Thursday, March 29, 2012

Aero Expo and Database Monitoring

Some years back (is my blog really that old...?) I had written about the AERO Expo, a global general aviation show in Friedrichshafen. Today, I received an invitation/marketing email reminding me about the upcoming expo. Looking over the list of exhibits and demonstrations, it is very similar to database systems or even information management. There is the core product (the aircraft/engine or database system) and then a good chunk is about the tooling and maintenance.

What - to me - stands out is the monitoring. It is critical in flight, to keep both your aircraft and your database system up and flying. I am not a pilot and cannot really comment on what is crucial, but for database systems performance monitoring is a very interesting topic. Did you know that InfoSphere Optim Performance Manager Extended Edition is capable of monitoring the application stack ("end to end monitoring")? To me as a frequent traveller this looks like making sure that both the aircraft is running well as well as understanding what is happening in terms of air traffic and on the ground, i.e., it provides the whole picture, not just a fragment.

Not sure whether I will visit the AERO this year (tickets anyone...?), I would look around to see if something similar to end-to-end monitoring is available.

BTW: For those in Switzerland or South Germany, take a look at this cool project for displaying air traffic.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Today is Document Freedom Day

Both for IBM business and for private I receive many documents. In the most cases I can open and process (read, print, or edit) them, but a good chunk has trouble displaying correctly or even opening them. This happened on my Windows machine because of incompatible versions of Microsoft Office, this happens these days because of proprietary document formats that are not fully supported on my Linux machine. A lot of the problems could be avoided by making people more aware of the issues and pointing them solutions that are portable and work across the different systems (Windows PC, Apple iOS, Linux, UNIX machines, iPad, Android devices, etc.).

So I was happy this morning when I heard about the Document Freedom Day that is celebrated today. Its purpose is to raise awareness about open standards. It is about making sure you can still access and open existing documents in some years from now on and about exchanging information so that everyone can process it.

BTW: IBM offers under the InfoSphere Optim brand solutions for Application Retirement, so that in some years you can still access and find data old, offline data.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Basics: Multi-language support in DB2 Information Center

Today, I want to point you to something very basic, something that many of us take for granted: Multi-language support in the DB2 Information Center. When you click on the link in the previous sentence, a new window should open and the DB2 Information Center with a page about its features should be displayed. Depending on your browser settings the page should display in German, Spanish, Italian, Traditional Chinese, etc. or English. On that page is a section that reads like this:

Basically, the DB2 Information Center displays the pages in YOUR language. This is nothing special and expected. By changing my browser settings and choosing a different language like shown here
and then reloading the frame inside the DB2 Information Center, I can now see the same section in a different language, e.g., German:

Now you may ask, why is he telling me? I often get asked about how things work in DB2 and where to find information. Just sending a link to a page in the DB2 Information Center and not worrying about the language is something I find very useful when working in an international context. Most prefer to read manuals in their native language. Moreover, using the integrated search works best when you know the search terms. But do I know the right terms when helping in a Spanish or French team? I can switch the browser, utilize the English search, then switch back to another language for the piece of information I found. And thereby learn another language just through reading about DB2 in Italian...

Friday, March 23, 2012

What is security and should I care?

I just returned from a longer trip. Without telling you where I travelled, I want to, I really have to talk about "security". I had to undergo checks in front of the hotel, when entering office buildings and malls, and several additional security checks at the airport. My suitcase and backpack were X-rayed here and there, quickly or with more focus, I was padded down, scanned, or just eyed up. But what for? So I started to test the checks.

I didn't hand over my cell phone or wallet before entering the scanner, I kept my backpack on while walking through them, I ignored the beeps. And I was successful - as expected.

Entering Information Management, database systems: Do you care about security, about protection of the data? Who has access to the system and who should have? Do you have checks in place and are they really working or are only show? Do you watch those in charge of protecting the data?

If you have some time, read a little bit about the DB2 security model or learn about the various tools in the IBM InfoSphere Guardium product portfolio.

BTW: I care about security, my personal security, that of others, and that of data.

P.S.: Highly trained professional in closed environment. Do not attempt at home...

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Turn XML data into columnar, relational format using SQL (lots of useful links inside)

The SQL standard offers many functions, some very useful are defined in part 14 of the SQL standard, "ISO/IEC 9075-14:2011 Part 14: XML-Related Specifications". That part 14 was published 2003, so it is rather old. However, one of the gems in SQL/XML (the name for that XML addition to SQL) and in DB2, the function XMLTABLE and its capabilities seem to be hidden as a recent email to me indicates. Or is it how Google, Bing, and other are used...? Anyway, in this article I will provide pointers to some useful resources, mostly older articles, and tag them with the right buzzwords. All in the hope that it is one email less in my inbox...

On IBM's developerWorks is a two-part article giving a detailed overview about XMLTABLE. In part 1 we learn about all the ways XML data can be turned into relational format, including best practices. The 2nd part deals with advanced processing, such as splitting XML documents into smaller pieces (including parameter passing), shredding XML documents during insert processing (turn XML into tables during insert), relational views over XML data, and creating field/value pairs out of XML data (is this already NoSQL...?). Parameter passing for XML processing is also a topic of one of my older posts. XMLTABLE can also be used to extract XML data embedded into another XML document via CDATA. And last, a useful webcast that discussed XMLTABLE in DB2 for both the mainframe and the distributed platform can be found at the pureXML devotees. That group, now driven by IBM customers using pureXML, has upcoming meetings/webcasts. Last but not least, Matthias Nicola has written many articles about XMLTABLE in his blog.

Let's see what the search engines do with this article. Have a nice week...

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Business trips and database migrations

As you might have guessed I have been travelling and I am going to travel again. Every business trip brings some risks and has associated costs, but each one also has its opportunities or specific goals. Many of my business trips are related to database migration projects, enabling customers or business partners to move from Oracle to DB2.

Depending on the trip destination there is more or less risk associated. There could be accidents, health issues, robbery or mugging, the risk of loosing your luggage, and of course of not getting enough sleep. To mitigate some of the risks, preparation is key, first of them knowing about the involved risks, what to watch out for. Often, you can benefit from the experience of others, e.g., reading a travel guide, reading hotel reviews, etc.

In terms of costs, usually there is a rough estimate based on data that can be quickly gathered and some travel experience. It helps to decide whether it is worth travelling. Would someone spend 5000 EUR for a 1000 EUR opportunity? What brings the trip in the long run?

Migration projects are similar to business trips. There are costs associated, there are risks, but also a benefit. Companies migrate from Oracle to DB2 because they want to save money, perform better, simplify their data centers and reduce the server and storage footprint, grow their businesses, enjoy competitive advantages, benefit from technology advances, or any combination of these. So they look into what it costs to get there and turn to IBM. Based on data that can be quickly gathered and migration experiences, a decision to move forward and to look into details can be made - similar to a business trip. Tools like MEET allow to analyse the level of compatibility and to quickly give an overview of problems. Experience with Oracle to DB2 migration projects, big and small, allows to attach costs to the issues found. A proof of concept allows to gain experience, similar to some business trips in a controlled environment to validate assumptions and to build up a portfolio of hotel and airline reviews, and to train the business travellers.

And finally comes the decision to embark, to start the journey. There are risks, but there are also best practices that can be followed and tour guides that can help if needed. As with business trips, there are tour reports of others: Coca-Cola about moving from Oracle to DB2 at the IOD conference in October, customers talking at the IDUG conferences about their migration projects, blog posts detailing why projects succeeded and lessons learned.

At some point everybody faces the question the first time: Do I want to travel? Especially for migration projects it is an unusual question that might only come up once and not everybody feels comfortable with. It might be similar to the first trip to a foreign country. But then there are resources to help and to assist with the decision and along the journey.