January 25, 2016

Kafka and Confluent

For starters:

At its core Kafka is very simple:

So it seems fair to say:

Read more

January 22, 2016

Cloudera in the cloud(s)

Cloudera released Version 2 of Cloudera Director, which is a companion product to Cloudera Manager focused specifically on the cloud. This led to a discussion about — you guessed it! — Cloudera and the cloud.

Making Cloudera run in the cloud has three major aspects:

Features new in this week’s release of Cloudera Director include:

I.e., we’re talking about some pretty basic/checklist kinds of things. Cloudera Director is evidently working for Amazon AWS and Google GCP, and planned for Windows Azure, VMware and OpenStack.

As for porting, let me start by noting: Read more

January 14, 2016

BI and quasi-DBMS

I’m on two overlapping posting kicks, namely “lessons from the past” and “stuff I keep saying so might as well also write down”. My recent piece on Oracle as the new IBM is an example of both themes. In this post, another example, I’d like to memorialize some points I keep making about business intelligence and other analytics. In particular:

Similarly, BI has often been tied to data integration/ETL (Extract/Transform/Load) functionality.* But I won’t address that subject further at this time.

*In the Hadoop/Spark era, that’s even truer of other analytics than it is of BI.

My top historical examples include:

Read more

December 31, 2015

Oracle as the new IBM — has a long decline started?

When I find myself making the same observation fairly frequently, that’s a good impetus to write a post based on it. And so this post is based on the thought that there are many analogies between:

And when you look at things that way, Oracle seems to be swimming against the tide.

Drilling down, there are basically three things that can seriously threaten Oracle’s market position:

Oracle’s decline, if any, will be slow — but I think it has begun.

 

Oracle/IBM analogies

There’s a clear market lead in the core product category. IBM was dominant in mainframe computing. While not as dominant, Oracle is definitely a strong leader in high-end OTLP/mixed-use (OnLine Transaction Processing) RDBMS.

That market lead is even greater than it looks, because some of the strongest competitors deserve asterisks. Many of IBM’s mainframe competitors were “national champions” — Fujitsu and Hitachi in Japan, Bull in France and so on. Those were probably stronger competitors to IBM than the classic BUNCH companies (Burroughs, Univac, NCR, Control Data, Honeywell).

Similarly, Oracle’s strongest direct competitors are IBM DB2 and Microsoft SQL Server, each of which is sold primarily to customers loyal to the respective vendors’ full stacks. SAP is now trying to play a similar game.

The core product is stable, secure, richly featured, and generally very mature. Duh.

The core product is complicated to administer — which provides great job security for administrators. IBM had JCL (Job Control Language). Oracle has a whole lot of manual work overseeing indexes. In each case, there are many further examples of the point. Edit: A Twitter discussion suggests the specific issue with indexes has been long fixed.

Niche products can actually be more reliable than the big, super-complicated leader. Tandem Nonstop computers were super-reliable. Simple, “embeddable” RDBMS — e.g. Progress or SQL Anywhere — in many cases just work. Still, if you want one system to run most of your workload 24×7, it’s natural to choose the category leader. Read more

December 10, 2015

Readings in Database Systems

Mike Stonebraker and Larry Ellison have numerous things in common. If nothing else:

I mention the latter because there’s a new edition of Readings in Database Systems, aka the Red Book, available online, courtesy of Mike, Joe Hellerstein and Peter Bailis. Besides the recommended-reading academic papers themselves, there are 12 survey articles by the editors, and an occasional response where, for example, editors disagree. Whether or not one chooses to tackle the papers themselves — and I in fact have not dived into them — the commentary is of great interest.

But I would not take every word as the gospel truth, especially when academics describe what they see as commercial market realities. In particular, as per my quip in the first paragraph, the data warehouse market has not yet gone to the extremes that Mike suggests,* if indeed it ever will. And while Joe is close to correct when he says that the company Essbase was acquired by Oracle, what actually happened is that Arbor Software, which made Essbase, merged with Hyperion Software, and the latter was eventually indeed bought by the giant of Redwood Shores.**

*When it comes to data warehouse market assessment, Mike seems to often be ahead of the trend.

**Let me interrupt my tweaking of very smart people to confess that my own commentary on the Oracle/Hyperion deal was not, in retrospect, especially prescient.

Mike pretty much opened the discussion with a blistering attack against hierarchical data models such as JSON or XML. To a first approximation, his views might be summarized as:  Read more

December 7, 2015

Transitioning to the cloud(s)

There’s a lot of talk these days about transitioning to the cloud, by IT customers and vendors alike. Of course, I have thoughts on the subject, some of which are below.

1. The economies of scale of not running your own data centers are real. That’s the kind of non-core activity almost all enterprises should outsource. Of course, those considerations taken alone argue equally for true cloud, co-location or SaaS (Software as a Service).

2. When the (Amazon) cloud was newer, I used to hear that certain kinds of workloads didn’t map well to the architecture Amazon had chosen. In particular, shared-nothing analytic query processing was necessarily inefficient. But I’m not hearing nearly as much about that any more.

3. Notwithstanding the foregoing, not everybody loves Amazon pricing.

4. Infrastructure vendors such as Oracle would like to also offer their infrastructure to you in the cloud. As per the above, that could work. However:

Actually, if we replace “Oracle” by “Microsoft”, the whole idea sounds better. While Microsoft doesn’t have a proprietary server hardware story like Oracle’s, many folks are content in the Microsoft walled garden. IBM has fiercely loyal customers as well, and so may a couple of Japanese computer manufacturers.

5. Even when running stuff in the cloud is otherwise a bad idea, there’s still: Read more

December 1, 2015

Machine learning’s connection to (the rest of) AI

This is part of a four post series spanning two blogs.

1. I think the technical essence of AI is usually:

Of course, a lot of non-AI software can be described the same way.

To check my claim, please consider:

To see why it’s true from a bottom-up standpoint, please consider the next two points.

2. It is my opinion that most things called “intelligence” — natural and artificial alike — have a great deal to do with pattern recognition and response. Examples of what I mean include:  Read more

December 1, 2015

What is AI, and who has it?

This is part of a four post series spanning two blogs.

1. “Artificial intelligence” is a term that usually means one or more of:

But that covers a lot of ground, especially since reasonable people might disagree as to what constitutes “smart”.

2. Examples of what has been called “AI” include:

Read more

November 25, 2015

Splunk engages in stupid lawyer tricks

Using legal threats as an extension of your marketing is a bad idea. At least, it’s a bad idea in the United States, where such tactics are unlikely to succeed, and are apt to backfire instead. Splunk seems to actually have had some limited success intimidating Sumo Logic. But it tried something similar against Rocana, and I was set up to potentially be collateral damage. I don’t think that’s working out very well for Splunk.

Specifically, Splunk sent a lawyer letter to Rocana, complaining about a couple of pieces of Rocana marketing collateral. Rocana responded publicly, and posted both the Splunk letter and Rocana’s lawyer response. The Rocana letter eviscerated Splunk’s lawyers on matters of law, clobbered them on the facts as well, exposed Splunk’s similar behavior in the past, and threw in a bit of snark at the end.

Now I’ll pile on too. In particular, I’ll note that, while Splunk wants to impose a duty of strict accuracy upon those it disagrees with, it has fewer compunctions about knowingly communicating falsehoods itself.

1. Splunk’s letter insinuates that Rocana might have paid me to say what I blogged about them. Those insinuations are of course false.

Splunk was my client for a lot longer, and at a higher level of annual retainer, than Rocana so far has been. Splunk never made similar claims about my posts about them. Indeed, Splunk complained that I did not write about them often or favorably enough, and on at least one occasion seemed to delay renewing my services for that reason.

2. Similarly, Splunk’s letter makes insinuations about quotes I gave Rocana. But I also gave at least one quote to Splunk when they were my client. As part of the process — and as is often needed — I had a frank and open discussion with them about my quote policies. So Splunk should know that their insinuations are incorrect.

3. Splunk’s letter actually included the sentences  Read more

November 19, 2015

The questionably named Cloudera Navigator Optimizer

I only have mixed success at getting my clients to reach out to me for messaging advice when they’re introducing something new. Cloudera Navigator Optimizer, which is being announced along with Cloudera 5.5, is one of my failures in that respect; I heard about it for the first time Tuesday afternoon. I hate the name. I hate some of the slides I saw. But I do like one part of the messaging, namely the statement that this is about “refactoring” queries.

All messaging quibbles aside, I think the Cloudera Navigator Optimizer story is actually pretty interesting, and perhaps not just to users of SQL-on-Hadoop technologies such as Hive (which I guess I’d put in that category for simplicity) or Impala. As I understand Cloudera Navigator Optimizer:

Read more

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