The Register Columnists

Philip Howard

Contact Mail Follow RSS feed
The Register breaking news

Which kind of cloud database is right for you?

Deep Dive In the second of two articles about cloud-based data storage, the focus is on the options available and how to decide on one approach rather than the other. (Part 1 is here). Find the keys Not-so-relational databases do not store data in tables – at least, not the sort of tables we associate with relational databases. …
Philip Howard, 19 May 2011
The Register breaking news

When is a database not so relational?

Deep dive In the first of two articles on cloud-based data storage, we shall explore the drawbacks of relational databases. There are two types of databases you can use when hosting data in the cloud: a relational database or one that is so not so relational. For example, Amazon offers a choice of SimpleDB (not so relational) or MySQL ( …
Philip Howard, 17 May 2011

Regarding IBM enterprise data management

At its Information on Demand conference in Las Vegas last week, IBM announced a raft of new capabilities and initiatives with respect to IMS (version 10, available 10/26, whose main new features are around supporting SOA), DB2 and ancillary management and development capabilities. I shall be concentrating here on DB2 (version 9. …
Philip Howard, 21 Oct 2007

Data warehousing: upgrade, extend or replace?

The B-eye Network recently conducted a survey on behalf of Dataupia. which asked, among other things, companies whether they would consider a "rip and replace" approach to solving whatever data warehousing problems they might have. Seventy-five per cent of respondents said no. Now, apart from the fact that I find the term "rip …
Philip Howard, 21 Oct 2007

Product data quality in the information supply chain

Readers may recall that I wrote last year about Silver Creek Systems®. At that time I extolled its capabilities for product data quality (matching, cleansing and classification) through the use of semantically-based content profiling and attribute identification. This is particularly relevant when information comes into the …
Philip Howard, 03 Sep 2007
The Register breaking news

Data warehousing update, part 1

A lot has been happening on the data warehousing front lately. Earlier this summer, Oracle announced its Information Appliance initiative and, in particular, a partnership with PANTA Systems. Then, more recently, ParAccel has announced a product re-positioning, Calpont is finally talking about its entry into the market, and both …
Philip Howard, 29 Aug 2007
triangular warning sign featuring exclamation mark

Data governance and the holy grail

Yes, I know this sounds a bit like the eighth Harry Potter book. In fact, what I want to discuss are some implications of data governance that I don't think everyone has thought through yet. Let me start by assuming that you have gone the whole hog over data governance. That is, you have set up a data governance council, you …
Philip Howard, 24 Aug 2007
The Register breaking news

Could open source BI close out incumbents?

JasperSoft has just released version 2.0 of its software, which makes this a good time not just to consider JasperSoft's latest capabilities, but also open-source business intelligence (BI) more generally. The two big beasts in open source BI are Pentaho and JasperSoft. These are broadly similar in their range of capabilities ( …
Philip Howard, 28 Jun 2007
The Register breaking news

IBM and Informix tie down Cheetah

I have periodically written about Informix Dynamic Server (IDS) ever since IBM acquired it. Initially, IBM had the wrong messaging—all of its databases were marketed under the DB2 brand, which didn't go down too well—but this has now changed with the company's refocus on information management in general and Information on …
Philip Howard, 27 Jun 2007
The Register breaking news

When acquisitions are bad news

Acquisitions may or may not be good deals for the purchaser, but at best they pose serious questions for the users of the acquired company. In my recent article TIBCO acquires Spotfire: why?, I discussed the possibility that TIBCO was likely to be focusing the Spotfire BI solution in a different direction from previously, which …
Philip Howard, 26 Jun 2007

TIBCO buys Spotfire: why?

TIBCO recently announced that it had acquired Spotfire, the business intelligence vendor. Since this is not an immediately obvious acquisition, the question is why? According to the press release issued by TIBCO, "the Spotfire acquisition is a natural extension of TIBCO's Predictive Business strategy, by offering customers next …
Philip Howard, 25 Jun 2007
The Register breaking news

The enterprise data warehouse vision

Traditionally, enterprise data warehouses (EDWs) were regarded as systems of record. Thought of simplistically, queries were either run directly off the EDW or from a data mart that referred back to the EDW as and when necessary (hence its status as a system of record). However, it is now clear that that definition of an EDW no …
Philip Howard, 29 May 2007
Business Objects

Business Objects gobbles Inxight

Business Objects' stated intention of becoming a $2bn company was never going to be achieved only through organic growth, and it was inevitable that there would be a number of acquisitions along the way, of which the latest is Inxight Software. Inxight was originally created as a spin-off from Xerox Parc in 1996 and it …
Philip Howard, 24 May 2007
fingers pointing at man

Dataupia: a utopian vision for databases?

Over the course of the last few months I have written a couple of times speculating on the development of appliances that might be more generally deployed than the very specific products we have seen to date. In particular, in my last article on this subject I discussed the scope for improving the performance of merchant …
Philip Howard, 15 May 2007

HP Neoview comes out to play

Hewlett-Packard sort of announced its data warehouse appliance (if that is the right term—see later) last autumn. The company refers to this as a soft launch in the sense that they didn't talk much about it except to a few beta clients. Well, now it has had its hard launch (which is officially version 2.0) and the company is …
Philip Howard, 10 May 2007
The Register breaking news

On Business Objects' Cartesis acquisition

Business Objects last week announced that it is to acquire Cartesis, arguably the most important pure play vendor in the corporate performance management market (CPM - Business Objects refers to enterprise performance management - EPM) that was (hitherto) left standing. There are two interesting aspects to this: first, the …
Philip Howard, 30 Apr 2007
Microsoft excel teaser

Spreadsheet security? What spreadsheet security!

Comment I have written before, and will say again, that Microsoft Excel does not have security. It does actually have some security features but most users don't know about them and, if they do, they are frequently not implemented. In any case, as Microsoft has explicitly stated, the security features in Excel are not actually there to …
Philip Howard, 06 Apr 2007

Oracle buys another database

Comment Oracle and IBM are both competitors and partners. In the case of databases they are certainly rivals, with Oracle 10g and DB2 going head-to-head at many sites. However, it has occurred to me to wonder if Oracle is seeking to rival IBM's crown as the owner of the most different databases. IBM, of course, owns not only IMS and …
Philip Howard, 13 Mar 2007
The Register breaking news

Data governance definitions

I am getting mixed messages about data governance. IBM recently published the results of a survey it had conducted into the use of data governance, which it conducted in conjunction with the NCC. Out of 141 respondents, from companies of all sizes, only seven per cent reported that data governance was neither implemented nor on …
Philip Howard, 22 Jan 2007
The Register breaking news

A holistic view of second generation BI

Comment I wrote a series of articles about second generation BI (which I refuse to refer to as Business Intelligence twodotoh) about six months ago. Why then I am returning to it? Because I think it is time to take a step back from the BI market and view it more holistically before we even consider what a next generation environment …
Philip Howard, 18 Jan 2007
The Register breaking news

What makes a 5GL?

Comment From time to time vendors in the application development space have claimed 5GL (5th generation language) capabilities. If you think about this for a moment you will realise that this can't be true. The idea of GLs is that each is an abstraction of the former, so we had machine code (on which I cut my teeth as a developer); …
Philip Howard, 17 Jan 2007
The Register breaking news

EnterpriseDB: standing out from the crowd

Opinion EnterpriseDB (which is the name of both the company and the product) is normally thought of, by those who have merely heard of it, as being yet another of the open source database vendors. However, this is not the case. As its name suggests, the company is focused on providing an enterprise-class relational database and it …
Philip Howard, 09 Jan 2007
The Register breaking news

90 Degree looks to corner BI with Radius

Opinion Back in April, I reported on 90 Degree Software which was at that time developing its product (called Radius), which has now been released. This is an update to that previous article. 90 Degree Software is a privately owned, self-funded company that was established last year in Vancouver. Now, anyone who knows anything about …
Philip Howard, 05 Jan 2007

Data modelling wars

Comment It is actually going a bit far to say that there are truly data modelling wars going on but certainly the users of ERWin are being aggressively targeted by both Sybase with PowerDesigner and Embarcadero with ER/Studio. This is, in part, because ERWin no longer sits within any of CA's core areas of focus, so it hardly surprising …
Philip Howard, 02 Jan 2007

Wanna know how to rate a data warehouse appliance?

One of the major discussion points at Bloor Research's recent conference on "Data Warehousing: the rise of the appliance" was a discussion of the rules (though they might equally be regarded as reference points rather than rules) that might apply to data warehouse appliances as opposed to enterprise data warehouses. I presented …
Philip Howard, 07 Dec 2006
The Register breaking news

Ten things you need to know about SOA

SOA (service oriented architecture) is a big deal, I like it. But it isn't the be all and end all of computing. Here are ten things you need to know about SOA. 1. You can't sell SOA. SOA allows your company to be more flexible. SOA enables the agile enterprise. Oh, yes. But you can't build a business case or cost justification …
Philip Howard, 22 Nov 2006
The Register breaking news

AJAX and 2.0 madness

Comment Web 2.0 has a lot to answer for. Why, incidentally, is it not simply Web 2? In any case, I have no quarrel with Web 2.0: what I do have a quarrel with is all the other 2dotohs that keep springing up. There is SaaS (software as a service) 2.0 for example and, most recently, Business Objects has been talking about BI 2.0. This …
Philip Howard, 21 Nov 2006
The Register breaking news

Big Blue cloud over event processing performance

The march of the big guns into event processing continues. Microsoft, SAS and Sybase have all got point solutions that address this space in one way or another, while it may have escaped your notice that IBM has now got two offerings in this area. The first of these is WebSphere Front Office for Financial Markets, which is …
Philip Howard, 08 Nov 2006
The Register breaking news

Where do you store master data?

Comment At IBM's recent Information on Demand conference (which was excellent, incidentally) the company presented its view of master data management (MDM). I am glad to say that this has advanced significantly since its Barcelona conference in May and the company has now recognised that you need to take a flexible approach to MDM. The …
Philip Howard, 03 Nov 2006
The Register breaking news

Purisma renames and updates

Comment Purisma has just announced version 2.0 of what used to be called the Purisma Customer Registry and has now been re-named the Purisma Data Hub. I can understand why it has dropped the "customer" from its name, as it also supports suppliers, patients, and so forth but I am less happy about the use of the term "hub". Purisma has …
Philip Howard, 31 Oct 2006
The Register breaking news

E2E: even better than sliced bread?

Comment E2E Technologies, which stands for 'end-to-end', is a Swiss company in the application integration space and is not to be confused with either e2e Media, which is a marketing company, or E2E, which is a UK government educational initiative. Its product, the E2E Bridge, can do more than application integration, as we will …
Philip Howard, 17 Oct 2006

In praise of FPGAs

All data warehouse appliances have a massively parallel architecture in which there are multiple nodes that put processing as close as possible to the disk drives. In Netezza's Performance Server these nodes are known as Snippet Processing Units (SPUs: pronounced, incidentally, to rhyme with Gnu rather than being a homonym for …
Philip Howard, 10 Oct 2006
The Register breaking news

Aggregates: the not-so-forgotten DBA issue

Aggregates are probably the second biggest headache for database administrators in data warehouses after indexes and the tuning thereof. However, while there has been lots of discussion about indexes there has been very little about aggregates. For example, the data warehouse appliance vendors remove indexes more or less …
Philip Howard, 06 Oct 2006

Netezza surprises with technical capabilities

Comment I have recently returned from Netezza's second annual conference. This was well attended, with nearly all of the company's customers (around 75) being represented, as well as a significant number of both prospects and partners. It was very (to use a technical term) buzzy and there was a degree of enthusiasm that I have rarely …
Philip Howard, 03 Oct 2006
The Register breaking news

Progress Software: its challenges

Comment Historically, Progress Software built its business around its 4GL (which it now refers to as an ABL—Advanced Business Language) and its database. And the company succeeded by focusing on the mid-market and a channel model for reaching that market. In other words, it was a company that targeted small and medium-sized businesses …
Philip Howard, 02 Oct 2006
The Register breaking news

StreamBase touts a standard language for event processing

Comment StreamBase has just, amidst much fanfare, announced that it is pushing for the establishment of a standard development language for event processing applications. While the company does not necessarily expect that its StreamSQL will be adopted for this purpose, it does contend that SQL should be the starting point for such a …
Philip Howard, 26 Sep 2006
The Register breaking news

One bus or two?

Comment This question came up during Progress's recent EMEA (Europe, Middle East, Africa) user conference: at one point, a vendor representative showed a slide showing Sonic as an ESB (enterprise service bus) and DataXtend as a comparable bus operating at the data level. From subsequent discussions it emerged that whether these should …
Philip Howard, 21 Sep 2006
The Register breaking news

Two buses or one?

This question came up during Progress' recent EMEA user conference: at one point, a vendor representative put up a slide showing Sonic as an ESB (enterprise service bus) and DataXtend as a comparable bus operating at the data level. From subsequent discussions it emerged that whether these should be regarded as one bus or two …
Philip Howard, 21 Sep 2006
hands waving dollar bills in the air

Business Objects buys ALG

Comment Business Objects is buying ALG, which may be better known to some readers as Armstrong-Laing (I never quite understood the rationale behind changing the name, especially as ALG was likely to be confused with ASG but that's another story). Anyway, ALG is one of the leaders in the market for activity-based costing (ABC) and …
Philip Howard, 19 Sep 2006
The Register breaking news

Another way of tackling integration

Of course, there are a variety of different types of integration and there are a range of different things that you can do with data integration. I am not here to suggest that there is another way of tackling data integration in general. However, there are specific aspects of data integration (and in this context I am talking …
Philip Howard, 01 Sep 2006
The Register breaking news

CA and Cybermation and workload automation

Comment While I may focus on data and things to do with data, my tastes tend to be more eclectic than that so, from time to time, I dabble with other things that interest me. One of those other things happens to be what used to be Cybermation, before CA acquired it recently. Why did I get interested in Cybermation? Well, I thought it …
Philip Howard, 25 Aug 2006
The Register breaking news

Settting the radar on Visual Sciences

Comment My recent series of articles on next generation business intelligence has created a lot of interest, not least from vendors thinking they fit the required pattern of capabilities. Perhaps the most interesting of the companies to contact me has been Visual Sciences. Visual Sciences was launched in 2001 but continued in stealth …
Philip Howard, 24 Aug 2006
The Register breaking news

Integration appliances

Comment Appliances seem to be getting everywhere. One area for their use that I have not previously looked at, are appliances for integration. As far as I know, there are three vendors in this space: BridgeWerx, which is based around Microsoft's BizTalk; Cast Iron Systems; and InfoTone. Now, as regular readers will know, my primary …
Philip Howard, 22 Aug 2006

Real-time data warehousing

Comment Data warehousing has historically been regarded as an environment which was specifically about analysing historic data, either to understand what has happened or, more recently, in order to try to predict what will happen: for example, to try to predict customers likely to churn. However, there are also a number of environments …
Philip Howard, 31 Jul 2006
The Register breaking news

Benchmarks, bunkum and baloney

Comment There are three types of claims made by vendors with respect to benchmarks: pure performance figures, competitive performance comparison, and TPC figures. In my view, none of these has marketing value, though the second of these potentially has some utility for the supplier. Let me explain. A good example of the over-hyping of …
Philip Howard, 12 Jul 2006
The Register breaking news

Metadata is not enough

Comment Classically, at least in software terms, reverse engineering is the ability provided by a data modelling tool to inspect an existing database schema and derive entities and relationships from that schema. Hence the use of "reverse" - more usually you use such a tool to build entity-relationship diagrams from which you can …
Philip Howard, 05 Jul 2006
The Register breaking news

Next generation BI - Part two

Comment In the previous article in this series, I outlined some of the major features that you want to see in a next generation BI solution. Most of this is not complex: new visualisation capabilities, integration with search and so on are not, at least in principle, difficult, though companies providing sophisticated visualisation …
Philip Howard, 04 Jul 2006
The Register breaking news

Next generation BI

Comment I was asked recently to consider what would be required for a next generation BI solution. Never one to shirk a challenge, here are some thoughts. The key is at the user level. First, accessing data and reports needs to be simpler: you and I may be au fait with making selections from hierarchies, but lots of people aren't. Tree …
Philip Howard, 30 Jun 2006
The Register breaking news

The application migration market

Comment Data migration is usually considered to be a homogeneous market. It isn't. There are, in fact, two major types of data migration: migration from one database to another and migration from one application to another. In this article I want to concentrate on the latter, because it is estimated that there are 8,000 SAP migrations …
Philip Howard, 28 Jun 2006
The Register breaking news

MDM - a strategy for IBM

Comment This is the second article of two stemming from IBM's recent European MDM (master data management) conference. In the first article I discussed how I disagreed (at least in part) with the view of MDM that was put across at that conference. This article concentrates specifically on what IBM is doing in this space. In Harriet …
Philip Howard, 27 Jun 2006