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.