What Does It Mean for Us?

The big announcement in the world of Informix the other day was IBM signing the agreement with Chinese company General Data Technology or GBASE, which is, based on information on their website, a key software enterprise in the state planning. The base of the agreement (copy of the news is here) is that IBM shares the code of Informix, and GBASE will (in support of the China government’s national technology agenda) modify its security to conform to standards of Chinese government. That modified Informix will then be used in the future database projects.

So this is obviously big news for Informix, because it guarantees the expansion of the product to a fast growing market, but what does it exactly mean for us, non-IBMers involved in the Informix business?
Well, I’m looking at this in a good faith, so my personal thoughts are positive. This kind of agreement will result in bigger demand for Informix experts, both domestic and foreign. I have to admit that I have no idea about the state of affairs regarding Informix experts in China, but I presume it is definitely possible there will be a need for database designers, architects, and even bigger need for DBAs to maintain the big installations we all imagine when thinking of databases in China. So it’s quite possible some of us will find our careers continuing somewhere in east Asia or telecommuting for a local partner in China. Other than that, new DBAs should be properly trained, so that’s also another opportunity for all of us involved in teaching and training. This also means the growth of Informix community, and hopefully there will be more international community members springing out of these systems.

But most importantly, this means a long term survival of Informix as a product, which is of course in the best interest of all the Informix people. As Mr. Art Kagel said, this is the proof Informix is here to stay. And a little dream for the end, to share with you… would be nice to have this kind of commitment in other countries as well. Just saying.

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The Book: Data Just Right

I realized there is a number of books covering databases and data handling that I go through or am in touch with, but I never mention any of those or give any credit to authors, so I’m gonna change that starting today.

Recently I came across the book called Data Just Right by Michael Manoochehri. It is subtitled Introduction to Large-Scale Data & Analytics. Books with this kind of name could hide anything, quite often restraining themselves to one or two technologies, but this is not the case with this one. It is a review of a current state of data management and analytics, with a lot of sense for data management history and current needs and trends in this field. Reading this book won’t teach you how to use Hadoop, Pig, R or anything like it. It will give you the perspective of various technologies used today, show some examples and try to help you find the right tools for your needs.

What I found interesting about it is the broadness of technologies and ideas being covered. In the book, especially in the opening chapters, there are so many products, languages, tools, names, methodologies mentioned, that only a selected few of data experts could know about all of them. Codd, OLAP, NewSQL, BigQuery, SOX, Tableau, SciPy, to name just a few. For a book of only 200 pages, there is an index of more than a 1200 entries in it. So, in my humble opinion, this is why this book is worth going through – it gives a good perspective of data technologies to any kind of reader, data management novice, expert, CIO, CTO. In the same time, this is a burden for the book, because it will require some changes in the following editions to stay current in a fast changing data management and analytics landscape. This first edition is certainly worth reading.

More info about the book on its website: datajustright.com.

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Working with JSON Data from SQL

The MongoDB support was introduced in 12.10xC2, bringing many cool things to Informix, one of them being JSON and BSON data types. Putting all the NoSQL and MongoDB story aside, these new data types enable us to work with semi-structured data directly from SQL, thanks to several new built-in functions. Of course, you could do the same with XML documents, but it took a while before all the necessary functions became available in Informix, and working with XML is still more complex than working with JSON, because of the difference of those two data formats.

In order to put the data in a JSON column you can use genBSON function, or simply cast a text to a JSON type. Here’s an example – a tourist office database table storing various places people could visit. One table with JSON data could be used to store data of many different places – cities, regions, islands, landmarks etc. So the table could be defined as:

CREATE TABLE places (
  place_id SERIAL,
  numberOfVisitorsPerYear INT,
  place BSON
);

The place column could also be of JSON type, but if you want to perform more meaningful queries on a table, stick to BSON. There are some BSON functions we can use, and BSON can be cast to JSON data.

Rows could be inserted via plain SQL:

INSERT INTO places VALUES (0, 500000, '{city: "Zagreb"}'::JSON);

Note that last value needs to be cast to JSON in order to be able to run queries on it with the bson_value functions. Here are some other data rows with various attributes describing places:

INSERT INTO places VALUES (0, 600000, '{city: "Pula", country: "Croatia", population: 57000}'::JSON);
INSERT INTO places VALUES (0, 20000, '{mountain: "Velebit", country: "Croatia", height: 1757}'::JSON);
INSERT INTO places VALUES (0, 1000000, '{national_park: "Plitvice", country: "Croatia"}'::JSON);

Simplest way to find out what is stored in a table is to execute query like this one:

SELECT place_id, numberOfVisitorsPerYear, place::JSON
FROM places

which will return these results:

place_id numberOfVisitorsPerYear (expression)
1 500000 {“city”:”Zagreb”}
2 600000 {“city”:”Pula”,”country”:”Croatia”,”population”:57000}
3 20000 {“mountain”:”Velebit”,”country”:”Croatia”,”height”:1757}
4 1000000 {“national_park”:”Plitvice”,”country”:”Croatia”}

However, the idea is to be able to search within JSON data. For that purpose, there are some new functions we can use:

  • bson_value_int(column, bson_attribute) – returns an integer value of the bson_attribute stored in a specified column of the row
  • bson_value_bigint(column, bson_attribute) – returns a bigint value of the bson_attribute stored in a specified column of the row
  • bson_value_double(column, bson_attribute) – returns an double value of the bson_attribute stored in a specified column of the row
  • bson_value_lvarchar(column, bson_attribute) – returns an lvarchar value of the bson_attribute stored in a specified column of the row

Here are some query examples:

-- find all destinations in Croatia 
SELECT *, place::JSON FROM places 
WHERE bson_value_lvarchar (place, 'country') = 'Croatia'; 

-- find all destinations without specified county 
SELECT *, place::JSON FROM places 
WHERE bson_value_lvarchar (place, 'country') IS NULL; 

-- find all mountains higher than 1000 meters 
SELECT *, place::JSON FROM places 
WHERE bson_value_lvarchar (place, 'mountain') IS NOT NULL 
AND bson_value_int (place, 'height') > 1000; 

-- find all national parks in Croatia 
SELECT *, place::JSON FROM places 
WHERE bson_value_lvarchar (place, 'country') = 'Croatia' 
AND bson_value_lvarchar (place, 'national_park') IS NOT NULL; 

There is another new function, genBSON, which generates BSON/JSON data from a relational table’s data, depending on a query. It can be used to return JSON directly from a query or to insert a JSON data in a column. The Informix Knowledge Center support page for this function is informative, along with some examples, so I’m not going to repeat it all here. As a continuation to our example, if a tourist office already has a relational table named cities in its database, then this data could be imported in a places table with a single SQL statement:

-- cities relational table 
CREATE TABLE cities (
  city_id SERIAL, 
  city CHAR(30), 
  population INT, 
  country CHAR(30), 
  numberOfVisitorsPerYear INT
); 

-- copy the cities data into places table: 
INSERT INTO places 
SELECT 0, numberOfVisitorsPerYear, genBSON(ROW(city, country, population), 0, 1)::JSON
FROM cities; 

Or, if we don’t want to have a copy of cities in places, a view on structured and semi-structured data could be made (this one returning only JSON data):

CREATE VIEW places_and_cities (place) AS 
  SELECT place::JSON FROM places 
  UNION 
  SELECT genBSON(ROW(city, country, population), 0, 1)::JSON FROM cities; 

In conclusion, with JSON capabilities at hand, it’s now pretty simple to mix structured and semi-structured data in a single database. But before we do it, we should make sure there is a proper need to design our data model that way, bearing in mind there are numerous advantages of having relational data in a relational database.

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IBM Bluemix is generally available

I previously mentioned IBM Bluemix as a cool new thing that was open for beta testing, and as of today it is generally available. Bluemix is powerful development platform in a cloud, with many services already included, some IBM’s, some open source, some 3rd party. Some of the services could be used for free, some have a monthly payment plan.

One of these services is our favorite database, Informix, and can be found under the cryptic name of Time Series Database. It can be used as a standard Informix database, there are no limits to use only TimeSeries data.

There is also a one-month free trial, and I encourage all the developers, DBAs, project managers, decision makers to have a look. Find Bluemix at www.bluemix.net and the news of GA at the Bluemix blog here.

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A Short Recap of the Informix >> 2014 Conference

As previously announced, our Informix >> 2014 (Fast Forward your Data) Conference took place in Zagreb, Croatia on May 22nd, with some great presenters and topics. Jerry Keesee gave a great overview of the current state of Informix technologies, Informix road map, IBM’s software portfolio and Informix’s role in it. Stuart Litel explained the work IIUG is doing for all the Informix people and the product. He also talked about the IIUG Board of Directors Award, promoting once again one of two this year’s winners, Adria IUG president, Hrvoje Zoković.
Jan Musil made two great live demo presentations, one about exploiting Genero to create a native mobile applications for both Android and iOS devices, and the other about using new mongodb capabilities in Informix, including sharding.
Frederick Ho presented the impressive current state of Informix Warehouse Accelerator, while Jean Georges Perrin showed the potential of employing the JSON capabilities in the existing information system. And finally, yours truly gave a talk about Internet of Things and its impact on our future.

On the downside, the event attendance was not as expected. However, we hope to get it back on track for the upcoming events.

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A Look Back at the 2014 IIUG Conference

The 2014 edition of annual International Informix Users Group conference was held last week in Miami, FL. Another great opportunity to hear the news from the world of Informix, discuss the future of Informix and information management in general with the Informix architects, developers and managers, and last, but certainly not the least, hang out with dear friends.

Looking at the session line up, clearly NoSQL integration has become a very interesting point in Informix’s life. Roughly 30% or more of the sessions covered up some piece of this new feature and possibilities of expansion. Seams like hybrid databases could get a life in this environment. Also, implementation of MongoDB API for Informix (JSON Wire Listener) enabled the connectivity of various frameworks and tools to Informix, which offers some interesting thoughts – like graph database support through TinkerPop API.

IoT (Internet of Things) is another new focal point for Informix database. Mainly because of its great embeddability and auto configuration features, Informix is a database of choice for many automation devices. Shaspa, the company producing home automation control devices, based on ARM processor, has been mentioned as an example more than a few times throughout the conference talks.

There is also a new logical organization in Informix being prepared for the next release. If a DBA handles many databases on a single Informix instance, this organization allows her to define each database as a tenant, confined in its own db space and other resources. This ensures the hardware limitations are not exceeded by a single database, yet enables easier administration of a server, allowing the DBA to have to administer a single Informix instance. This kind of instance is referred to as a multi-tenant server, and is now configurable in Informix as well.

IBM also has a nice new toy, currently in beta, called BlueMix. It is a cloud-based platform for building, managing and running applications of all types (web, mobile, big data…). BlueMix uses open standards, and offers various tools as-a-service, some of which are Informix-based. Definitely worth taking a good look at: www.bluemix.net.

There were plenty more talks on various subjects regarding Informix – total of about 90 sessions, hands-on labs and half-day tutorials. All presentations should be available to IIUG members via the IIUG member site.

As for the venue, the conference hotel was the best we’ve seen on IIUG conferences. Downtown Miami proved to be a very interesting place to hold a conference, and also at much closer reach to us coming from the other side of the Atlantic. Nevertheless, the conference attendance seems to be lower than the previous years, perhaps because of higher prices of the conference as well as the hotel.

And to conclude with some good news, IIUG Board of Directors is giving two IIUG Board of Directors Awards every year, one to an IBMer, one to a non-IBMer. Award winners this year are Ms Anita McKeithen from IBM, and the president of our local Adria IUG and a long-time Informix promoter and educator, Mr Hrvoje Zoković. Congratulations to both!

 

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New Edition of the Informix >> Conference

Our local IUG group, Adria IUG (with members from countries near the Adriatic Sea: Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro) organizes the one-day conference we call Informix >> (Fast Forward your Data). This year, forth edition of the conference will take place on May 22nd in Zagreb, Croatia. The complete list of speakers is yet to be finalized, but we’re already happy to announce the three number ones  in the Informix world that will come and share it all with our eager community. They are (in alphabetical order):

  • Jerry Keesee – IBM’s Worldwide Director of the Informix Business – the guy who knows the (Informix) future, even without the tea leaves!
  • Stuart Litel – The President of the International Informix Users Group – the ultimate president of every Informix user, should I say more?
  • Scott Pickett – The Biggest Informix Traveler of the world – the guy who brings Informix closer to the masses; the roadshow master; the Informix missionary!

Informix users and friends near Croatia, save the date and make sure you don’t miss this great opportunity to listen for some good talks, meet and get to know our guests! Looking forward to see you all there.

Edit: All the info about the conference in Croatian is now published here.  The invitation in English is here.

And this is the complete line-up for the event:

09:00 Registration & Coffee
09:45 Opening (Hrvoje Zoković, Adria IUG, President)
10:00 Keynote (Jerry Keesee, IBM, Worldwide Director – Informix)
11:00 All about IIUG (Stuart Litel, IIUG, President)
11:30 Coffee Break
12:00 Informix & Mobile technologies – Genero Mobile demo (Jan Musil, IBM, Level 2 Certified IT Specialist)
13:00 Driving fast Business Decisions through Extremely Fast Analytics (Fred Ho, IBM, Chief Technologist – Informix Warehouse)
14:00 Lunch
15:00 JSon in your engine – what does that mean? (Jean Georges Perrin, IIUG Board of Directors)
16:00 Informix & NoSQL integration – demo (Jan Musil, IBM, Level 2 Certified IT Specialist)
17:00 Internet of Things (Ognjen Orel, Adria IUG Board of Directors)
17:30 Informix Q&A

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