Open Insights 52 – Hic Sont Dracones

Open Insights Newsletter

Issue 52 – Hic Sont Dracones

  February 3, 2009

by Sean Hull

2009 is in full swing.  Let’s put the struggles of 2008 and the last few months behind us, and take the downturn as an opportunity to dig in, work harder, and get creative in business. 

In This Issue:

1. Feature: Hic Sont Dracones

2. Current Reading

3. Podcast Reviews

4. Past Issues

5. Technical Articles

6. Webcast

7. Lightweight Humor

8. About Heavyweight Internet Group

1. Feature: Hic Sont Dracones

Wikipedia says:  "Here be dragons" is a phrase used to denote dangerous or unexplored territories, in imitation of the infrequent medieval practice of putting sea serpents and other mythological creatures in blank areas of maps.

For many businesses contemplating the use of open-source technologies, it can seem like going into dangerous or unexplored territories.  To be fair if your business doesn’t already have open-source in it’s DNA it probably is a lot like that.  But with the mainstreaming of Linux that started more than a decade ago, more companies are familiar with these technologies than ever before.  There are companies that have based their entire business model on services rather than licenses, companies like RedHat, Alfresco and SugarCRM. 

Now with the recession in full swing budgets are tighter than ever.  Many prospects that I speak with have not committed their budgets for 2009, or are taking a watch and wait tack.   Despite this both Financial Times and the Economist say that not only is IT going to be a bright spot in the economy for 2009, but more specifically that open-source technologies will play an increasingly major role.  Indeed the time to consider $0 licensing could not be better.

For us, the last six months have seen an uptick in companies asking about MySQL, or considering MySQL for hosting some of their data stores.  Typically large companies have a hodgepodge of different applications, all with different database infrastructures on the back end.  Oracle, SQL Server, LDAP, and MySQL all play into this mix.  What we often say to companies who are seriously considering MySQL, the open-source database everyone seems to be talking about, we look at a whole host of different factors.  What type of application will be running on it?  Is it web-facing? MySQL’s bread & butter has been web-facing databases from the beginning.  How large a database will you need?  There are customers these days running terabytes of data on MySQL.  Next, what type of app will be running on the database?  Is it a custom app that can be ported to the new platform?  Is it a commercial app that only supports one of the commercial databases? 

In the end, companies looking at MySQL move peripheral applications to the new platform first.  This gives them time to get their IT staff up to speed, and also gives them plenty of time to work out the kinks.  What are it’s strengths and weaknesses for their particular business?  These are the types of questions you will need to answer before you move more business-critical apps to the open-source database.

In summary, look before you leap. If you don’t already have the skills in-house, consider finding a provider who can bring those skills to the table.  Better to have resources that have already explored those territories, when you venture to slay open-source dragons.

Read more at the Economist: Technology firms in recession – Here we go again

Read more at Financial Times: What IT means to me: ‘Suddenly everyone’s happy to meet me’

Also take a look FT’s Digital Business Podcast.  The Dec 16, 2008 episode forecasts IT trends we can expect in 2009.

2. Current Reading

 Bad Samaritans by Ha-Joon Chang

Ha-Joon Chang is a troublemaker.  That’s why you should read this book.  Despite the title he is not avowedly against free trade, as you might guess.  What he does successfully do is dig through the history of the west’s rise, when it embraced free trade, and when it erected trade barriers, and in doing so sheds a lot of light on where we are today.  The amazing thing is how prescient this guy was.  His book came out before there was much of a hint of the economic catastrophe we’re now witnessing.  He covers in-depth the asian financial crisis of 1997 which shows a lot of similarities to what we’re experiencing now.  The only thing is we prescribed different medicine to the developing economies there. 

I don’t agree with everything in his book, especially his chapter on corruption, which I find disingenuous.  What I will say is I learned a lot from the book.  I found myself reexamining free-trade-no-matter-what philosophy that still pervades western discussion of globalism.

3. Podcast Reviews

I’ve been trolling through iTunes in the last few weeks, and have found some real gems.  With that in mind I decided to add a new section to the newsletter to focus on interesting, and technology relevant shows that I find.  By far the best one I’ve stumbled upon is Financial Times – Digital Business

For instance the September 10th episode of this year talked about Mesh Collaboration, Globalization, and Social Networking.  Definitely worth a listen.

You can read it online with updates almost everyday, and the print edition comes out on alternate wednesdays.  The podcast you can find here.

4. Past Issues

Issue 51 – Stretch Your DB Dollar

Issue 50 – Do Your Dishes

Issue 49 – Things Fall Apart

Issue 48 – Balancing Time & Money

Issue 47 – Change the Problem

Issue 46 – Interests Aligned

Issue 45 – Contractualities

Issue 44 – Gaining Legs

Newsletter Archives

5. Technical Articles

Reliable MySQL Replication

MySQL Replication Pitfalls

Intro to Oracle’s Automatic Workload Repository

Intro to PHP + Oracle

Useful PL/SQL Packages

Oracle Automatic Storage Management

Programming Perl + Oracle

6. Webcast

I recently gave a live webcast for O’Reilly and Associates.  The title was "MySQL Replication: Audit, Test & Verify".  If you’re interested in viewing this webcast, the entire thing is now up on youtube for viewing.  I’ve embedded the video into my blog here. 

MySQL Replication is fairly simple to setup for the first time.  However over time it can become troublesome.  Errors can show up in the slave log files, or it can fail silently.  We look at the caues, and also demonstrate how to identify differences, and fix them.

7. Lightweight Humor

The Onion does it again, this time with "Apple Employee Fired for Thinking Different"

8. About Heavyweight Internet Group

We’ve always been about open-source technology, integration & mixing commercial technologies such as Oracle with open-source ones such as MySQL and Linux.  As open-source becomes mainstream, and more shops consider moving critical services to these technologies, we continue to provide assistance and expertise for these transitions.  Whether it is performance testing and tuning, benchmarking, high availability or recovery, we can provide services for your specific needs.

Looking for a top-flight DBA?  Visit us on the web at