Gartner’s view on database landscape (MQ)

Courtesy of NuoDB I was drawn to read Gartner’s updated magic quadrant report.

It’s sidenote includes an observation I have to agree with:

Through 2018, a wave of consolidation will affect the operational DBMS market’s smaller vendors, through mergers, acquisitions and business failures.

NuoDB, who I mentioned in my previous post, did well as a visionary, whilst Clustrix remained in the Niche quadrant. It’s important to remember that even making it into a Magic Quadrant means you’ve passed a startup hurdle: you need over $20M in revenue, and 100 customers, amongst other criteria.

I did see one database vendor I hadn’t come across before but which warrants investigation under certain use cases.

My earlier post was talking about how common it is for older businesses to be over-invested in Oracle or SQL Server without a NewSQL alternative being investigated. I was not looking at NoSQL or graph databases, which require refactoring the application, but ACID-compliant SQL-based alternatives.

That’s TmaxSoft software called Tibero, a South Korean firm. What I like from surface-level reading their content is:the compatibility with SQL Server (reducing migration complexity is a key thing to consider), and easy upgrades between versions (key for quality of life).

Another I hadn’t seen for some years is InterSystems, who have done well to get into the Leaders quadrant. They’re offering an interesting hybrid, and Gartner point out their high customer satisfaction and problem-free usage.

Also, NuoDB still stand out to me with their horizontally-scalable design.

So if it’s not already in the plans, I’d suggest IT leaders actively assess their database landscape; identifying workloads which are unnecessarily being placed onto tier 1 database infrastructure. This Gartner report also covers NoSQL and Graph options if you are refactoring or developing new applications.

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The NewSQL alternatives

At Rackspace I have a number of business customers who are committed to a Microsoft architectural stack. Some of these are older businesses, not startups born with cloud tech choices nor with access to cloud-era talent. Their stacks include SQL Server exclusively, and it has been part of their world forever. Recently as I’ve been talking with their IT leadership I’ve been particularly curious to ask about their work around cost architecture, and this often leads to asking if their view of workload on their database.

I thought it’d be interesting to reflect on these traditional businesses, and some of their challenges.

For example, there’s a common situation where say a third of a customer’s infrastructure compute is consumed by SQL, with a traditional architecture where the application assumes high-availability from the layers beneath it. Their app has little message queuing or service-orientation. The consequence of their architecture is a requirement for very solid infrastructure.

I’ve been talking to enterprise IT folk about the complications and process of migrating services to the cloud for about four years. Whilst all of us want to see service-oriented IT more widely-deployed, the reality is that this modernisation takes time.

So whilst a business’ IT might be a while away from being a distributed system, it seems sensible to at look at the compute offload, cost reduction and scalability offered by NewSQL.

Migrating to NuoDB or Clustrix can be a much simpler proposition than refactoring to use NoSQL. Existing MS SQL Server databases can be ported, with complexity depending on the usual factors (extensions, size of code base, coupling). It is worth a proof of concept to assess the change effort and benefits.

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Seeing the world clearly

This is one of a short series of self-reflective posts I wrote in January 2014.

One of my core principles is to continuously increase the clarity with which I see the world.

This is a top-level principle, and so I have a bunch of values and behaviours which flow from that. One is truth over harmony.

I have seen this value misused. A bitter person misused it to excuse counter-productive behaviour, and an idealist misappropriated it to disguise their unwillingness to accept reality as it is.

Another value I have is for clarity around facts and observations. Particularly I want:

  • people to be specific about the source and validity of a claim, and
  • observations to be described distinctly from conclusions about observation.

For example, “Apache crashed” is a conclusion and “http 80 is not responding” is the observation. Other causes could be security groups or internet connectivity.

In a cool way, these values overlap with my bias to action. So when solving a complex problem, if I find things going in circles, I will write a clear problem statement. How to think clearly about problems has been studied and codified by systems like Kepner Tregoe. I think all good services organisations should use a consistent problem solving method and be sure all staff are trained in it; you cannot assume a University degree will give a person this skill.

Problem statements can be quite simple, though. You can just include:

  • the observed issue
  • the desired behaviour
  • a list of possible solutions
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Driven to achieve

This is one of a short series of self-reflective posts I wrote in January 2014.

I’m a fan of the Strengths model. On both of the times I have done the self-assessment, two of my top five strengths are:

  • Achiever
  • Focus

This is very true of me.
The ‘so what’ of the combination might not be immediately obvious unless you have those same two compulsions, or have a significant other with them, and have read about strengths psychology.

Basically I’m driven to achieve towards goals.
I need to achieve things. It gives me a single-mindedness which my wife says can be impersonal, and can appear selfish. So at home, I have to moderate myself :)

For example, right now I’m writing about my leadership style. I know I need to be clear in my own mind about how I operate as a leader, and as a manager, and be able to outline it in an interview next week.

I was just making my wife and I a cup of tea before coming back to the computer to keep thinking about my leadership style. Laura knew I was going to be thinking and writing all day. As I was making tea, she wanted to tell me about an interesting conversation she’d had with a lady about her religion and about her self-directed conversion to Islam at about age 17, whilst living in the Australian outback. Sounds interesting eh. I listened for a while before saying, “sorry hon, it’s distracting me from what’s on my mind right now”. That’s when she smiled and said “that’s one of your strengths”.

So here I am writing about it now, and will talk to her more later about her day with the kids.

The Focus strength is about goal-setting. Once I emotionally set a firm goal in my mind, it’s very hard for me to unwrench from it. In fact, I’ve learned to manage myself in this regard and only set goals when I’m sure I really want to achieve them. This means I tend not to idly discuss possible goals around my work or home life. I will either do them, or not. I think of Yoda: there is no try.

This is because somehow, the way my mind works, is that goals are deeply motivating. I like to-do lists too, to track more atomic goals, and I’m a completer-finisher in that I don’t like things dangling half-done.

The Achiever strength is about needing to get things done. A good example is that I find holidays a bit stressful if they go on for too long. I like to read a book or two, or spend time thinking about a goal I have for myself, or learning something new.

Also I am frustrated by fruitless or pointless tasks because they conflict with my need for achievement. Generally this is a good thing, and it might even trigger another one of my core behaviours around wanting to properly fix systems.

As a leader these strengths translate to wanting the organisation to be productive. For example:

  • I notice waste or inefficient processes and want them fixed.
  • I set sub-goals which are achievable, but not easily, and which are consistent with a greater goal.
  • I want people to be productive, to know what their job is, to have the tools to do it, and I will get things out of their way so they can achieve.
  • I want projects or changes completed properly so as to avoid creating re-work and to make a sustained difference.
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