Open Insights 04 – Managers: Databases 101

Managers: Database 101


Managers and CEOs of companies which rely on databases for their

infrastructure, or build on them for their applications, no doubt

already have a handle on the basic “What is…” question.

In short, databases boil down to glorified filing cabinets, albeit

electronic ones which can hold miles of encyclopias worth of

information, and retrieve it in tiny fractions of a second.

More info:

Behind the Scenes: How You Use it is Everything


We know that databases are put to an endless list of business

uses, from storing credit card billing statements & indexing

web content on the internet, to storing mountains of information

on customer spending habits from larger retailers. Running a

business, one naturally focuses on the business uses. But in

order to understand things at least a little bit under the hood

we’ll show how your technology people look at things.

Principally, there are two types of database uses. One is called

datawarehousing, and the other online transaction processing, which

we’ll call transactional for short. What divides them is dramatic.

A datawarehouse is composed mainly of large mountains of historical

data, which can be used to predict future outcomes, or answer other

big business questions. Huge reports are run against such databases

to show trends, or plot trajectories. How many of our customers

that live in Asia, buy books about technology, and when? How do

they normally pay? How many have joint accounts with family members?

A transactional database is one that runs a website, or other

application which makes frequent small requests of the database.

Such a database is characterized by lots of small requests or


You can think of the two types like readers of the news. The

datawarehouse is like the history researcher, that is going to comb

through old issues on microfilm, to put together a work of great length

on some past story. The transactional version is like the reader

going to work, who skims headlines, looking for important bits of

news, and leaves the newspaper on the subway where someone else picks

it up and scans it again.

Understanding which type of usage you are putting your database to

can help you focus your business and your technology choices

properly. It can also help your technology team tune your systems

for your specific usage. Mixing the two types of uses can have some

negative impacts easily avoided by dividing the work into separate

systems as appropriate.

Which are some of the popular variants?


Some of the popular databases in use today are obviously Oracle, Sybase

and DB2. These are the big commercial solutions. You might include

Microsoft’s SQL Server in the list, though it doesn’t really compete

in terms of real server technology performance and security. On the

other hand there are some dramatic open source solutions to choose

from as well, such as MySQL and Postgres.

What are the tradeoffs pro + con?


There are dramatic differences between the various database technologies

as you might guess. The first obvious one is price. Speed, and

supported platforms are factors too. Some less obvious factors behind

the scenes are the feature sets that each database supports. What

programming languages are supported, how big can tables and data grow

to, how are backups handled, how secure is the database, and how

difficult is maintenance? These are the types of questions which you

will need to ask to differentiate the various systems.

Is there a risk-free way to go?


A lot of companies have already made an investment in one technology

such as Oracle. Others have invested in Open Source solutions such

as Linux and MySQL and have built up the staff to handle that and

are wondering if the jump to Oracle would be difficult. On the

consulting side of the fence, most companies have partnerships and

experience with one particular technology and will try to lead you

in that direction.

Consider these factors when talking with and outsourcing, or

consulting company about database technologies. At Heavyweight

Internet Group we believe there is a right technology for each

business use, and we’ll help you understand those tradeoffs before

biting off more than you can chew.

Remember too that you can prototype with one database backend, and

switch later on as your needs grow if your application has been

written with those eventualities in mind. Furthermore you can

prototype and develop to a limited extent with Oracle without

purchasing a license. While you are doing development you are ok

after which time doing Q/A or obviously moving to production

would require a license purchase.

How do I know if I’m under or over-gunned?


An assesment of the current technology is the best way to figure

out where you stand on the database usage horizon. It involves

reviewing the underlying hardware, and Operating System, evaluating

the database technology, looking at the application, and how

well it is taking advantage of that database architecture, and

features, and seeing where the real bottlenecks lay.

Heavyweight Internet Group can help your business with database

technology assessments. With the right information, and options

at your fingertips, you can make more informed decisions saving

you time and money in the long run.



Your database is likely your single most sensitive technology,

housing your business crown jewels. Consequently just like the type

of car you choose can mean a lot in terms of expenses you will

incur, whether you can haul lumber, ferry your kids to school, or

drive the autobahn, so too what type of database technology you

favor can affect your business tremendously.

Look before you leap, choose the right guide, and you can grow

your business right — from the start.