Monday, March 23, 2009

Green: further thoughts

This is my second post about the green topic. If you're a frequent visitor you're probably used to more technical posts, or at least Informix oriented posts (that's what the blog is about!), but I couldn't avoid thinking about these issues and I'd like to share some thoughts with you.

In my last post I referenced an online radio show dedicated to the subject of how you can save money by implementing green initiatives. In other words, a green initiative can be described as any action we make to turn our companies and our presence in the planet more environment friendly. I couldn't stop noticing that lately we see a lot of activities in this field. A lot of companies are implementing green initiatives. I see this at a global and local level. Although I'm not a specialist on this issues, and I certainly haven't studied them, I think I won't be very far from the truth if I say that there are several reasons for this:

  1. Companies can really save money by going green
  2. It "looks good" to be green. Most of us are worried about the future of our planet. We probably feel better if we use green products. It's very difficult to change our daily routines, but it's very easy to buy products or use services from companies that show some care to the environment. So it makes us feel comfortable with our conscious
  3. Government regulations or actions favor companies with a green attitude
  4. Some of the reasons above make the green thing a market opportunity, specially in the current times of economic recession

A few examples of green initiatives from several companies:
  • IBM's smarter planet campaign (and blog)
    IBM is pushing not only the green initiatives, but also moving one step forward, and speaking of smarter resource usage. I'll pick this again below...
  • A local energy company launched a website promoting car pooling
    This company is the biggest Oil and Gas company on the Portuguese market
  • The biggest Portuguese bank launched a project called "Carbon zero"
    This initiative according to their words involves the bank staff, the customers and the society in general. The proposed idea is to reduce the environmental impacts of the bank's activities
  • The more than 4M results on Google when searching for "carbon capture" (see Wikipedia)
I could fill a large web page with examples, but I'm sure you know a lot of them. This has become a bit more than a buzz word. It's a trend. And it's probably a need for us as a society.
When I was in school, during my childhood, the idea of green was something like "don't throw papers on the street", "keep the beaches clean" etc. Currently kids are thought on how to separate and recycle garbage wastes etc. In the future, hopefully all this will be taken as granted and we'll be teaching our kids that everything we do has an impact on the environment. So all the projects, all the designs, all the plans will take this into careful consideration. As IBM put it, we must be smarter on our natural resource usage.
To give you a personal perspective on this issues I can tell you about two situations I've faced:
  • Last year I had the opportunity to spend a few days working in Toronto, Canada. For someone from a small country, Toronto is really big. I was impressed by the number of lanes in the highways. And the number of highways... and the length of highways, most of them apparently converging to the city center... Most of the highways had a lane reserved for cars with at least 2 (or more?) people in it... And most of these lanes were more or less empty...
  • A few days ago I took around 1H to get from my workplace to home. This may not look to bad for many of us, but in a normal day I would take about 15m. That's why I use a car and not public transportation... usually it's so much quicker... But on that specific day I passed by 3 accidents (small car crashes...). I felt really desperate to be stuck in the traffic, just a few kilometers from home...
These two situations definitely didn't feel "smart". How can we waste so many time and resources? There are better ways to move around. And we have so much technology that we could use to avoid situations like this... Cars could be smarter in order to avoid some crashes. We could be smarter and have detailed information about the road conditions. We could plan our itineraries in order to avoid traffic. We could use other means of transportation. We could use local systems in our companies in order to use car pooling etc.

This obviously isn't directly related to Informix... But we really need to use the technology we have available today in order to make better usage of the environment. And we will save money by doing so. This applies to companies and to individuals. And we, IT professionals, will probably have a word on this. We have to make our hardware run better and with less resources. Our software systems should be optimized so that we don't consume so much resources (hardware). We have to design and implement systems that make our daily live "smarter" and easier. And this will require information, and as such databases....

I'll end this post with a brief overview of some Informix characteristics that make it a good choice for green systems. This is my best attempt to give some sense to this post ;) :
  • Informix is very light. It's thread based architecture and efficient code makes it run fast with little resources
  • Informix thread based architecture makes it a very good choice for current multi-threaded processors.
  • Informix is very easy to setup. You can save time and use it elsewhere like in application design and tuning
  • Informix is embeddable. It has a very small footprint. It makes it a good choice for applications that need a local database
  • Informix is extensible. It allows anybody with the right skills to extend the base functionality. We can create new functions, new datatypes, new aggregate functions, new index mechanisms etc. As an example, the Spatial datablade can be used in a lot of modern applications that require geo-spatial information
  • Informix works well in virtualized environments. Virtualization is one of the most used technologies to save resources and make better usage of the hardware resources.
And this ends this non technical post. Next one should be about virtualization. How does Informix fits into this environments? And what has IBM done to help you with it...

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Green: good for the environment and your wallet

Jacques Roy, an IBMer which also maintains a blog, participated in an internet radio show organized by the Information Management magazine. The topic of the show was how you can save money by going green. In other words, how you can make your company carbon footprint as light as possible and at the same time save money in energy and hardware costs.

Several people from different companies and areas joined the show, and each one provided his view on the subject. As you can imagine, Jacques talked about the subject from a database perspective, pointing out several aspects of Informix that can help you in the going green task.

The debate was very interesting covering topics like virtualization, multi tier storage, information lifecycle management etc.

Please find more details in Jacques's blog.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Informix event in Lisbon

This post will be written in Portuguese due to it's local nature. It's purpose is just to inform about a local half-day session covering several recent news and announcements about Informix.

A Companhia IBM Portuguesa vai realizar uma sessão de meio-dia, no dia 24 de Março, no IBM Forum Lisboa, localizado nas instalações da IBM. Esta sessão servirá para dar a conhecer aos clientes e parceiros as últimas novidades e próximos passos no que diz respeito ao Informix.

Os temas cobertos incluirão o recente anúncio sobre o Informix Warehouse Feature, bem como as próximas novidades a incluir na versão 11.50.xC4. Para além dos aspectos mais técnicos serão abordados também aspectos de integração com outros componentes do portfolio da IBM, nomeadamente Cognos e Optim.

A sessão contará com a presença de oradores internacionais, membros da equipa de Information Management da IBM.

Pode aceder à agenda e descrição do evento, bem como efectuar o registo online acedendo a:

Para além do evento dedicado ao Informix serão realizados durante o mês de Março outras sessões sobre Lotus, Rational e Maximo (asset management). A informação e registo destes eventos encontra-se na mesma página.
Pode obter mais informações sobre o IBM Forum Lisboa (localização, como chegar etc.) em

Se utiliza Informix ou se quer saber mais sobre esta base de dados da IBM não deixe de comparecer. Obterá informação sobre o que está a ser disponibilizado e planeado e terá oportunidade de contactar e trocar impressões com a equipa IBM local e da região, com parceiros e outros clientes.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Informix Warehouse feature

IBM has announced today the availability of Informix Warehouse Feature v11.50.
This is a set of tools that help customers by taking advantage of their Informix infra-structure in order to transform operational data into information useful for business optimization.
This bundle includes the SQL Warehouse component which offers the following:

  • SQW Warehouse Design Studio and SQW Client for data modeling, schema design, data transformation design, and data flow design
  • SQW Warehouse Server with Administration Console to schedule and manage data flows
  • SQL Warehouse runtime to perform data transformation within the IDS data server
The infrastructure specified can be integrated with business intelligence tools like Cognos (now part of the IBM Software portfolio), and Optim (former Princeton Softech) for management of data growth, and ETL tools like Information Server (former Ascential Datastage).
This feature is available for Informix Dynamic Server v11.50.xC3.

If you're an Informix customer, or if you've been paying attention to the traditional positioning of Informix as an OLTP database you may wonder how this fits the traditional Informix usage.
Well, this does not mean that Informix became the perfect choice for a large scale enterprise level data warehouse. But the fact is, a lot of Informix customers need to extract more information from the data they manage in their Informix instances. Information organized in a different manner. Not in the usual OLTP transaction oriented schema. Many of this customers can take advantage of their existing infra-structure to build some data-warehouse functionality into their information systems. This package attempts to provide them with some tools that can help setup these new capabilities.
Although Informix is not specially oriented into the data-warehouse usage, it includes a lot of functionality that can help:
  • Dynamic Scalable Architecture (DSA)
    The internal engine arquitechture permits scalability and excelent performance. It also allows for extremely efficient usage of your hardware
  • Decision Support Queries
    IDS has several paremeters that control the type of queries made in a datawarehouse type environment (decision support queries). You can control resourses like memory, number of parallel scans etc. Also, this type of queries are run in parts that can run concurrently (scans, sorts, ortders etc.)
  • Read ahead capabilities and light scans
    This allow for more efficient batch reads like the ones ocurring in big tables sequential scans
  • Configurable page sizes
    This can help improve performance for large batch reads/writes
  • High performance loader
    A very efficient way to load data into your tables
  • Flexible table fragmentation
    Can be used for data lifecycle management, parallel queries, fragment elimination in queries etc.
And what about the future? Well, if you take a look at the recent webcast about the IDS roadmap you can see features like "automatic storage provisioning", "warehouse", "external table support" (currently possible, but not built in). In a very near future, and accordingly to the early validation program, IDS 11.50.xC4 will support table compression.
So, there are old features, new features, and better integration between Informix and other IBM products that can make it a good choice to build a BI supporting structure.

You can find more information about this announcement in the following resources:

Monday, March 02, 2009

FUD for thought

If you're a frequent visitor here or to any other Informix related post, there are good chances you also check the Informix usenet group. If you don't know what I'm writing about you can check it at

I'm a usual reader and poster on that group, and recently one of the topics got my attention. I think it deserves a bit of our time in order to understand a few things...
One person posted a message on the group, asking for an "IBM 10 year plan for Informix". The reason he needs it, as far as the post says, relates to the fact that, allegedly, a sales representative from an IBM competitor had that for it's database, and the consultants were saying IBM hadn't a similar documented plan for Informix.

Let me tell you that usually, the technical posts are more participated than the "commercial oriented" ones. But in this case we could see very quick answers from IBM business partners, IBM Informix architects and even from Oracle employees... All of them agreed on something: Neither IBM, or Oracle (and probably not any other software vendor) has a plan for 10 years. And why not? Well, simply because in 10 years everything can change in the IT industry. New trends, new needs, new paradigms. So what would be the point in making a plan that would almost for sure be changed in the middle?
This leads us back to the initial situation... so why would someone try to raise Fears, Uncertainty and Doubts (FUD) about IBM and Informix? The simple answer, provided by some, was simply because it's a usual sales tactic when the customer is leaning towards the competition.
Why not use technical or other commercial arguments in that situation? Probably because it's harder, or simply because there are no other arguments strong enough...
This simple situation, accordingly to some of the posters is relatively usual. I've seen it happen, or at least I've seen the effect of them, when people that are simply not informed ask me if IBM is trying to move Informix customers to DB2. So, let me try to raise a few questions and propose some answers:

  1. Does IBM have a plan for Informix?
    Yes. You can check a roadmap in a recent presentation which you can access at:
  2. Does IBM have a ten year plan for Informix?
    No. It doesn't have a ten year plan for any product, simply because it's not realist. If such a plan existed it would ignore all the future changes, trends and shifts in the IT industry.
    On the other hand, IBM has nearly a ten year past with Informix. Think about that when you read the next questions
  3. Has Informix been improved in the hands of IBM?
    Sure. IDS releases since 9.4 have seen done by IBM. I prefer to exclude 9.40 because it happened almost immediately after the acquisition, so the development phase was done by Informix Corporation. But think about IDS 10, IDS 11 and IDS 11.5. Think about all the new features. Think about MACH 11. Think about all the improvements in security (LBAC, default roles, SSL, single sign on, column level encryption, encryption expert, encrypted replication, PAM authentication...). Think about compression (11.50.xC4 as already announced in the early validation program). Think about unicode. Think about common client (DRDA). Think about performance (shared statement cache, non-blocking checkpoints, index self join, CPUVP cache, Direct I/O...). Think about Open Admin Tool. Think about all the new features in enterprise replication. Think about dynamic SQL in stored procedures. Think about ontape and OnBAR improvements. Think about SQL trace. Think about SQL admin API. Think about DB scheduler...
  4. Does IBM talk about Informix?
    Yes. Have you noticed the recent announcements about Informix availability in the "cloud"? Have you noticed that we have regular webcasts? Have you read all the IBM redbooks about Informix? Have you been to any of the proof of technology events all around the globe? Have you noticed what are the "brands" on the bottom of the 2009 EMEA IOD Conference page?
  5. Did Informix loose any of it's strengths in the hands of IBM?
    No... It's still stable, fast, easy to setup and manage, and "light" (both in installation size and in resource consuption)
  6. Is it harder to upgrade than before?
    No... it's still the same process to move from IDS 7.31 to IDS 11.50 as it was from 7.30 to 7.31. Simple and quick...
  7. Is it more expensive?
    No. It's still competitive. You get more features included on the base price than in most of it's competition. And you can get a fair deal if you run it in virtualized environments.
  8. Do we have more or less information about Informix?
    More. Currently we have a lot of blogs and sites with information about Informix. The IBM site, although complex, has all the manuals, product lifecyle, product downloads etc.
  9. It it harder to test Informix?
    No. You can download a developer version from the IBM site. You can even download a virtual appliance with the software and some demos (MACH 11 for example)
  10. Did we loose Informix technical support quality?
    No. In recent surveys, Informix customer satisfaction was proven to be high. You don't get that with lousy technical support.
  11. Do we still have a great international user group?
    Yes! IIUG continues to do a terrific job. Even in the current difficult times, IIUG continues to promote Informix and works closely with IBM. Just check some recent announcements, the IIUG 2009 user conference, the surveys, the monthly insider etc.
  12. What about Informix training?
    IBM has been updating the Informix training courses. I had the pleasure to try some of them in the ILO (Instructor Led Online) environment, so I can assure that the new features are covered in the courses.
So... what the mentioned comp.databases.informix thread talked about is FUD (Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt). What I exposed above are verifiable facts. The decison between the two should be taken by customers. Do you prefer to trust those who have been providing good, fast, stable, scalable and easy to manage software, or do you prefer to trust those who try to scare you with statements that are contradicted by facts and an history of almost 10 years?