Friday, June 29, 2007

Could open source BI close out incumbents?

Bloor's Philip Howard writes in The Register that Jaspersoft 2.0 is now a serious threat to mainstream BI (and ETL) vendors; a full enterprise license for $35k will knock spots off most of the competition.

Perhaps that helps to explain why the fizz has gone out of Cognos's recent results.

And it doesn't help that according to a survey sponsored by Sybase and reported by CBR, only 13% of UK BI projects work as expected. So naturally "31% of firms surveyed, particularly small and medium sized businesses, [are] keeping an especially close eye on keeping costs down to a manageable level."

Thursday, June 28, 2007

To stakeholder (verb, transitive)

We've all done it at some point in our scribblings; we use horrible new words just because we know that you know what we really mean.

One particularly fashionable word at the moment is stakeholder. It's a useful short-hand for a person or group that has an investment, share, or interest in something, as a business or industry - and which can include employees, customers, the local community - and (if necessary) Uncle Tom Cobbley and all.

Here's a new usage I found in a consultant's report recently:

    Customers should ideally not be adversely affected ... and if downstream impacts are identified the customer should be stakeholdered ahead of time and those impacts managed accordingly.

From the context, I think the author means that someone should explain what's happening to the customer, and manage his (understandable) wrath. But rather than being good for the customer, being stakeholdered sounds more like getting out the garlic and the silver stake. Hold your head in shame, anonymous author!

Monday, June 25, 2007

IBM loses 80% of its Informix customer base

Computer Business Review reports that IBM admits to losing 4 out of every 5 customers for the Informix database it bought back in 2001. That's 80,000 gone out of 100,000.

Where did they go - to DB2 (in which case IBM is happy, even if the Informix rump isn't), or to Oracle, MS or the open source competition?

There's a contrary opinion here from ComputerWorld. Informix may have been "IBM's dirty little secret" but CW believes that the recent "Cheetah" release, improved marketing and changes to senior management in IBM will add up to a better future. Oh, and those 20,000 customers turn into 20,000 members of the Informix User Group - so there may be more out there that CBR didn't count.

Monday, June 18, 2007

IBM acquires Telelogic; a Rational move?

Interesting. IBM just announced the acquisition of Telelogic for around $745M. Telelogic is a Swedish company specialising in software configuration management; obviously their products will come under the Rational brand within IBM.

I spent much of the the last year as a Telelogic CM/Synergy user - having previously been more familiar with IBM Rational's own ClearCase product. They each have their strengths and weaknesses; but both suffer most from the naivety of their users and administrators. I've now worked on several sites who have proudly handed over some seriously enterprisey sum of money to the vendor, and then used one or other of these products when CVS or Subversion would have worked just as well (or maybe better). Why buy an all-singing, all-dancing tool, and then tie its hands behind its back?

Anyway, read what the Register says here and here.

Friday, June 15, 2007

The new house is coming on nicely

Here's a view of our new venture Casa dei due Mori - the house of the two mulberries - under construction. We're certainly looking forward to spending lots of time there this summer when it should be finished. It's been a long trek to get this far - nearly four years from the thought to the finished article. I think it will be well worth the wait.


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Tuesday, June 12, 2007


Jens Ulrik asked to see the code for a buffered LOB_APPEND mentioned in an earlier post LOB_APPEND eats resources....

Here it is as part of a package. Apologies for the rush job at the time; inelegant, but it was worth it...

gi_chunk_length integer := 0;
gv_chunk varchar2(32767);

-- add a character value to the CLOB being built up; catch null values
-- NOTE - final flush is done elsewhere
-- and we assume max(length(av_value)) < ki_maxchunksize

PROCEDURE lob_append (at_doc_clob IN OUT NOCOPY CLOB, av_value IN VARCHAR2)
li_value_length integer;
li_new_chunk_length integer;
ki_maxchunksize constant integer := 32000;
-- prt_common_pkg.print_xml_string(av_value);
li_value_length := length(av_value);
li_new_chunk_length := gi_chunk_length + li_value_length;

if li_new_chunk_length >= ki_maxchunksize
-- pad out the chunk as much as possible
gv_chunk := gv_chunk || substr(av_value,1,ki_maxchunksize - gi_chunk_length);
-- write out
DBMS_LOB.append (at_doc_clob, gv_chunk);
-- initialise remainder into next chunk
gi_chunk_length := li_new_chunk_length - ki_maxchunksize;
gv_chunk := substr(av_value,li_value_length +1 - gi_chunk_length);
gv_chunk := gv_chunk || av_value;
gi_chunk_length := li_new_chunk_length;
end if;
prt_common_pkg.LOG ('lob_append null ignored',

The final flush of the last chunk of a LOB is called like this:

IF gi_chunk_length > 0 THEN
-- flush out the last chunk of the CLOB
dbms_lob.append(at_doc_clob, gv_chunk);
gi_chunk_length := 0;
gv_chunk := null;

ETI offers data integration projects as a built-to-order service

(Disclosure: I worked for Constellar, a competitor, from 1995 to 2001, and worked with - or perhaps I should say against - ETI*Extract at an Oracle customer site as long ago as 1994).

Bloor's Philip Howard reports that ETI is offering a 'built to order' service for data migration / integration, based on ETI Solution (formerly ETI*Extract). Just enter your requirements into their integration portal, or send them a Word document, and they claim to be able to deliver a generated solution at an average price of $25,000 - and they claim to guarantee a delivery time (usually just 2-4 weeks). For more info, see ETI Built To Order Integration.

In my opinion, ETI's products suffered poor sales in the past from being pricey and (compared to products like Informatica) difficult to use. The template-based generation (by no means unique to ETI - Constellar took a similar approach, as does Oracle Data Integrator) was too hard for most clients to customise. However, the fact that it is a pure generator (there's no runtime engine) helped ETI establish a niche supporting all kinds of legacy/mainframe data sources and targets, and now makes it possible for them to deliver generated code without leaving their IP behind.

Offering BTO seems like a good way to exploit the tool's underlying capabilities, and the skills ETI's own consultants have accumulated, without having to make the tool itself more (dare I say) user friendly.

One question - most integration projects don't know what their requirements really are until they start development and testing. How will this service deal with iterative development? What about late 'clarifications' - "oh, did I mention that the NOTES field got used to distinguish customer types during the early 80s; in the 90s it was used to hold foreign currency information for certain services..."?

So now let's see how this works in real life!

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Open Source BI and ETL - picking up pace?

A couple of recent stories to ponder on: SnapLogic raises $2.5M (admittedly from its founder's very own VC boutique) to build its LAMP based data services, while according to CBR, Ingres is preparing a Jaspersoft based BI/ETL appliance.

Meanwhile Pentaho has released its Data Integration 2.5 (formerly known as Kettle) and is showing at ODTUG what it calls "the world's most popular open source BI suite".

Thursday, June 07, 2007

How to build a calculator - not!

The wonderful Worse Than Failure (formerly has been running The Olympiad of Misguided Geeks at Worse Than Failure Programming Contest. It's an inspired idea: just how bad can you make a deliverable, while at the same time meeting the requirement.

Alex set contestants the task of building a calculator. Responses have included:

  • Driving it all through optical character recognition - my personal favourite so far

  • collecting inputs and simply sending them to CALC.EXE to do the work

  • one built on an extensible framework that allows you to add new digits. You want to add apples and oranges? well now you can!

All too good to miss - you can find them here, so enjoy!