Friday, July 27, 2007

Data consistency and accuracy

Earlier this week, a private contractor working for the City of Burnaby (a suburb of Vancouver) dug their backhoe into a high pressure oil pipeline (a video of incident) sending about 1,400 barrels of crude oil high into air covering the neighbourhood and eventually leaked out into the Burrard Inlet. It took half of an hour before the pipeline was switched off and two hours before the oil boom were deployed to ensure that the oil slick is contained.

Now the clean-up begins and the finger of blame is circulating trying to land on someone or organization. The city is saying that the oil company didn't give the city accurate information as to where the pipeline was located (apparently it was 9 metres from where it should be on the map). It is going to take months for the clean-up and obviously health issues for the residents as well for the wildlife that will be affected within the immediate area.

I just wanted to underscore the importance of data accuracy & consistency. I know that many organizations are facing similar problems but you would think with today's technologies (GPS, thermal mapping, etc), it should be a no-brainer to verify and map the exact location of the pipeline.

In my previous life as a data management professional, the mantra has been single source of data but I have since recognize that it is okay to have multiple copies of the same data as long those copies are from the official source and is the single point of truth for the organization. Can you imagine the nightmare if you have multiple copies of the same data but each with a different value and no one is sure which one value is the correct value?

My group is currently dealing with data inconsistency for a particular project which went live earlier this year. The problem was that someone decided to use the same field/column for two separate attributes. This is never, never okay in the world of data management/data modelling but worst is the fact that the decision was never fully shared and documented for the rest of the project team so you can see why certain things are no longer consistent when the meaning of said field changes depending on other attributes.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Choice of desktop OS

Back in April of this year, I bought a new Dell AMD desktop which comes with Vista installed. I gave that a twirl for a month and thought maybe I should go with Linux so that I can install Oracle on a "proper" OS and also Vista applications are tough to come by.

I am finding that Linux (I chose Ubuntu) has similar problems where I was not able to use the software that comes with my various devices (digital camera, especially plus DiVX/DVD player) and the wife likes to use IE as her default browser so now I am looking at:

a) Going back to Vista and try to work around the lack of software;
b) Stay on Ubuntu and look for corresponding alternate software that I need;
c) Go back to Windows 2000 (my original desktop of choice);
d) Go to Windows Server 2003 (I've a 5 client licence for this); or
e) Another flavour of Linux like Red Hat/Centos.

I've tried (c) and having issues with getting the software patched/updated with all the various patches/security updates/service packs without having to connect to the Internet before having the PC patched. I probably will have to revisit my approach although I have used my old desktop to download the various patches/service packs, etc.

I also need to spend some more time searching for alternate software that I need that will run on Ubuntu or Centos. With Windows Server 2003, I'm reluctant to do so until I learn more about securing it (is that an oxymoron?).

I will try and post my experience as I go about searching for the "prefect" desktop.

Monday, July 23, 2007

An apology to Kevin Closson

In my last post, I mentioned that I was going to blog about the spat between Burleson and Lewis but decided not to BUT I left a comment on Kevin Closson's blog referring to the spat. This is definitely the wrong thing to do as if I was not willing to use my blog to comment on, why should I use someone's blog to comment.

Kevin, my sincere apologies (please remove all comments I left pertaining to that particular post).

I should also strive to stay out of the fray between the various Oracle experts as it does not help but it sure was easy to get "sucked in", though.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

The "Golden Rule" of People Management

I was going to blog about the current spat between Jonathan Lewis and Don Burleson on the OTN forums over LGWR and LGWR_IO_SLAVES but then decided that it wasn't worth the web space that it occupies. So, I will blog about a non-technical subject, managing people.

People management is a complex subject and there are numerous books published by folks smarter than I on the subject. Here's my take on it.

I've always tried to manage according to my belief that you should treat your employees the way that you would like to be treated. This is true not just at the workplace but also in life. Now, it is not always that simple but it is one principle that I try to adhere to. Like-minded folks tend to get along better than not and working towards a common goal is a good way to align beliefs and principles. Anyhow, back to subject on hand. Why is this important? Let say that you want to be treated respectfully and if you respect your employees then why would they respect you? It's simple and effective BUT there is a caveat. The caveat lies in the assumption that your belief is the same or similar with others. For example, if one of your employee is distrustful of others, their natural belief is that everyone is distrustful of them too so that is going to be a hurdle that will have to be handled. One way is to show by example and it will take time.

There are obviously other principles at play but this is one that i use daily in my life. Give it a try.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

EnterpriseDB, Oracle-compatible open-source RDBMS

I recently received an e-mail from Ziff-Davis for a free webinar to take a look at EnterpriseDB which is quoted as the "World's Leading Oracle-compatible" database. It went on to describe that FTD (the flower company) save 83% in Oracle licencing costs and got a 400% improvement in performance by moving their reporting database from Oracle to EnterpriseDB Advanced Server.

That got my interest but unfortunately I was unable to attend the webinar but I did look up more information on EnterpriseDB to see what the fuss was all about. Apparently EnterpriseDB is based on PostgresSQL but is a relational database management system. There is a write-up on O'Reilly's blog on it dated approximately 2 years ago (2005).

Obviously I'm curious as to how "compatible" EnterpriseDB is to Oracle (what version?) as one of the claim on the EnterpriseDB website boasts "Run applications written for Oracle unchanged on EnterpriseDB - Save 80%". Further details reveal that "Making the switch from Oracle requires little or no modification to existing applications. Using our Migration Toolkit, the process is often completed in minutes. In fact, our clients report that more than 75% of their applications are 100% compatible, requiring NO changes to run on EnterpriseDB" so it depends on your application. What I am interested in is the Oracle-compatibility features and what features are NOT compatible (I have not gone through the documentation but hopefully it's documented somewhere).

EnterpriseDB is "open-source" meaning that it was built on top of open-source Postgres SQL but it has proprietary extensions which includes Oracle-friendly (read compatibility) features. EnterpriseDB is free for 30-days or you could go with the limited edition which is free but limit to 1 CPU server, 1Gb RAM and 6Gb of data. Peter Eisentraut has begun to install EnterpriseDB and blog about his experience and hopefully he will blog more about his experiences as he progress with his experimentation.

Update: July 21/2007 - Kevin Closson has an entry on his take on EnterpriseDB. He went and sat in on the webinar that I mentioned. I suggest that you take a gander at his post.

Monday, July 16, 2007

11g - Would you upgrade?

Now that Oracle 11g has been officially launched, the big question is "Would you upgrade and if so, why?".

Remember that this is still 11g R1, sure it has been through an extensive beta testing phase but it has not being in the real world yet :0.

Let's look at the top then reasons (according to me) that you might want to upgrade:
  1. You want the latest and greatest toy to play with;
  2. There's one neat new feature that will solve all your problems;
  3. Your Oracle sales person gave you a free toy with the upgrade;
  4. You wanted to contribute to Larry Ellison's retirement package;
  5. You have nothing better to do at work;
  6. Your boss told you to do the upgrade;
  7. Tom Kyte/Jonathan Lewis/Insert Oracle Expert Here told you so;
  8. 11g sounds better than 10g;
  9. You want ensure that your Oracle E-Business Application version is in line with the database version (11i & 11g);
  10. You like the fact that it took 30 years to get to 11g.
If you said "Yes" to any of the ten reasons above, can I advise you to stop and think again. I would advise that you check out all the documentation and whitepapers on 11g plus monitor the various blogs in the Oracle community as the experts take 11g through its pace and note issues/concerns that might applied to your environment.

Since 11g is not generally available yet, I would assume that CPU July 2007 is included in the base code. Regardless, I would think that once it is available, the OTN website will be busy with everyone looking to download the software. I for one, now that I have wiped Vista and install Linux on my new desktop will definitely be looking at installing 11g with the starter database to play around.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Miscellaneous

It's the end of the first week for me in my new role as the Manager of Application Services with my employer. I spent the last three years managing the Database & Midrange group with the same employer before given this opportunity to take over the application development & support group. It was a short week for me as I took a day vacation in conjunction with Canada Day and went camping with the family. That was great as I didn't bring along my Blackberry and turned off my personal cellphone for the duration of the trip.

My first week was mainly spent on restructuring discussions with the CIO and other IS managers and I think we have a good first draft, meeting individually with each of the employees to get to know them, understand their roles & responsibilities, their challenges, and their perspectives on what is not working and what is working. So far, it's 6 down and another 24 to go. The first couple of days, it took me a while to stop going back to the DB group as a matter of habit and referring to the acting Supervisor instead of going directly to the DBAs.

In the meanwhile, in the Oracle Bloggersphere, Tim Hall and Steven Chan got their articles stolen by folks who have no morals and yet so "stupid" as to leave references pointing back to the original article. For those of you who don't know already, the world is becoming a very small place and while you might work locally, your reputation might not. As an employer, I do use the Internet search engines to reference potential candidates who applied for employment or contract work and I can bet you that I am not the only who does this.

I like that Oracle kind of responded to Mark Brinsmead's open letter to Larry Ellison on opening up access to AWR and ASH data as a matter of promoting the product. I am big fan of Oracle's policy of allowing free download of their software (full versions) for research and personal use as it promotes and allow the Oracle community to try out new features and basically play around with the product to see what it can do and what is possible. These translates into the same folks applying what they have learned in their workplace (possibly generating additional revenue for Oracle).

Another thing to check out is Lex de Haan and Toon Koppelaars' new book on "Applied Mathematics for DB Professionals" and apparently it won't be an easy read as you will need to have a Mathematics background and most IT professionals do (after all, you have to learn how to do binary, hexadecimal calculations) and if you are DB professional, more than likely you will have a basic grasp of set and logic theories.

Oh, before I forget, I recently attended a half day seminar (actually only stayed an hour or so because of prior commitments) held by Oracle, NetApps and one of their local partners. I learned more about NetApps but I can tell you that I was not too happy with the Oracle presentation component as the presenter kept putting down DB2, SQLServer and other databases which I thought was pretty much classless and there were DB2 users there who might be interested in looking at getting Oracle/NetApps for their organizations but I can tell you that those attendees did looked too pleased at all. Think about it, a lot of organizations tend to have multiple database vendors and might have one preferred over others but if I am one where DB2 is preferred but am open to other databases for niche or specialized applications, I won't be too happy to have an Oracle employee trashing my preferred DB vendor (it will make it seems that I'm too stupid to give up a "bad" product for a better one). Note to Oracle marketing and sales, please do not bash other db vendors (you can compare products and featurs) but when you make it point to bash others, you are lowering your standards of conduct and give a very poor impression of the professionalism expected from a world-class organization.