I never thought I’d get to be a Senior Programmer just by getting old!
One thing I’ve noticed about Twitter and Jaiku, is a common thread in IT, Scaleability! It’s an issue that I worked on in my days with AT&T Wireless. Mobile phone vendors have been dealing with SMS and voice connection transactions for many years and the volume of such transactions have only grown over the years since I had to deal with 25+ million transactions per day. If the current growing pains of these Web 2.0 social networking systems are projected, they are both headed for failure in the form of catastrophic system overload. While I admire innovative Ideas, like these services, their infrastructure does not appear well thought out. A bit more foundation in the infrastructure, and less optimism of the performance, should have been the first design requirement.
Being a database kind of guy, I can’t help but believe that a fundamental disconnect in the understanding of transactions utilized in these systems is the root cause here. I have yet to see a significant teaching or understanding of database issues in the current crop of programmers. There seems to be belief that data analysis is not a worth while task in current programming efforts. I see this in the form of articles detailing new ‘database’ products and methods, and new ‘lightweight’ database processes, etc. Mostly the requirements for ‘new’ DBMS and ‘Lightweight’ processes, is the underestimations of the data tasks of most modern IT functions. If you don’t know your own data, you don’t know anything. Any system that is not fundamentally tied in with a database system is merely a calculator.
I have monitored all the discussions of DRM with regards to Music and Movies, but until I started installing a Sybase ASE 15.0.1 installation, as a first stage to a Sybase 12.0 upgrade at the company which I work for, that I realized that Sybase must hate it’s own customers. I say this as that’s the only reason why they would use SYSAM and this draconian DRM license software in Version 15.xx. They want to put themselves out of business by pissing off their user base.
My company have a contract with Sybase Ireland and I am an honest DBA installing a new version of Sybase ASE exactly like the one it will replace. I’m not trying to steal from Sybase. But this DRM assumes that I am a thief, and that I cannot be trusted. Even when we as a company pay thousands per year for support we barely use (because Sybase is a solid product). I’m a thief by their own DRM definitions.
We will be moving to MySQL, as soon as we are able, Sybase will be loosing yet another customer because of their suicidal business plan.
I always find it interesting that I seem to be in the position of supporting the underdog when it comes to computing, I own Apple’s and work with Sybase. Two systems that can’t manage a marketing strategy to move them into the main stream. Both manage to be on the opposite end of competition with Microsoft Software. I assume that each should be flattered that MS has chosen them to steal code and ideas from, but I’d rather hoped they had the market share back. Set aside the quality issues, credit, vindication and validation of their ideas is sadly lacking in the IT world with the exception of those that work with them.
I’ve seen some discussion around the internet about the age old argument about which is best Sybase or Oracle. I have been reading Mr. Talebzedah article on Sybase vs. Oracle: 10 reasons to use Sybase on Linux and I would agree with many of his statements. Having installed and used both over the years, I would pick Sybase. Why more companies don’t use Sybase more, has always been a mystery to me. Sybase is cheaper to install, and operate both in hardware resource usage, and manpower utilization. As an example, which can be repeated ad finite, one of the companies I worked at required 20 DBA’s to support a single Oracle Financials system in version 7 Oracle. And they were terrified to upgrade to Oracle 8 as Oracle does not supply a migration path. Sybase in this same company was used extensively in 7/24 environments, and only had 18 DBA’s supporting more than 800 Sybase databases, with more than 15,000 logins. In Mr Talebzedah article he mentions 2.5 Oracle DBA’s to one Sybase DBA, and since you and I know that 0.5 DBA’s don’t really exist (see mythical man month) I would put that, rounding factors aside, to 3+ Oracle DBA’s to one Sybase DBA.
Oracle supporters always mention the ‘sophistication’ and maturity of Oracle features, and in the same breath include the requirements for learning more, and of it’s complexity. This complexity extends to it’s high requirements in installation, and operating Oracle databases. Ask an Oracle DBA why they have to maintain backup configuration files three or more times to feel safe? As an example of this heavy requirement for installation, Oracle makes more money consulting on how to install it, than selling the actual RDBMS product. As another cost Oracle DBA’s are higher paid than Sybase DBA’s you do have to pay for all this sophisticated knowledge. That’s not a fault of the DBA, but is is still a business expense, and adds to the TCO.
As for the maturity and sophistication, Oracle may win here, but I am not comparing ASE 15 as I have not used this, but in almost every environment I’ve ever worked in, this sophistication is never utilized. This is not a lack of programming skills in the staff. It has to do with not being locked into any particular RDBMS feature. Many companies are completely heterogeneous with regards to Databases, probably due to corporate merger mania. And database transportability is prized much more than any particular database feature. In some cases junior programmers utilize databases more as file systems than RDBMS systems and hence, gain nothing from the mature, sophisticated features Oracle might provide.
Ultimately Oracle grants nothing in the benefits column when the costs are taken into perspective. Oracle is more expensive, fragile and harder to develop applications for. Sybase is cheaper faster, more stable, and requires less hardware and manpower to operate.
This is a great idea, in almost every company I’ve worked with data integration is the big issue. With all the mergers of going on, the data transfer issues are mind boggling. I have even played the part of data shepherd in these situations.
Between the economy starting to tank, and terrorist threats, I’m guessing that the IT hiring and equipment purchasing will take a large hit. From talking with folks in the U.S. it seems like most people are holding their money close to their wallets, indicating that most business spending will follow this trend. With everyone being afraid, capitol spending plans goes out the window.
It’s amazing how many IT managers, let alone CFO’s CEO’s boards of directors believe that IT can be outsourced to save costs. From my experience this stems from a number of causes.
1) Management does not know what value IT provides as integral part of the business.
2) Management does not know what IT does.
3) Management does not know how much work IT does, or how.
4) Consultants, trying to sell something, have managed to convince management that outsourcing saves money. Either as a matter of personnel costs, or general operating costs.
This almost always results in reduced productivity in the IT department, staff churn and the loss of the best staff, a loss of, or a general lack of new documentation as to IT processes, software, development and maintenance.
And while addressing the issues, even the mere mention of outsourcing will result in degraded IT performance. And no amount of talk from management will result in a placation of the fear. Restoration of trust will be slow and painful, and in some cases will result in management looking further into outsourcing.
The problem lies in understanding, information and truth. IT will have to become involved in promoting their value to the business. Educating management as to the need for IT costs, and how they can promote to the bottom line of the business.
From the management perspective outsourcing looks good, document what IT does, and negotiate a cheaper deal to provide all the necessary services. The problem is as above, management does not know what IT does, or at least not everything, and as a matter of course they will omit the intrinsic value that loyal and innovative IT staff can, and do (unless demotivated by outsourcing rumors).
Consultants invariably manage to convince people that all IT processes and functions can be documented and mapped. This reason in fact, is the ‘why’ in why outsourcing does not reduce costs. Besides the costs that the consultant will charge for ‘complete documentation’ which isn’t complete. The outsourcing firm will contract for ‘complete documentation’ which does not provide complete services, or unsatisfactory ones, and then charge for additional ‘services’ not in the original contract, but should have been included in the consultants ‘complete documentation package’ and weren’t.
IT, and a dedicated staff provide more that simple ‘processes’ that can be documented or identified. The intrinsic value of good staff is never documented. This isn’t unusual as in most businesses HR has been substituted for people management skills. Staff are more or less just cogs, just wheels in a machine. The last thing a consultant will do is document staff qualities. You just can’t qualify, or replace good staff.
I had a friend and coworker define the nature of a properly working IT Operations department as, ‘Boring’ now to translate that, what he meant was that if Operations, systems and software were boring, then everything was working fine. It’s the natural state of affairs in an IT operations group.
If you find an IT department with their pants on fire, you know that things have hit the fan. Either the computer systems are broken, the security either physical or network has been compromised, or the software is buggy beyond comprehension. Exciting and thrilling, even career enhancing if you can fix and survive the fire and panic that happens in such environments.
So, in IT Operations, we strive to make life boring! Anything else is a disaster. 😉