OPEN INSIGHTS Newsletter
Issue 22 – Beware of Software Fashion
August 1, 2006
by Sean Hull
Founder and Senior Consultant
Heavyweight Internet Group
Welcome to our free monthly newsletter, discussing news, developments and business best practices at the intersection of Oracle and Open Source software.
In This Issue:
1. Feature: Beware of Software Fashion
2. Audio Interviews – Dave Dargo CTO of Ingres
3. Current Reading
4. Lightweight Humor
6. Past Issues
7. Technical Articles
8. About Heavyweight Internet Group
1. Feature: Beware of Software Fashion
I was at lunch the other day with a CEO of a small web company, and a developer friend of mine. While the three of us were talking, the issue of Java programming came up, and she complained of the inanity of doing things in Java, and the poor performance. I commented that I thought Java was somewhat trendy and fashionable. This got some reaction from my CEO friend, as she hadn’t thought of technology as falling victim to fashions and trends.
Well folks, I hate to be the one to tell you, but it certainly does.
Object Oriented Databases
Do any of you remember Object Oriented Databases? These were the data repository end of the Object Oriented fashion trend, out to rid all application schemas of weak or missing primary keys, and incorrectly specified relationships. What would happen is that the tables and methods to access them would be hidden inside objects, which behind the scenes would do the right thing.
This had two consequences. One was that you left some of the implementation of your application up to the smarts of the framework designer, who didn’t always know what you wanted, or how to do it for you. And secondly, you would have a large layer of code between you and your data.
Without going into undue details, I’ll try to explain. Performance in software is almost always the fundamental, and most important criteria, outside of perhaps reliability. Whether you know it up front, you surely will when you have millions of web users hitting it. All the fancy bells and whistles of the programming language or framework are irrelevant to the business, as long as the software works as designed, reliably, and fast. If the shiny new technology features or paradigms don’t provide either better speed or reliability, one should question them.
The fact is sometimes you have to do unorthodox things to your application schemas and SQL code to make them perform better. The less distance you have between your application and your data, the better.
Upgrade Your Windows 98 for Security!
This is some of the most ironic news I’ve seen of late. Reports out of Microsoft encourage users to upgrade to Vista for enhanced security. Wow, this one takes the cake. Has anyone been counting the number of bugs, viruses, trojans, and other malware that have infected the newer versions of Windows? The fact is if you can afford to be on an older version of Windows, you probably won’t see much of any malware infect you. Also the viruses spreading are for the newer versions of Windows, and the hackers that are at work at this very moment are planning their attacks on Vista, bet on that. In fact the few people I know who do run Windows 98 report about as much malware activity as do Macintosh and Linux users. Go figure.
The more general point here is that the latest and greatest may not be what you need or want. Evaluate it on its merits, the risks, and advantages, and weigh them, instead of jumping on the bandwagon of whatever is coming out next.
Java as a Web Development Language
I have a confession to make, I actually like Java. There are some great features and ideas that were introduced in Java, that other programming languages found lacking. But one thing remains as a large problem is how large and slow the applications often are. Large libraries mean longer code-paths, which means slower execution. Want to build an application with a single GUI across various different Operating Systems, Java may be the right choice. Want to build lots of little pieces of code that get executed hundreds of thousands of times per minute, please don’t choose Java. Because that is what the web is all about. And in that type of environment you want your code to be very lean and very mean. You don’t want to have a complex middle tier application server if you can possibly avoid it.
There are better options out there for you such as PHP or Perl, all of which can interoperate with your favorite databases of choice. When choosing a web development language, do some benchmarking, and choose the fastest executing language you can get, with a good development community, and lots of libraries to choose from.
We Need to Move to the Latest DB Version
This is something I hear a lot. We have to move to 10g, the latest version of Oracle’s database platform. Sure it only came out yesturday, but hey let’s have at it. Sure 60%, no 70% of the code base was rewritten from scratch, let’s give it a whirl!
Ok folks, I know you want to stay current, keep your skills up to the latest version, and know what’s coming down the road. Nothing is stopping you, in fact as a DBA it’s your responsibility to get it installed in a sandbox, or on your desktop machine if you like. Play around with the new features there.
If you want to see it from the business side though, put yourself in the shoes of a remote dba company. Your business is to keep systems running, never have a hickup, monitor activity, applications, web-based performance, disk subsystems, you name it. Guess what you want? You want boring, you want reliable, you want the most stable systems you can get. You want software versions that have been around for a few years, Operating Systems for which the swirl of new vulnerabilities and bugs has died down, you want tried and true. In terms of Oracle, you want something that is still supported, but that every single bug has been found and documented for on Metalink. You want to know specifically what you might have to worry about, because it’s already been hit by lots of other customers who enjoy living on the bleeding edge. You don’t want to be fashionable, you want to be wearing the old standby.
I’ve ranted a little, exagerated a bit, and smoothed over the details here and there to make an important point. Beware of Software Fashion folks, because if you can’t spot it, you may become the victim of it.
Ingres Chief Technology Officer Dave Dargo joins us this month in another podcast interview. We talk with him about the open-source Ingres Database, and the economics driving open-source software today. Great insights, and plenty of food for thought, so have a listen.
Do you use Open-source technologies in your enterprise? Would you like to talk about your experiences, and business successes? We’d like to hear from you. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Purple Cow – Seth Godin
Seth Godin’s “purple cow” is the phenomenon of building a product that stands out, and wins by doing something remarkable, or in a way that others have not had the chutspa to do. Read his blog, and then go buy the book.
Beyond Fear – Bruce Schneier
Bruce Schneier is really the first authority I turn to in all discussions on security. He is level-headed, and continues to provide deep thinking on tangled issues. This book delves into the real-world problems of security post-911 in a way few other authors have managed. You can also keep up to date by following his blog.
Rebuilt – Michael Chorost
After hearing an interview with Chorost I was intrigued and picked up a copy of the book. Rebuilt is his first person narative about losing his hearing, and then gaining it back, through a lot of difficulty, with a cochlear implant. The book is fascinating in it’s humanity, in how hearing plays such a key part in our lives, but also how putting software in the middle is fraught with surprising complexities. Check his site as well.
By now you know I enjoy the Onion. If you’ve wondered why you’re stuck in a meeting, and know it’s going nowhere, you’ll enjoy this one. Employees Still Have No Idea What’s Going On After Attending Meeting
In an excellent article by Jonathan Taplin, Reinventing Journalism in the Networked Age talks about all the destabilizing new technologies of blogs, video blogs, and podcasts, and asks “How will quality journalism get produced if the news universe is dominated by amateurs?”
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