As you know, the IIUG has a page devoted to open source products that can run on Informix. There has been a new addition recently. It is a patch to have Drupal version 6.16 run on Informix.
Drupal is a popular product that provides capabilities to publish, manage and organize a wide variety of content on a web site. To run it with Informix, you need:
- Informix version 11.50 or higher
- PDO_IBM (and the IBM common drivers to compile it)
You still need to download the code from the drupal site (www.drupal.org) and then apply the changes provided at www.iiug.org/opensource.
In my blog entry of February 17, 2010, I had to put out a retraction about the common drivers. As I said then, I had to start lobbying for their inclusion with Informix.
I am happy to report that the Informix client SDK version 11.50.xC7 includes these drivers. Note that they are not included in Informix 11.50.xC7. I would expect that future releases of Informix will include a CSDK that has the common drivers.
There is a bit of work to do after the CSDK installation to complete the common drivers installation. I'll cover that in an other blog entry later. If you need information on how to use the common drivers, I suggest you download:
"Informix Dynamic Server Application Development: Getting Started":
If you are interested in application development, the following URL is also of interest:
Until next time...
Here's something you may want to act on:
IBM Informix Survey for Continuous Availability White Paper
Complete the Survey to win an Apple iPad! - 1 week left
Every response matters. - Start Survey here!
IBM Informix is the database software voted #1 in customer satisfaction. Clients choose Informix because it is reliable, low cost, and hassle free. Solution providers choose Informix for its best-of-breed embeddability.
Yet, there are some people that still don't 'get' Informix, or realize the many benefits of deploying it. Help us gather data to support this claim.
- Informix is exceptionally hardware efficient, which means that (in the REAL world) you need to spend MUCH less on hardware to get the same performance as other products.
- Informix is exceptionally reliable, which means that (in the REAL world) you don't need to pay lots of people to make sure it stays 'up'.
- Informix is exceptionally scalable, which means that (in the REAL world) it can be idling one moment and then processing thousands of transactions the next with no apparent stress.
Advanced DataTools is working with Oninit, to gather data about what happens in the REAL world to support these assertions with empirical evidence in the REAL world.
The data collected will be used to compile a report that will be made available to every CTO, IT Director and IT Manager. Along with this, they will receive a list of all the major application vendors that are now porting their applications to Informix V11.5 and a document outlining the key reasons to choose Informix.
Every response matters. - Start Survey here!
Win an Apple iPad. One randomly selected participant in the data collection phase of this research will win an Apple iPad, provided by Advanced DataTools Corporation, an Advanced IBM Informix Business Partner.
Note: Public Sector Employees are not eligible
I recently ran into the mention of INT8 and, by association, SERIAL8 by Informix engineers and a recent redbook. I want to make a quick comment on that.
These two types were added a long time ago to support the eight-byte integers (64 bits). They are defined as being a 10-byte structure that includes two "standard" integers. It was done this was so eight-byte integers could be supported on 32-bit operating systems. Now it appears that most operating systems support a native 64-bit integer. For this reason, new data types were added to Informix version 11.50 (fixpack 1). The new types, BIGINT and BIGSERIAL, take less space and perform better. Here is what the release notice says:
Improved Query Performance for Large Integers and Serial Data
The BIGINT and BIGSERIAL data types, which are provided as alternatives to the INT8 and SERIAL8 data types. can provide better performance than the INT8 and SERIAL8 data types.
So, let's forget about INT8 and SERIAL8 and let's use BIGINT and BIGSERIAL available in Informix 11.50.
Just a quick note to say that I'll resume blogging soon.
I've had some medical issues that took me out for over a month but I'm coming back.
Great things are hppening with Informix. Stay tuned!
The day started with a Q&A with IBM excutives: Alys Passarelli, Inhi Cho Suh and Rob Thomas. There were a number of good questions and it was an opportunity for the excutives to state their commitment to Informix and describe many of the efforts in progress.
Once again, a good mix of sessions on subjects from customer case studies, database administration, security, best practices, and use of tools such as Eclipse.
The day ended at 4:30 after the delivery of 25 sessions.
This was a great conference with lots of good information and fantatic networking.
I did forget to mention the key note presentations of the evening of Monday. Rob Thomas gave us his view of the Informix business and a glimpse at his plan for continuing successes. It was followed by a presentation by dr. Arvind Krishna, general manager of IBM Information Management. Great information!
Tuesday, sessions started at 8:00 AM. I was the moderator for the session on disk level encryption. It was about a flexible product that can protect your database data at rest. It works for file-based dbspaces (cooked files) or raw devices. All that, transparently to Informix. Mark Jamison did a great job at presenting the product in a clear and concise manner.
Theere were many sessions on application development in cluding sessions on Groovy, Perl, Python, PHP. Of course, there were also more sessions on duifferent aspects of tuning and also presentation on embeddability, replication , warehouse and so on.
With the sessions starting at 8:000 AM, we had a total of 35 sessions for the day.
This was followed by a casino night. What a full day!
The day started with a keynote speach by Jerry Keesee. I believe the key to the presentation is that the Informix is taking the next step to insure continuing growth of the Informix product. There are some exciting things happening on that front.
The first session I attended was "Data Modeling" given by Jack Parker. There were a lot of interesting examples how a data model greatly impact your production system. I have to agree with Jack that the greatest performance gain in with the data model, not tunig the database after the fact. This is why database experts should be involved at the beginining of a project. They can then also take advantage of database extensibility; something I could talk about for a long time...
There were five sessions going at once for a total of 30 sessions for Monday. There were a lot of good sessions on subjects including database administration, application development, programming, security and more. there wer demos of all sort and great conversations to be had. Someone told me that one of the benefits of this conference is that they can solve in minutes problems that have benn bugging them for weeks.
Of course the evening event was also worth attending with a bunch of engineers coming from the lab just to talk to everyone. All in all a fantastic day!
Sunday was the beginning of the conference. Even though there were tutorials during the day. The real beginning was the welcome reception. The exhibitors booths were ready and the attendees were cheerful. IT was a great networking opportunity with good food and plenty to drink.
I have to admit I missed a lot during the reception because I was in multiple intense discussions.
All in all, a great start to the conference.
I ended my last entry with the IBM statement about smarter planet: instrumented, interconnected, intelligent. I'd like to comment a little more on the instrumented part.
In my last entry, I mentioned the utilization of active RFID to monitor a large data center. Of course, this monitoring compares data points at a specific point in time. Most likely, the readings are done at specific time intervals. The same would be true if you were monitoring the energy consumption and temperature of houses in different neighborhood in a city, traffic information (cars or packets), or any other thing you'd want to collect.
There are two main concerns in this type of processing:
- How do we quickly ingest the large amount of information generated into a database?
- How do we efficiently process the information?
The first concern is to be able to ingest the information without falling behind and with cycles to spare for analysis. In most cases, the information must be kept for further analysis or for historical comparisons and analysis.
The second one is about the analysis itself. Informix has addressed these issues with time-based data with the TimeSeries datablade. It provides an efficient way to store and process large amount of data very quickly. If the ingestion rate is a concern, Informix also has the TimeSeries Real-Time Loader. As its name implied, you can ingest a large amount of data and make it available for analysis virtually immediately.
For a smarter planet, keep these efficient tools in mind. Informix is likely to be the answer to your needs.
I saw the cover of Computer world the other day with a title of "Swinging toward centralization". I'm not one to be jumping on trends but I think this idea has merit. To me, it ties into virtualization, possibly cloud computing, and also the IBM concepts of the smart planet.
Centralized IT could mean first the optimization of hardware resources. The best approach is to use virtualization so all the hardware resources can be used optimally. For example, instead of having, let say 100 computers running at 50%-70% utilization, you can centralize and use virtualization and either reduce the number of computers to around 70 or use the extra capacity for growth. This is a pretty conservative example. Just consider this quote from Computer World, April 20, 20009:
"Austin Energy: With a new virtual environment, applications run on 150 servers instead of 600"
Centralization gives you this opportunity. Note that I'm talking about centralizing the hardware resources. If you centralize processing for one large application, you'll likely need the help of advance features such as IDS Continuous availablity (CAF) and the integrated replication capabilities (HDR and ER).
Centralization does not mean that the personnel must also be centralized. Today, network access is pretty much a fact of life (I so wanted to use the word ubiquitous!). All the application and system management can be done from anywhere. For IDS, just consider the Open Admin Tool for IDS (OAT) or management tools from our partners such as AGS and CobraSonic. Managers can consider these resources as part of a "cloud".
What a nice segway to my next point
We hear a lot about cloud computing. You can buy time on some machines in the cloud. We could also mention software as a service like in the case of LotusLive (see https://www.lotuslive.com/en/) or the IBM cloud offering. This does not mean that you have to go outside to have a cloud. You could create a cloud from your centralized data center and provide capacity on-demand based on resource optimization.
When we talk about a large centralized data center, the server consolidation is only part of the savings. the saving in energy can be significant. The other day, I listened to a presentation by an IBMer that manages a large data center providing services worldwide. Here are the type of things he did:
His team installed active RFID sensors to monitor the temperature and humidity levels in different areas of his data center, including multiple locations in the racks, and at different times. With this information, he was able to clearly identify machine needs. At one point, he was able to identify that if he installed a (raised) floor tile with holes at a specific location, he could eliminate his "hot spot" without increasing his air conditioning needs. He even figured out the correlation between applications and machines heat output. So he can regulate the room temperature based on which application is running!
Talk about a great example of a smarter planet: instrumented, interconnected, intelligent (devices).
I ran into a simple problem the other day: I got an error while creating an index because the key was too big to fit in my index. As you may remember, the maximum size of an index key on a standard Unix/Linux system is 387 bytes.
Why do we have this limit?
This is a function of the page size and the way a B-tree index works. With the limit of 387 bytes on a 2K page, we can have at least 5 keys per page. This way, we divide the data in at least 5 parts at each level. the end result is eliminating comparisons to get to our our result faster. If we had only one key per page, it would be the equivalent of doing a sequential scan so the index would be useless.
In IDS version 10.0 (2005), Informix introduced the configurable page size. from that point on, it is possible to create DBspaces with page sizes of up to 16KB in size. the page sizes available has to be a multiple of the basic page size: 2KB or 4KB.
These larger pages can provide better performance when you have a wide table where the row size could be, let say 12KB. This way, you can fit an entire row in a page instead of using page chaining to support these larger rows. The savings in I/O could make a noticeable difference in performance in many situations.
Coming back to my indexing problem, I can fix it by using a larger page size. According to the documentation, the maximum index key size is as follow for each page sizes:
max key size
If your key fits in a 2KB page (shorter than 387 bytes), you could still use a larger page size for your index. The difference is that more keys would fit in one page so the index will not be as deep so it could provide additional performance.
Why not simply use the 16KB page size everywhere?
The short answer is that you could waste space on the page used for a table. A page can include a maximum of 255 rows. If your page size is 16KB and your row contains only two integers (2 x 4 bytes), you could, in theory, have over 2000 rows in that page. Since we are limited to 255 rows, we are wasting over 14,000 bytes.
Why not use four or five different page sizes?
Each page size requires its own buffer pool. We have to decide how much memory to allocate for each of these pools. Our decision may not result in the optimal memory allocation. The result is that some pools will have too much memory and others would benefit from more. Bottom line, this would make system administration more complex.
I would suggest to limit ourselves to two page sizes. The default page size and another one. The second page size depends on the environment requirements. I would also look at the size of the I/O on the particular machine and how many requests do multiple I/O on sequential data.
If you haven't looked at the configurable page size in IDS, maybe it is a good time to do so now.
Since I've been on a common driver kick lately, might as well keep on going...
There was a chat with the lab on Feb 25th that talked about the common Java JDBC driver (referred as the JCC driver): Top 10 reasons to consider IBM Data Server Driver for JDBC and SQLJ for IDS
You can use the JCC driver with IDS when connecting using the DRDA protocol. Some of the benefits include:
- Better integration with WebSphere
- Ability to use the capabilities PureQuery
- Better tracing and debugging
- Full IDS clustering support
- Superior performance over the Informix JDBC driver
All this is significant:
- PureQuery can increase the performance of SQL statements by analyzing the usage and make changes transparently from the application. For example, it can detect the use of the same statement with different literals and convert that under the cover into a prepared statement.
- Full IDS clustering support includes working with the connection manager to automatically and transparently connect to an alternate server when the primary fails.
- Superior performance: It provides a 5% to 10% performance boost over the Informix JDBC driver.
If you are using Java, maybe it is time to start looking into the JCC driver. You can download it from the IBM site at (10MB):
For more information on this chat with the lab:
Here's Where you can find information on this chat with the lab:
Looks like I jumped to conclusion too quickly. I won't give you any details or attenuating circumstances. I simply did not check properly. It looks like we do hve something on the Windows platform but not on the others.
I simply have to statrt lobying for the data server drivers as part od CSDK on all platforms. In the meantime, you can download the common drivers starting at this URL:
The one you want is the IBM Data Server Driver Package (DS Driver). On Linux, it is a 24MB download.
More on how to use it later.
There was a big change for me this year: I left the Informix CTE group to lead a new group. I am now a manager... and architect.
My new group is called Application Development Services. This mean that my group looks at IDS from a programmer point of view. Let me give you an example of what that means. Let's look at the major features included in IDS 11.50.xC6:
Backup from an RSS server
Dynamic listener threads
View event alarms
Basic Text Search enhancements
MERGE statement enhancements
I care about these features but I my attention goes to a feature of the new Client SDK that deserved a one line mention in its release notice:
"When you install Client SDK or IConnect, you have the option to install IBM Data Server Driver version 9.7. For more information, see the Client Products Installation Guide."
As you may remember, the long term direction for client applications is to use the DRDA interface to IDS. With this one line statement, I can now write programs using CLI (ODBC) without having to have to figure out where to get the driver. Since IBM has multiple packages available, I could have easily made the mistake of thinking that I need to download the entire DB2 client (about 600MB) to get this functionality.
In addition, this is all I need to build PDO_IBM for PHP applications or IBM_DB gem file for Ruby and Rails development.
As far as what my group will do, we can start by figuring out and prioritizing what features will make Informix more attractive to developers/programmers. It's not just features in the server. It has to consider everything. Even documentation.
I'm sure I'll have more to say about this later this year. Hopefully I'll have interesting results to report by the time I see some of you at the IIUG conference in April.
There's a children book that I used to read to my kids. It was about a boy that was laying around on the grass when he say a fly go by. What followed was a bunch of animals chasing each other.
Lately, I took a break from blogging (I hope you've noticed!), like a little boy laying on the grass, enjoying a sunny day. During that time, IDS 11.50xC6 came out. Here are a few interesting features:
- External table: an SQL interface to files to allow for very fast load and unload.
- XA transactions on secondary servers
- Backup on the RSS server: You can make an archive of an instance on an RSS server
- Dynamic listener threads: You can start, stop, and restart listener threads for the soctcp or tlitcp protocols without interupting existing connections.
There are also enhancements to the MERGE statement and the attach/detach capability among other thing. You can find out more about the xC6 release in the release notice
Some of you may remember that Lester Knutsen (Advanced DataTools Corporation) had a "fastest DBA" contest at the IIUG conference last April. when I was at the IOD conference, I picked up a copy of the Data Management magazine and found an article from Lester summarizing the tuning approaches. You can find the article on the web at:
I did not noticed a session on Wednesday. Luckily, I went to it Thursday morning. It was: "Tuning Informix in a Sandbox Environment" by Russell Glancy from GSN Digital.
Russell covered in details how a product from exactsolutions, iReplay, allows him to test new configurations, versions, and tuning in a safe environment using the same workload as his production machine. this way, he is knows exactly what will happen when he makes the changes to the production environment.
I also co-presented the session "Keeping costs low and maximizing flexibility for Jamaica using IDS" with Walt Brown, senior manager at FSL Jamaica. My role was mainly to introduce Walt and let him present his environment. Walt went into details about their environment and that they basically run all the Jamaican government systems, including tax collections that was even active and used during a hurricane.
There were several other sessions including:
A deep dive into the IBM Informix 4GL Service Oriented Architecture Feature, Gaga Mahesshwari, IBM
Dimensional modeling for IBM Informix warehouse users, Fred Ho, IBM, Sandra Tucker, IBM
Managing IDS configuration ans performance with server studio and sentinel, Keshava Murthy, IBM, Anatole Vichon, AGS Ltd
And several more... All that on the last day of the conference!
The conference is over. It is now time to go back to work.
Once again, another full day. There were Informix sessions on embeddability, virtualization/cloud computing, security, and zero-downtime upgrade. We also heard a great presentation on database tuning from Rick Rabe and Tom Girsch from Hilton Hotels.
Great sessions altogether. Now on to Thursday.
In Arvind Krishna feature keynote titled "Reduce Your Data Management costs with Workload-optimized System", we heard about Cisco Systems. They mentioned that they chose Informix a few years ago after looking at all possibilities for embedded databases including open-source ones.
I spent some time with Walt Brown (from FSL) and Cathy Elliott to fine-tune his presentation. More on that Thursday.
There were several interesting sessions Today:
- SOA Enablement on IBM INformix 4GL, Gagin Maheshwari, IBM
- Building Data Warehouses with Infomrix, Lester Knutsen, Advanced Data Tools
- Hands on lab on end-to-end security with Informix, Ted Wasserman, IBM
- Open Admin Tool for IDS, John Miller III, IBM
- All About IDS CAF, Conection Manager, and Failover, Ron Privett, IBM
- Using Informix in Telecommunications, Kevin Brown, IBM
- Secure and available public finances with IDS continuous availability, Cesar Jiminez, Jalesco Mexico Government
And, of course, demos, discussions and food on the expo floor and in the networking event in the evening.
We had many good presentations on Monday and of course several impromptu meetings all over the place. Time is running short so I have to keep this entry to a minimum.
In One session I heard about Choice Hotel that has 6000 properties in 10 different brands. They strongly depend on IDS to run their business. In another one, I heard about peapod online grocer that also relies on Informix IDS to run their business. Finally, we also heard about the new IBM system x bundles for Informix where they provide tested configurations in "T-shirt" sizes (small, medium, large, X-large) to fit any businesses. They mentioned that such a configuration showed much better price performance than a Sun system running Solaris.
More to come on Tuesday.
I arrived in Vegas Sunday mid-afternoon. Already, the activities have been going on for a day and a half. The expo floor looks good with Informix demos at multiple locations including the blade server with Informix and the theater presentation showing, at least, the clustering capabilities that include SDS, HDR, RSS, and ER.
The evening reception was in two parts: one in the expo and a second one for specific section of the Information management portfolio.
This year I decided to stay at the Luxor, next to the Mandaly Bay. You can walt from one hotel to the other without going outside. To go from my room to the registration desk takes a little over 15 minutes. On my way, I passed 3 Starbucks. I guess a lot of attendees need that to go through the long hours we'll have this week.
I remember seeing something like this title in some Informix marketing material many years ago. I think it was related to the fact that IDS has extensibility features that allow developers to adapt IDS to their business requirements as the technology and needs evolve.
The "future built-in" idea came back to me as I was reading a computerworld article titled: "the desktop traffic jam" (see: http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/342870/The_Desktop_Traffic_Jam). In there they were talking about a new feature in Windows 7 (User Mode Scheduling) that lets thread multiplexing take place in the application instead of in the kernel. They go on to say: "Handling this multiplexing in the application instead of in the operating system kernel makes thread scheduling more efficient.
I know it's not quite the same but it is similar to the idea that IDS decides its thread scheduling, making it more efficient since it is will not re-schedule a thread that is in a critical section of code. This way it avoids having threads that get scheduled to find out that they have to wait. All that making the threading model more efficient. I wonder how difficult it would be to take advantage of thread multiplexing onto cores. Could it be as simple as having one CPU VP per core wih some "core affinity" of the operating system supports that? Then IDS would already be there... with the future built into it.
The IOD conference is less than a week away. I received an email about a blog entry that lists all the book signings that will happen at IOD. A total of 10. I happen to be one of them.
I wrote a short book titled: "Informix Dynamic Server Application Development - Getting Started". It is a free book that will be available at the conference. My book signing session is as follows:
Tuesday 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm
Location: Mandalay Bay Registration Desk South
Since I'm giving up my lunch for this, please stop by and say hi. For more information on all the book signings at IOD, please see the following blog entry:
(Short URL: http://bit.ly/KB8zy)
I was joking around about security-related events in a previous blog. It looks like what goes around comes around...
I was in Montreal last week visiting partners and customers. To make it there I went through Los Angeles and had the joy of being selected for additional security screening. It is not your father's additional screening! They did not only go through my bag and looked at all my papers - luckily they did not take the time to read everything or I would have missed my flight - They went through my wallet, looked at all my credit cards and IDs. For the first I was starting to wonder about privacy-violation. They also took the time to go through my passport and look at the different countries I visited.
I'm all for good security measures but I fail to understand why going through my credit cards makes planes safer. In fact, they asked me if this procedure made me feel safer. My parents told me I should always tell the truth...
Over the last few years we regularly heard stories about information leaks. Information like credit card numbers, email accounts with password and so on. The problems are numerous, going from disgruntled employees to lost backups and different security access problems.
If you have needs for security and data privacy, make sure to review what IDS 11 provides. It includes communication encryption, backup encryption, column-level encryption, database roles including security officer, and label-based access control (LBAC). Of course we could add to that the resistance to denial-of-service attacks and other features that can be sued to assist in securing your database system.
Make sure you discuss your security and privacy needs with your IBM-Informix technical specialist.
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.
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.
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 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.
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 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
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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]
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.
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 :-)
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.
I just finished the first day of class at the university of Strasbourg. Almost everything went well.
There are 20 students in the class in addition to Pierre Tellier. The class could accommodate 26 people so a total of 21 makes it look quite full. We started the day with an introduction presentation that includes, among other things, the class objectives, an agenda with tentative timing, some background on databases, and a description of the lab environment. Thiswas followed by a presentation discussion consideration on performance as it relates to hardware, operating systems, and databases. In the afternoon, we went through an introduction to IDS which led to our first lab.
After spending an hour telling them how great IDS is and how easy it is to use, the first thing I saw in the lab was that IDS would not come up! It turns out I hardcoded an IP address for the host address that worked fine on my laptop but when executed on the lab machines, the address was wrong. After struggling through finding the character positions on a French keyboard (think '|', '/', '$', etc.) I figured out the problem, provided the solution to the class and the lab continued without problems. I made sure to explain that the problem was a network address, not IDS!
We finished the day with a partial presentation on database extensibility that will continue Tuesday morning.
the students seemed to enjoy the content and the delivery of the presentations and Pierre was happy with it. I'd say that the first day was a success, two days to go. Let's see what happens...
My trip to the University of Strasbourg, in a region of France called Alsace, started the usual way with a trip to the airport and a plane ride of over 10 hours.
Then it got better. Pierre Tellier who coordinated the event at the University drove from Strasbourg to Frankfurt to pick me up. He did not want me to have to wait a few additional hours for a bus. When I got out of custom and he was there waiting for me. We drove around 2 hours back to Strasbourg driving at times at 160km per hour due to traffic. On his way to Strasbourg, Pierre was able to test the maximum speed of his car. It apparently clocked at 220km per hour. Of course, he had to make way for other drivers that really took advantage of the no speed limit of the German infobahn.
Picking me up in Frankfurt is extremely nice. Doing it on mother's day in France sounds like a death wish!
We got to Strasbourg and started doing some site seeing that made me feel like I was on vacation. To top it off, Pierre invited me to his house where I met his beautiful family and had dinner. What a way to start an Informix on campus event. Pierre and Strasbourg get an A-plus in hospitality. they are setting the bar very high for any other Universities in the world that will participate in the program.
the only thing I can say is vive l'Alsace, vive Strasbourg!
You may not know but the Informix lab is extending a helping hand to universities around the world. One example of that was the hosting of university professors at the last Informix conference.
As part of this, I am on my way to the university of Strasbourg (France) to teach a 3-day seminar on subjects related to IDS. I had all the latitude I wanted (and more) to decide on the content. I will be delivering this seminar starting next Monday (June 8). We'll see how it is received. Watch for my blog entries after each day, network access permitting.
I recently met with a consultant friend of mine. He told me that he would like to have a new feature in the database server: a blocking select.
This feature would block on a SELECT until a new row is available. The SELECT statement could also have a condition (WHERE clause). If no rows are returned, the SELECT blocks until it could return at least one row. This way, an application could be event-driven without having to constantly check if there was anything new in the database. You can imagine the overhead of checking if there is something new every few seconds. A blocking SELECT could possibly reduce the pooling overhead and be more responsive depending on what the pooling interval is.
IDS does not have a blocking SELECT and as far as I know, nobody else has it either. I can think of two ways to achieve this:
- Use triggers on the table.
This could be an INSERT and an update trigger. The trigger would test the condition and then execute a user-defined routine (UDR) to send a signal to a process that would tell the process to read the table.
This approach could work when the table does not receive too many INSERTs and UPDATEs. The UDR could potentially find information from a file or from a configuration parameter stored in a table. It could also keep that data in memory to avoid getting the parameter for each trigger execution.
- Use the Change Data Capture API (CDC)
CDC provides an SQL interface to the database logs. You can configure your "log snooping" for a specific table. Each time a new log record is created, the function would return. The application then needs to look at the type of record and decide what to do. This approach should be very efficient and add virtually no overhead to the database server.
Another approach would be to use the InfoSphere Change Data Capture product to replicated specific records on a message queue and have the application subscribe to these messages.
Maybe a blocking SELECT would still be a neat feature to have but with all the different ways we can provide event-driven processing, maybe it is not needed after all.
I was talking to an Informix partner last week. They are upgrading to IDS 11.50.
A partner going to IDS 11.50...What's the big deal? I think it is when the partner is looking at upgrading from Informix SE versions as far back as version 2! And we thought we had problems convincing customers to upgrade from IDS 7.x :-).
Their customers are happy with what they have. It took a long time to convince them that they should move to a more current version of Informix. The customers were just happy with their current systems. Talk about reliability!
Going to IDS 11.50, they are now looking at new approaches to providing reliability in a distributed environment. With shared disk secondaries (SDS), high-availability data replication (HDR), remote secondary servers (RSS), and enterprise replication (ER), they have all the flexibility they need to provide the right solution for their customers availability requirements.
Informix reliability is often taken for granted by Informix customers. Now if the people that are not using Informix could realize the benefit they could get out of IDS 11.50, we could have a database revolution on our hands: set it, forget it, and focus on running the business, not the database system.
I came back from the Informix conference Thursday night and woke up thinking about an analogy about why we use Informix Dynamic Server. More on that in a minute.
I've been using databases for a long time. I believe that the first formal database system I used was back in 1984. It was a hierarchical database. I developed an inventory system for the Canadian Coast Guard. Over the following years, I used and supported multiple databases systems some looking more like C-ISAM and others relational. I still remember the good old days where I had to debug Oracle installation scripts :-)
So, why Informix? Isn't a database a database?
I uses to use a car analogy: people buy cars and they are used to what happens to it: If they have to go to the shop to get it fixed or tunes every other month, that's just the way cars are. Who would believe that you could buy a car and only have to put gas in it for years after years without having to waste time in the shop? the car is used to get you from point A to point B day after day. It almost makes it invisible but not quite since you still have to drive it. It's not the same with a database system: it can really be invisible.
I woke up Friday with this thought: You can write just about any application in any computer language you want. Why don't we all use COBOL. Way back, I know a guy that could do EVERYTHING in COBOL. He was even doing system programming! An object oriented version of COBOL has been available for years buy why. Isn't the "vintage" version of COBOL good enough? If I'm not mistaken, the number of COBOL lines of code in production still surpass any other programming language. That should be enough of an argument to standardize on it.
It seems to me that many people apply this line of reasoning to database systems. The trend is to look at databases as commodity. Who cares that one barely requires any attention? Who cares that it provides easy continuous availability? Who cares that it has great storage optimization? The difference is only more overhead. that translates only into more costs. Those significant costs are easy to hide so why worry about them. Everybody does it so no need to be more efficient...
Well, me, I'm old school. I come from an era where memory was measured in kilobytes and disk drives in megabytes. Yes, memory is much bigger now and not that expensive. Disk drives are so much bigger and not very expensive. Computers are so fast now. It seems to me that we should stop the insanity and pay attention to efficiency. Isn't that what cloud computing, virtualization and being green is all about?
No matter how I try to slide it, to me, Informix is number 1.
This was the last day of the conference with a 35 sessions. I was surprised to see how many people attended the presentations until the end. I see this as a big endorsement of the value provided by these presentations.
On my part I delivered one presentation first thing in the morning and another one starting at 2:10 pm. Despite that, my session was well attended.
Overall a very successful conference that was well worth attending.
The day started with a keynote presentation by Dr. Anant Jhingran on "Cloud computing, databases and the role of IDS". He was assisted by our own Guy Bowerman. That was quite a good start to another great day of learning and networking.
There were 35 sessions covering subjects including Gillani Fourgen case tool, Genero report writer, IDS tasks and sensors, performance tuning, backups, trouble shooting, encryption expert, and index enhancements. Quite a range of subjects and that's not the half of it!
I had interesting conversations with some partners. One of them mentioned how the AGS Server Studio product transformed someone that knew nothing of databases into a database administrator in no time flat. Looks like the ease of use of IDS with the ease of use of AGS is an unbeatable combination. I also had a discussion about collecting and sharing the information about sensors worldwide to monitor the health of the planet. Talk about a stimulating conversation.
There is one more day of this! I don't know how much more I can take :-).
I mentioned the Informix warehouse in my previous entry. There is the chat with the lab coming up. Here's something more: a new tutorial on DeveloperWorks:
Get started with Informix Warehouse Feature, Part 1: Model your data warehouse using Design Studio
Then there are the informix Warehouse product pages:
There were 2 keynote addresses, 25 sessions, 5 bird-of-a-feather sessions, usability labs and demos in the exhibit hall. Then the day closed with an Hawaiian Luau sponsored by Gillani. A packed day to say the least.
All this was topped with the announcement of IDS 11.50.xC4 that includes a new storage optimization feature and the Informix warehouse bundle. Things are moving fast with Informix!
The storage optimization includes compression, repack the spaces that is saved and shrink the dbspace to free the space. This new feature could save 30% to 50% or even more in some cases.
The Informix warehouse bundle include a too that allows you to define your warehouse and define the process of extract, load and transform. There is a chat with the lab schedule for Wednesday, April 29th at 8:30 AM Pacific, 10:30 AM Central, 11:30 AM Eastern, 4:30 PM London, 5:30 PM Paris that will provide more information on the subject.