Feeds
The Register Columnists

Mark Whitehorn

Contact Mail Follow RSS feed
Professor Mark Whitehorn is chair of analytics at Dundee University's School of Computing.
Photo of Jim Gray. of Microsoft

A tribute to Jim Gray

As we post this, Jim Gray has been missing for three months. It now seems very unlikely that he is still alive, although his family has not given up hope. We decided to publish the following tribute to him, because his life deserves to be celebrated. James 'Jim' Nicholas Gray (born 1944) Photo of Jim Gray. of Microsoft …
Mark Whitehorn, 30 Apr 2007
The Register breaking news

Is Gartner's Magic Quadrant really magic?

In this series we're looking at the myths and legends of the database world; some are true, some false. The myth under the spotlight today is whether Gartner's Magic Quadrant really is magic. (True, Gartner's Magic Quadrant (MQ) isn't just applied to databases, but its recent application to the area of BI platforms, for me at …
Mark Whitehorn, 31 Mar 2007
The Register breaking news

MySQL – is this database fit for the Enterprise?

MySQL has recently appeared as an Enterprise edition. We have already looked at whether MySQL (the company) is enterprise ready, but we can also ask whether the product itself is suitable for enterprise use. Some Reg Dev readers clearly have strong views about this already. First up, remember that Enterprises come in all kinds …
Mark Whitehorn, 18 Mar 2007
The Register breaking news

Don't Dodge this Viper

On the 6th Feb 2007 IBM announced Viper. Yes, we know that it announced Viper in July 2006, but this is a different Viper, it just happens to have the same name. Really, it all makes perfect sense; you just have to think like IBM….. DB2, the company’s database engine, comes in three tangy, zesty flavours: DB2 for z/OS ( …
Mark Whitehorn, 14 Mar 2007
The Register breaking news

MySQL is the company's SQL now...

Let’s face it; MySQL is a fabulous database engine. Not only is it free, it’s small, powerful and easy to drive. It also runs happily on free operating systems and so it can be used to create incredibly cost-effective database servers. Of course, like all database engines, it polarizes those in the computing world. Some people …
Mark Whitehorn, 09 Feb 2007
The Register breaking news

OLAP and the need for SPEED

In this series we're looking at the myths and legends of the database world; some turn out to be true, others false. This myth is about why we use OLAP. If you follow the Inmon model, you use a relational data warehouse for flexibility and OLAP cubes in the data marts for the speed. On the other hand, if you follow Kimball, you …
Mark Whitehorn, 26 Jan 2007
The Register breaking news

Building a data warehouse on parallel lines

Never look a gift horse in the mouth, especially if there are many of them running in parallel… There are various structures we can use in a data warehouse – each with its pros and cons. For example, if you use a relational structure for the core of the warehouse then you gain very high flexibility but lose out on speed. …
Mark Whitehorn, 28 Dec 2006
The Register breaking news

Ancient pyramids discovered in Bosnia

The Great Pyramid of Giza is the sole survivor of the Seven Wonders of the World. An Arab proverb says that: "Man fears time, yet time fears the Pyramids", a reference to the fact that the pyramid has survived for about 4,500 years and, in that time, has lost a mere 10 metres off its incredible 145 metre height. Composed of two …
Mark Whitehorn, 26 Dec 2006
The Register breaking news

Access isn’t a relational database

This is a great example of a myth/legend that is both true and false; it all depends on how you define relational. Ted Codd produced one of the first attempts to define exactly what the term relational Database Management System (DBMS) means. Since Dr. Edgar Codd is regarded as ‘the Father of the Relational Database’, most …
Mark Whitehorn, 22 Dec 2006
The Register breaking news

SQL Server and the 7.5-day MTBF

Press releases issued by software companies are one of the more common sources of myths and legends in the database world. No real surprise there you may think but therein lies a paradox. We all know that press releases are highly partisan, so we expect everyone to treat them with suspicion; yet we aren’t surprised when they …
Mark Whitehorn, 28 Nov 2006
The Register breaking news

Migrating Access to SQL made (almost) easy

Access dominates the PC platform and, over the years, has been used to create vast numbers of departmental databases. In their turn, many of these have slowly become mission critical and now need to be upgraded to a secure client-server engine. In Microsoft's grand plan for world domination, it would prefer that engine to be …
Mark Whitehorn, 13 Oct 2006
SGI logo hardware close-up

When Borland got shirty

In the second myths and legends story we related how the knights of the Good King Bill were accused of stealing secrets from Borland at a conference way back in 1992. In fact, the knights involved turned out to be most courtly and honourable; the accusations demonstrably and provably false. However, another myth surrounds that …
Mark Whitehorn, 12 Oct 2006
The Register breaking news

DIY and nearly BI

My esteemed colleague on Reg Developer, Martin Banks, has argued that do-it-yourself BI (Business Intelligence) is a trend worth watching: As he said… “The premise being put forward by companies looking to move into DIYBI is that BI so far is only being performed by the largest enterprises, and then only by white-coated rocket …
Mark Whitehorn, 26 Sep 2006
The Register breaking news

Visual Studio's lifecycle database tool goes live

At Tech Ed this summer, Microsoft talked about a new product that brings application lifecycle management to database development. Application lifecycle management has been around for years allowing application developers to check code out from a central repository and enjoy the luxury of knowing that they are the only …
Mark Whitehorn, 25 Aug 2006
The Register breaking news

The parable of the beer and diapers

BI (Business Intelligence) is about extracting information from data and data mining is an important part of that process. Data mining is a process that looks for patterns in data, so in a sense it is like querying the data. The crucial differences between simply querying the data and data mining can be summed up as intent and …
Mark Whitehorn, 15 Aug 2006
The Register breaking news

On data models, data types and dangerous liaisons

A data model is a methodology for storing, handling and manipulating data. There are lots of them around. One of the most commonly employed at present is the relational model. Brainchild of Edgar Codd, it rapidly came into favour after he published his seminal paper in 1970. Many of the popular database engines today (for …
Mark Whitehorn, 22 Jul 2006
The Register breaking news

Multivalued datatypes considered harmful

Increasingly developers are required to write applications that interact with database engines – typically Oracle, SQL Server, DB2, MySQL or Access. In many ways the database engine is pretty much immaterial; no matter what the flavour it’s still simply a matter of tables, columns, rows and a variety of data types; text, memo, …
Mark Whitehorn, 18 Jul 2006
channel

A lesson in spyware

I use a computer of course, but only for fun. I'm certainly not a guru. So when people started talking about "spyware" I was a little confused. It sounded like a virus, but it clearly wasn't. No problem, I visited a site that I trust (Microsoft.com) and found a very nice lady there (in a video, of course) who told me all about …
Mark Whitehorn, 16 Jun 2006
The Register breaking news

'Microsoft was caught stealing secrets from Borland'

"Microsoft was caught stealing secrets from Borland.". Or was it? Of course, this all happened way, way back in 1992; but then myths are supposed to be old; that’s the whole point. And this one just won't lie down and die. Every so often someone tells me that, before Access was released, somewhere in a secret desert location, …
Mark Whitehorn, 13 Jun 2006
For Sale sign detail

Promises, promises, promises

The one advantage of delivering an uninspiring keynote is that it is very unlikely to inspire a myth or legend that I can later have fun imploding, but that was the task that seemed to be set for Bob Muglia and Ray Ozzie at the Microsoft TechED keynote here in Boston. It was short on technology and long on promises; with a …
Mark Whitehorn, 13 Jun 2006
The Register breaking news

Deconstructing databases with Jim Gray

Most companies have a tame "guru" - someone presented as a world authority on the subject in question and so amazingly intelligent that they are above the tacky world of commercialism. Sadly, many such "gurus" merely debase the term and turn out to be exactly what you expect - mouthpieces for the marketing department. Photo …
Mark Whitehorn, 30 May 2006
The Register breaking news

The myths and legends of the holy land of the database

The database world has more myths and legends than the court of King Arthur. The current myths tend to be less about dragons and dungeons and more about features and performance, such as: Oracle can't do MOLAP. Oracle is as easy to tune as a cathedral organ. DB2 only runs on mainframes. SQL Server doesn't scale. Oracle is …
Mark Whitehorn, 26 May 2006
The Register breaking news

MDM may change your life…or not

According to (the normally more readable) Wikipedia, Master Data Management (MDM) “focuses on the management of reference or master data that is shared by several disparate IT systems and groups. MDM is required to warrant consistent computing between diverse system architectures and business functions”. Great. An example may …
Mark Whitehorn, 26 Apr 2006
homeless man with sign

Microsoft’s purchase of ProClarity – the bigger picture

There’s a large and obvious hole in Microsoft’s line-up of functionality in SQL Server 2005: Analysis Services is a solid multi-dimensional database engine but Microsoft offers no means of graphically displaying the data it handles. The need for such tools increases hugely when dealing with multi-dimensional data: users are …
Mark Whitehorn, 18 Apr 2006
The Register breaking news

Gold in the BI hills

Organisations are rarely short of data, but the information it contains is often elusive. Business Intelligence (BI) gives the business user an amazing tool: it turns data into information, making BI an area of huge growth and one where skilled developers are in short supply. It is worth knowing the job roles in a standard BI …
Mark Whitehorn, 21 Mar 2006
The Register breaking news

The Business Intelligence (BI) scandal: why pay more to get less?

The eye-catching headline above recently appeared in a press release from “business data specialists ICS". What!? A scandal in the moral world of BI? Surely not. It turns out that the burden of ICS's song is that it has a product that "puts information in the hands of the user rather than confined to business analysts away from …
Mark Whitehorn, 22 Feb 2006
graph up

SQL Server 2005 Business Intelligence

Business Intelligence (BI) is an umbrella term for systems and processes that turn a mass of opaque data into useful business information. SQL Server 2005 incorporates radical changes into its BI capabilities. UDM BI typically involves the construction of a data warehouse which pulls together disparate data held in different …
Mark Whitehorn, 26 Jan 2006
channel

DB2 - the secret database

DB2 is the most respectable and most powerful database engine in the world: it’s the pinnacle of database development. IBM makes a claim (undisputed to my knowledge) that more structured data is stored in DB2 than in any other database engine. Certainly, according to the Winter Corporation’s 2005 survey, the largest OLTP (On- …
Mark Whitehorn, 18 Jan 2006
The Register breaking news

SQL Server History

Normally, the history of software is about as alluring as last night’s curry but in this case, it’s relevant because it is precisely this history that is at the root of SQL Server’s main problem. The product was originally Sybase by any other name; Microsoft simply bought the source code and re-badged it. Sadly, even in its …
Mark Whitehorn, 08 Dec 2005
The Register breaking news

High Availability with SQL Server

High availability can be provided in various ways – SQL Server 2005 supports mirroring, fail-over clustering and backup log shipping. Backup log shipping is the simplest and cheapest high availability system and appears in the workgroup edition of SQL Server 2005 and above. Essentially, it means the shipping of the transaction …
Mark Whitehorn, 08 Dec 2005
The Register breaking news

Programmability of SQL Server 2005

T-SQL is Microsoft’s own version of SQL. Like most database companies, Microsoft supports most of the standards and extends the standards where it feels there is a lack. So, SQL Server 2005 supports almost all of the ANSI 99 and 2003 SQL standards. As Euan Garden, product unit manager for SQL Server Tools, said back in 2004: " …
Mark Whitehorn, 08 Dec 2005
The Register breaking news

SQL Server and Scalability

Well, I’m convinced. The enterprise edition can, within the constraints of the operating system, run databases of unlimited size than use unlimited RAM on any number of CPUs. It supports 64-bit operation, partitioning and parallel index operations. Still smarting under its history, Microsoft has put together a range of …
Mark Whitehorn, 08 Dec 2005
The Register breaking news

SQL Server 2005 Management Tools

Microsoft, of course, provides some DBA management tools but there are also 3rd. party tools available (for both modelling and management) from companies such as Embarcadero and BMC. ® Return to Page 1 of main article here - otherwise use "back" button.
Mark Whitehorn, 07 Dec 2005
The Register breaking news

Hands on with SQL Server 2005

SQL Server is a client-server based, relational database engine. That puts it head-to-head with the likes of IBM’s DB2 and Oracle’s Oracle… or so Microsoft dearly wants us to believe. The problem is that, while DB2 and Oracle are unquestionably enterprise-level products, SQL server has for years been dogged by the suspicion …
Mark Whitehorn, 04 Dec 2005