to go visit a partner. The sales specialist send me the information. I wrote the address down on a piece of paper and went to grab a taxi. The taxi driver could not find the place even with the use of a GPS device. I did not have access to my email with my laptop, I did not write down the partner's phone number and I had no way to contact anybody. I was about to tell the driver to turn around when I remember that I get my emails on my phone. Luckily, there was a phone number and we were able to get to the right location.
Twice in one week! Since I had to leave my hotel on Saturday at 5:00am, I did not want to take any chances: I setup a wake up time on both my phone and on the television/alarm clock. Surely at least one of the two would work. It turns out that both worked that morning and 20+ hours later I was back at home (ahh! the glamor of travel). Now my laptop appears to act a little strange. I better do a backup...
That made me think: Do all Informix DBAs have a contingency plan? What happens if something goes wrong? How much does it cost the business for each hour of downtime?
IDS offers a lot of capabilities that can address the needs of a business environment. It starts with online backup either full or incremental and adds to it through the following:
- Continuous Availability Feature (CAF): This provides the ability to share the disks so instances on different machines (or blade) use the same database space. This is great to quickly recover from machine failure since the database is accessible through another machine. Since all machines access the data simultaneously, it can also provide horizontal scalability
- High-Availability Data Recovery (HDR): Provides disaster recovery through the replication of the data to another instance.
- Remote Secondary Server (RSS): Adds to the HDR story by supporting additional copies of the data into other instances
- Continuous Log Restore (CLR): You can automate the restore of IDS into another instance so that instance is ready to be put online if needed in the case of a disaster on the production machine
- Enterprise Replication (ER): Gives you the ability to distribute the data over hundreds of instances to have distributes work and redundant data.
All these options work together. Talk to your local IBM-Informix IT specialists if you want to know more about these capabilities.
If you've read my last entry, you know what happened with my watch while I was in Strasbourg. Considering that I have had that watch for a long time, I decided that it was time to replace it with a newer model so I spent $35 for the latest version of the same watch. My watch had run its time.
You must be wondering why I'm talking about a watch in an Informix blog :-). Informix (IDS) being a software product keeps on running. The bits don't wear out. Or do they?IDS 7.31 end of service: September 2009IDS 9.40 end of service: April 2009!IDS 10.0 end of service: September 2010IDS 11.10 end of marketing: September 2009
So maybe the bits wear out... There are many other reasons why you'd want to go to IDS 11.50. They include the improvements in the areas of performance, ease of administration, business continuity, security, and application development. You also need to consider the new features and the integration with other IBM solutions.
To give you an idea about what you are missing, you can read the following slightly outdated document: Why upgrade to IDS 11.50
Staying up-to-date with IDS is another way to increase your business advantage. Look into it as soon as you can.[Read More]
Lately I've had a lot of internal discussions about features, benefits, and qualities of Informix Dynamic Server version 11. Two characteristics tht came up were the fact that IDS can be invisible and that Informix is everywhere. Humm... everywhere and invisible... we could do a lot of jokes about that... but I don't want to be in the doG house :-)
We just closed the second quarter of 2009. A lot happened during that period: we had the Informix conference, the release of IDS 11.50.xC4, Informix Warehouse, and Storage Optimization with deep compression. Of course that does not even include IDS 11 training sessions given around the world, proof of concepts, customer discussions, many upgrades, and multiple production implementations of the latest features.
So, what do we have in store for the second half? I can't really tell you :-(.
There are two things that are pretty obvious that I can mention: IDS 11.50.xC5 will likely come out in the second half and the end of support for IDS 7.31 is September 15. That should not come as a surprise since IDS 7.31 has not been sold since September 2008. It had quite a long life (IDS 7.31. was released in 1999, last millennium!).
I'm hoping that all 7.31 customers are already working on the upgrade (you can upgrade directly from 7.31 to 11.50). Since IDS 11.50 is a superset of 7.31, that's should provide a minimum of inconvenience. Then they will be able to take advantage of all the performance improvements and all the new features that makes IDS even easier to use and manage. I really believe that people that are happy with IDS 7.31 will be impressed with all the improvements in 11.50.
People on IDS 10.0 should start thinking about moving to 11.50.
If you have any questions about going from 7.31, 9.4, or 10.0 to IDS 11, don't hesitate to contact your local IBM Informix expert.
These are two concepts I've been reading about lately in a book from Eliyahu M. Goldratt (The Goal).
It's interesting to read that a system throughput is determined by its slowest component. Of course, that's something we are familiar with in database management: we want to optimize the I/O to get better performance. What I found more interesting is that when an event is delayed, it can have a direct impact on the overall system throughput. For example, if the slowest component is delayed, it represents a direct loss to the system. In other cases, other components can take a long time to catch up after a delay.
One key to all this is to look at improving the entire system and the way to do it is to find out where the bottlenecks. Once they are found, we must figure out how to make sure they are not idle waiting for something to happen and that they don't do extra work.
This seems to be a lot of what an Informix DBA does when there are performance questions. I could easily point to disk fragmentation by expression, use of prepared statements and so on. The thing is that I've also seen other situations where people point to the database as the source of the bottleneck to find out that it is outside the database. I've seen issues of network and recently I was told by a customer that they must have a specific response time because the transaction already takes 3 times that before outside of IDS. IDS has to sprint because the other components jog.
In another situation, I found that what the customer was seeing as one database requests turned out to be over 100 SQL statements. The kicker was that most statements were unnecessary.
Next time people point to the database as the problem, make sure to get the complete picture from end to end.
I'd like to come back to the book "The Goal" I mentioned in my last blog entry.
This book focuses on manufacturing environments but the interview at the end of the book mentions that the concepts of the theory of constraints (TOC) can be applied to other fields. Looking back in teh book, I found that they ask three basic questions about the impact of changes:
- Did you sell more?
- Did you reduce the number of people on the payroll?
- Did you reduce inventory?
We can easily see that this makes sense to a financial person in manufacturing. Let's see how we can look at it when our concern is running a database.
Did you sell more?
That could be a tough one because sometime it is difficult to tie what we do to the company sales. that reminds me of a need analysis I did early in my career. The drafting department wanted to get a CAD system. At the time, that represented an investment of around one million dollars. I asked: "What happens if the plans are late?". I got blank stares as a reply. I should have talked to their customers to find the answer. We shold always ask what happens if we take longer to do something or if we don't do it. Here's a great quote:
"The cheapest, fastest and most reliable components of a computer system are those that aren’t there"
Gordon Bell, Encore Computer Corporation
Did you reduce the number of people on the payroll?
That's a question we always try to avoid but the bottom line, this is a question that is considered. Don't forget that if we can sell more with the same number of people, that's the same as reducing the payroll.
I've met many customers that have a mixed environments where we see a 10-1 ratio of Informix personnel compared to the personnel for the competitor's platform. Why not bring that up to the appropriate people. I'm sure your local IBM representative will be happy to help.
Did you reduce inventory?
Dr. Goldratt (author of "The Goal") says that investment is the same as inventory. So, what investment is made to increase sales? What is the return on investment? This seems to be a great opportunity to talk to people that use other DB products: How much are you investing in people to run these systems? What could you save there? How much are you investing in hardware? Could that be reduced? How much in software? I've heard that people that add Informix to their environment can get significant discount from their other DB vendor. That represents a reduction in the investment.
I think these three questions are worth exploring no matter which environment you're in. That can be good for your company, for you, and for all the people that invest their efforts into the Informix products.
IDS 11.50.xC5 became eGA on July 24th. It includes several new features including the "CONNECT BY" syntax and the MERGE command. There were other improvements in multiple areas such as administration and usability, and in the continuous availability including Enterprise Replication (ER).
For more information look at:
Please see the following story Trafficmaster and IBM Develop Solution for Smarter Driving to learn more about how Informix makes life easier for drivers in the UK. Here's a quote form the article:
"Trafficmaster is able to provide drivers with real-time route planning and more accurate estimated arrival times than ever before with the help of the IBM Informix data base technology," said Stuart Berman, Executive Director, Trafficmaster.
I recently received a note about the IOD conference, October 25-29, at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. If you register by August 31, you can get the early bird hotel rate!
Please go to the Conference Site to learn more about the IOD conference and register. Here are the top reasons provided to attend:
- Turn your information into a strategic driver of innovation, business optimization and competitive differentiation
- Learn how to transform data into a trusted strategic asset using an information agenda
- Improve business performance by applying data analytics and optimization techniques, e.g. save $423 million and realize 95% improvement in on-time delivery
- Accelerate information intensive projects for immediate ROI, e.g., increasing daily deliveries by 100% and spotting new trends in seconds - not weeks
- Optimize your existing information infrastructure to achieve higher availability and improved ROI
- Add value to your organization by building your skills and knowledge
You can find Informix-specific information on the conference at Informix at Information On Demand
. Here are the top 5 reasons on the Informix side:
- The best in IBM technical training
- Hands-on-labs provide in-depth training
- Immediate return on investment
- First-hand experiences shared by customer speakers
- Everything your company needs in one location
I am currently in Belgium, Brussels with Terri Gerber. Last Tuesday, we had a successful meeting with an Informix customer. After the meeting, in late afternoon, Patrick Billens took us around to show us the sites of Brussels including among other things the royal palace and the "grande place". Little did I know that soon, Terri would almost cause an international incident with the digital equipment she was carrying.
It happened soon after we saw the king's working palace. The flag at the top of the palace indicated that the king was currently there working. We turned the corner after the palace and Patrick pointed to another building with an American Flag in front of it. Terri took out her digital camera and quickly took a picture. Within seconds, two Belgium police officer were in hot pursuit and quickly caught up with us. Before all h**l broke loose, Patrick intervened, avoiding the worse. I could only imagine what could have happened: Two officers tackling the red-jacket wearing culprit followed by a struggle to get to the digital camera.
Terri did not surrender her camera. Instead, she wrestled with its ease of use and deleted the offending picture in front of the officers. Satisfied with the action taken, we were free to go on our way.
At this time, Terri is on her way back home to Massachusett. Is the picture really deleted? I'm sure it would be possible to un-delete it. Hopefully this won't be a concern for the department of homeland security. If that becomes an issue, I'm sure Terri would be willing to share information with homeland security on how much Informix could help them make the country safer.
I think Terri is pulling my leg. She is apparently receiving concerned emails about what happened in Brussels. It was a humorous situations that I wanted to relate in a fun way. I guess I have a future in fiction writing :-).
Really, nothing happened. She took a picture, the police courteously told us that the American embassy did not want people to take picture. Terri deleted the picture from her camera while having a pleasant time with the officers. We then left and laughed about it.
So, don't worry, Terri is doing fine and we all had a good time in Brussels. I strongly encourage people to come and visit.
Last Wednesday, Terri and I went from Brussels to Roosendaal (Netherland) to visit our Informix partner Informa. The first thing we saw when we arrived at their building was a 4 feet tall informix logo sign, the original blue logo.
We had a great meeting talking about the Informix roadmap and the state of the Informix business as they see it at Informa. Bertino and Rob also told us that they found two Informix customers that did not know that IBM had bought Informix!
We were back in Brussels between 5:30 and 6:00 in the evening and went out for dinner. When it came to pay, it turned out we could not use our credit cards since our cards do not include a chip. Here, in Europe, they all use smart cards.
That reminds me of the Informix conference in Chicago back, I believe, in 1997. At that conference, attendees would get a smartcard that was used for multiple purposes. One of them was that they could go to a PC, insert their card in the reader and take a conference survey. After the survey was submitted, they could go claim a T-shirt as a thank you prize. Before they could get the T-shirt, The smart card would be checked to make sure the attendee completed the survey and then mark their card with the fact that they had received their T-shirt. As it happens, I wrote the application that took care of the survey.
The survey was done through a web browser running on a windows machine (16-bit windows at the time). A smart card reader was attached to the PC. The attendee would insert their smartcard in the reader and invoke the survey URL. This request would execute a program on the server that would call back the PC using the PC internat address and a pre-defined port number to read the smart card and fill out the basic information on the form such as name and address. Once the survey was submitted, the application would again access the smartcard to turn on the indicator that said that the survey had been completed.
I'm sure that the capacity of smart cards has greatly increased over the last 10 years or so. A lot could be stored on those. We could store a biometric key as password (fingerprint) and all sort of personal information such as medical records and medical activities, including prescriptions. With this always up-to-date record, it could reduce risks of errors, drug abuse, and so on. The update could be done to the smartcard at the point of service and also sent to a national database through, let say, web services.
IDS can handle millions of transactions per second. It has a proven track record of reliability and scalability and is used to stringent response time requirements. Fro example, IDS is able to handle the employee badge of IBM employees worldwide to give them access to different areas of IBM. IDS also handles large streams of financial information and makes them available for analysis almost instanteneously. Handling the medical record updates would be no problem since we can easily scale out through the distribution of the data over multiple machines either through the continuous availability feature (shared disks). In the medical record case, I would likely look at Enterprise Replication (ER) as my first enabling feature.
All that to say that smart card may be worth another look. The use of smart card with IDS could open the door to many new capabilities in all sort of emerging market and new application.
I'm currently in Paris in the second week of a business trip. For a two-week trip it is pretty common to have some clothes laundered otherwise this makes for a lot of stuff to lug around.
I took a look at what was offered at my hotel: To launder one shirt (men), they charge 8.50 euros (around 12.37 US dollars). As I was leaving the hotel, I saw a hotel employee with a laundry bag in her hands. Looking at the size of the bag, I could just imagine the small fortune spent by the guest.
As I was walking to the IBM office, I passed a dry cleaner that advertized the cleaning and pressing of men shirts for 2.20 euro per shirt for 5 shirts. The price at the hotel was over 3.8 times that price. With a little knowledge a a 5 minute walk, the hotel guest could save a significant amount of money: for 5 shirts the price goes from 42.50 euros to 11 euros. For a company with a lot of employees that use that type of service, this can add up to significant savings.
Of course, that made me think of Informix. It is well known that IDS provides a high level of performance and scalability and require minimal resources for its administration. In some cases, one database administrator can manage thousands of instances. Of course it is much easier to go with a safe choice, use as much hardware as needed, and hire as many employees and consultants as the situation requires for the management of the environment and business application development. This is simply the cost of doing business...
It seems to me that with a little knowledge and a little effort, that cost of doing business could be greatly optimized.
When I was in France, I met two partners/resellers: VMark and Frame. Both partners are strong Informix partners and supporters. It is always good to meet partners of this caliber.
In addition to them, I must give a particular mention for ConsultiX's Khaled Bentebal that went the extra mile and re-started the France's Informix users' group with a meeting on September 30th. The meeting was well attended with over 20 people despite some scheduling issues that greatly reduced the advertising for it. There was a mix of roadmap, positioning and technical presentations that were enthusiastically received by the audience.
This year we have seen several countries starting Informix users groups. the one in France is the latest that shows that Informix is growing and doing well. I wish Khaled and the France Informix users' group all the best.