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Robin Birtstone

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A wrong way road sign in Boston, Massachusetts

Finding the formula for the travelling salesman problem

A wrong way road sign in Boston, Massachusetts What do heuristics, graph theory and doughnuts have in common? Each of them, in its own way, underpins one of the most challenging parts of the logistics process: planning delivery routes. Every day, millions of products find their way from manufacturers to distributors, …
Robin Birtstone, 18 Jun 2014
Container Vessel at Sea

You've made the product, now get it to the customers

Logistics may not seem as sexy as, say, R&D or social-media marketing – but messing it up could easily ruin your business. There are several things SMEs should think about when planning the part of their business that gets products out to customers. Far too many companies miss out this key part of the business equation, warns …
Robin Birtstone, 02 Jun 2014
Robonaut 2 with stuff. Credit: NASA

Automating repetitive tasks: If it moves, script it

Workshop DBAs can often fall into the trap of carrying out repetitive tasks and processes. The good news is that you can automate a lot of these tasks to save time, money, and above all, sanity. The bad news is that few database administrators (DBAs) are doing it. In its 2013 database manageability survey, the Independent Oracle User …
Robin Birtstone, 30 May 2014
nuts

From production to development databases (and back again)

Workshop In many organisations, it isn't just the production database that database administrators (DBAs) have to look after. There are several non-production versions, as well. Project teams may need one to develop on, so that they can work in isolation without affecting production. A QA team may need its own version for testing patches …
Robin Birtstone, 28 May 2014
yellow measuring tape - black writing

Capacity planning: How to plan ahead and keep your Oracle database healthy

Workshop Crystal balls aren't really good for IT administration. Database administrators (DBAs) like certainty and clarity, and that extends to how much strain their databases will be under in the future. Capacity planning is a way to figure that out. The concept behind capacity planning is simple, but the mechanics are harder. Capacity …
Robin Birtstone, 26 May 2014
A road train parked up at Waukhope

How technology tracks parcels every step of the way

A lot has changed since the '80s. Back in the day, your product arrived when it arrived, often within weeks rather than days and you didn’t get the chance to check where it was. In time you could see your product entering and leaving locations en route, enabling you to track it from city to city as it made its way to you. Now in …
Robin Birtstone, 22 May 2014

How not to let your Oracle database spin out of control

Workshop Growing pains: How not to let your Oracle database spin out of control Oracle databases are a lot like children. They toddle along quite nicely, being polite and well behaved, until suddenly, they hit a massive growth spurt. They become teenagers and can make their administrators' lives a living hell. They double in size …
Robin Birtstone, 22 May 2014
management governance3

Tracking configuration in Oracle databases

Workshop Databases are never static. The data in them changes, of course, but so does the meta-information about that database. Oracle holds information about each user's database assets in separate schemas (and the system also has its own). This information will change as new developments happen over time. It's the database …
Robin Birtstone, 20 May 2014
Playmobil's Security Check Point

Locking it down: Steps to Oracle database security

Workshop How secure is your Oracle database? One of the DBA's roles is to ensure that the database is reliable and available, and to maintain the integrity of its data. Adequate system security is a big part of that process, and the more that you can do to lock down your database, the happier your compliance department and IT director …
Robin Birtstone, 16 May 2014
Oracle cat bounce

Database down! DBA ninjas to the rescue

Workshop Database administrators (DBAs) may not be given much attention ninety-nine per cent of the time. But when the database fails for some reason, they become ninjas, (hopefully) restoring the data, recovering the firm's ability to do business, and generally saving the day. This all assumes that you've backed up your database …
Robin Birtstone, 14 May 2014
Container Vessel at Sea

How to sail the stormy seas of international trade

Bono must love Japan. Most of the streets there really do have no name; instead, cities and towns are subdivided into areas, subareas and blocks. Some of those land blocks (known as banchi) aren’t listed linearly but in the order that they were registered with the government. To a westerner, it is a wonder that anything ever …
Robin Birtstone, 14 May 2014
money trap conceptual illustration

Doing more for less with your Oracle database

Workshop Database services are constantly increasing in demand, but while demand might be expanding, budgets in general aren't. The Independent Oracle User Group's 2013 Database Manageability survey showed that data volumes - along with the business demand for database services to manage them - grew by more than 20 per cent on average …
Robin Birtstone, 12 May 2014

Performing an Oracle database health check? We have a little list

Workshop Everyone needs a checkup from time to time, and your Oracle database is no exception. A periodic medical can keep it running smoothly, and avoid more serious conditions from developing later. Here is a guide to help ensure optimal performance, with a series of checkpoints that can form the basis for a regular database review. …
Robin Birtstone, 08 May 2014

How to tune your Oracle database's performance

Workshop It's the call that every Oracle database admin (DBA) dreads: the "too slow" call. Users, or their managers, may argue that online performance is so bad that it stops staff from doing their jobs. Batch jobs such as billing runs may run too slowly. Customers may be walking away from an Oracle-driven ecommerce site because pages …
Robin Birtstone, 06 May 2014

Three flavours of client-side virtualisation

Talk about virtualisation often centres on virtually hosted desktops, in which the entire desktop is run on a back-end server. But this is by no means the only way to operate. Amid all the other options, such as application virtualisation and offloading computational tasks onto rich clients, there is one model that is …
Robin Birtstone, 23 Jun 2011
SGI logo hardware close-up

Give VDI the personal touch

DV Virtualising servers may be beset by technical challenges but rarely by political ones. When virtualising the desktop, however, things get far stickier. All the users suddenly becomes PC huggers unwilling to let go of their own little corner of the enterprise architecture. Amid the worries – that they will lose desktop …
Robin Birtstone, 16 Jun 2011

How to cut management overheads with VDI

On the face of it, a virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) should make desktop operating systems easier to manage. After all, if an organisation’s desktops are all on one server, then they should theoretically be easier to reach and manipulate. But can desktop virtualisation really help to relieve the management burden? Hardware …
Robin Birtstone, 19 Apr 2011

Five desktop virtualisation tips for IT project managers

There’s a good reason why the word ‘strategic’ should drive fear into the heart of the most hardened project manager. Strategic decisions are generally wide-reaching, and therefore involve multiple stakeholders (which, incidentally, is another word in corporate bureaucracy’s dark lexicon). The more stakeholders there are, the …
Robin Birtstone, 18 Apr 2011
server room

Stitch in time saves 900 support calls

Centralising the desktop has upsides and downsides for support staff. The upside is that, done correctly, the IT department gets more control over the desktop, enabling them both to prevent potential problems before they happen, and also to analyse any anomalies more easily from a central point. "In days gone by, if a trader in …
Robin Birtstone, 15 Apr 2011
cable

Framework flotilla tackles VDI

The desktop has traditionally been an under-managed area of IT. Many businesses, especially smaller ones, may not have the expertise or the resource to manage physical desktops as well as they could. As desktop virtualisation becomes more popular, IT departments face an increased management overhead. Suddenly, hundreds or …
Robin Birtstone, 13 Apr 2011

On VDI and storage architectures

One of the most complex aspects of desktop virtualisation is working out what to do with all the users' data. Sizing and planning storage infrastructures to support hundreds or thousands of remotely-hosted desktops is a daunting prospect, especially to those who have relied heavily on local PC hard drives in the past. What is …
Robin Birtstone, 13 Apr 2011
Cat 5 cable

My desktop is always there for me

Desktop virtualisation can be an asset to an organisation, but what happens when something goes wrong? In a conventional non-virtualised desktop system, users with a downed network or crippled server could perhaps still work on something locally. But when that same downtime means that your whole desktop vanishes, high …
Robin Birtstone, 07 Apr 2011

Desktop virt roll-outs: Upfront pain for long-term gain

How can IT departments build a business case for desktop virtualisation? Look at the numbers, says Robin Birtstone - but make sure you see all of them. Ultimately, companies are unlikely to fund a desktop virtualisation project until the numbers look good. How can you build a good return on investment case for virtualising your …
Robin Birtstone, 05 Apr 2011
SGI logo hardware close-up

Making desktop virt an easier pill to swallow

How can IT managers sell the benefits of desktop virtualisation to the rest of the company, especially if it may not deliver savings in the short term? Part of the trick in selling desktop virtualisation to the broader organisation is to remember the word “business” in “business case”. Talking the business’s language and mapping …
Robin Birtstone, 04 Apr 2011

Sizing a server to support desktop virtualisation

Virtualising the desktop can bring benefits at the endpoint. It makes desktops more manageable, can reduce power load throughout the building, and can make systems more secure. But IT departments shouldn't underestimate the additional investments required at the back end. Running more endpoint logic centrally can have huge …
Robin Birtstone, 25 Mar 2011

Securing the virtual desktop

Securing the endpoint has always been a headache for IT administrators. The less managed those endpoints are, the worse the headache is. In a virtualised desktop environment, where those operating systems and applications are more managed, does the problem go away? Ostensibly, security is less of a problem in a virtual desktop …
Robin Birtstone, 24 Mar 2011
server room

Choosing a client for desktop virtualisation

Many organisations will assume that a virtualised desktop is best delivered on a thin client device. However there’s a good case for reusing existing PCs, and not all thin clients are created equal. How should you determine the best client device for your desktop virtualisation solution? There are three main styles of client …
Robin Birtstone, 18 Mar 2011
Broken CD with wrench

A cacophony of clients

DV There was a time when technology was only sexy for a narrow subset of people. These were the folks, like me, who spent their weekends programming sprites in 68000 assembly language. Then, consumerisation happened, and the world was never the same again. Suddenly, everyone was a geek, and the IT department was in serious trouble …
Robin Birtstone, 17 Mar 2011

The stick, the carrot and the desktop virt project

The world would be a better place if it weren’t for all the users. Even the best laid technological plans can go awry when computer-hugging individuals decide that they don’t want to abandon their conventional systems or ways of working. Nowhere is this more true than in the nascent world of desktop virtualisation. Many users …
Robin Birtstone, 15 Mar 2011