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Rick van der Lans

Welcome to my blog where I will talk about a variety of topics related to data warehousing, business intelligence, application integration, and database technology. Currently my special interests include data virtualization, NoSQL technology, and service-oriented architectures. If there are any topics you'd like me to address, send them to me at rick@r20.nl.

About the author >

Rick is an independent consultant, speaker and author, specializing in data warehousing, business intelligence, database technology and data virtualization. He is managing director and founder of R20/Consultancy. An internationally acclaimed speaker who has lectured worldwide for the last 25 years, he is the chairman of the successful annual European Enterprise Data and Business Intelligence Conference held annually in London. In the summer of 2012 he published his new book Data Virtualization for Business Intelligence Systems. He is also the author of one of the most successful books on SQL, the popular Introduction to SQL, which is available in English, Chinese, Dutch, Italian and German. He has written many white papers for various software vendors. Rick can be contacted by sending an email to rick@r20.nl.

Editor's Note: Rick's blog and more articles can be accessed through his BeyeNETWORK Expert Channel.

March 2010 Archives

Quite a hip and new term in the world of business intelligence is self-service business intelligence. If you visit this website regularly, you must have come across it. But is the term self-service not a term in contradiction?


To me the term service to me means that someone or something offers me a service, and that implies that I do less and the service provider does all or most of the work. For example, if I drive my car through a car wash, my car is automatically cleaned. It's the service that's being provided. Or, if I step into a hotel, packed with luggage, a porter will probably take over my bags, and will bring them to my room. Ok, I have carried them for hundreds of miles and he only does the last 100 yards, but it's still a service the hotel provides. That's basically the idea of service.


Now let's go back to the term self-service. The term self placed in front of the term service means you will do it yourself. In the context of self-service business intelligence, it means that the user can develop his own reports. But doing it yourself means you're not receiving service, you are actually doing it yourself. So, self-service means that no one offers you a service, you do all the work yourself.


For example, if a hotel positions itself as a self-service hotel, they would offer the service that you can carry your own luggage all the way up to your room. Comparably, a self-service carwash would provide the service that you can wash your car yourself. That's not service!


So combining the terms self and service make no sense, because the opposite of service is doing-it-yourself. Maybe we should rename self-service business intelligence to do-it-yourself BI, or no-service BI.

Posted March 30, 2010 8:10 AM
Permalink | 1 Comment |

Who is interested in speaking at the Data Warehouse & Business Intelligence European Conference in London coming November? If you are, please fill in this call for speakers.


Last year, this event was a big success, more than 200 delegates showed up. Evaluations showed that the attendees were very pleased with the selected speakers (Bill Inmon, Barry Devlin, Neil Raden, Frank Buytendijk, Daniel Linstedt, and many more), the topics, and setup of the conference.


The 2010 edition is aimed at all aspects of data warehousing and business intelligence, including: trends, design guidelines, product overviews and comparisons, best practices, and new evolving technologies. And like last year, the conference is organized together with the highly successful Data Management and Information Quality Conference.


With this year's call for speakers we are trying to attract proposals for sessions on traditional and future data warehousing and business intelligence aspects. Delegates have expressed a preference for the use of case studies rather than theoretical or abstract topics. We would particularly like practitioners in the field to respond to this call for papers. We encourage new speakers to apply. Success stories - case studies where data warehousing and business intelligence have produced real bottom-line benefits are very much appreciated.


Example topics for proposals are:


  • Business analytics
  • BI in the cloud
  • Data modeling for data warehouses
  • The maturity of data warehouses appliances
  • Star schema, snowflake and data vault models
  • Selling business intelligence to the business
  • The relationship between master data management and data warehousing
  • Guidelines for using ETL tools
  • Developing virtual data warehouses with federation servers
  • The BI mashup
  • The need for Master Data Management in a data warehouse environment
  • BAM (Business Activity Monitoring) and KPI (Key Performance Indicators)
  • New database technology for implementing data warehouses
  • Who needs real-time data warehouses?
  • Business Optimization through BPEL, BAM and SOA
  • BI score carding
  • Customer analytics and insight
  • Text mining and text analytics
  • Open source BI
  • Corporate Performance Management


Looking forward to your call for speaker, and hope to see you in London coming November.


Rick van der Lans

Chairman of the Data Warehouse & Business Intelligence European Conference

Posted March 15, 2010 3:02 AM
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Quite recently, I visited the SQLStream. As the majority of database server vendors, SQLStream is located in California; in San Francisco to be more precise. Of course, their primary product (also called SQLStream) supports the database language SQL, and they try to follow the SQL standard as much as possible. So far, nothing new under the sun. You would almost think that this is again one of many new vendors trying to dethrone Oracle, Microsoft, and IBM. However, that would be an incorrect assumption.

As the name implies, SQLStream is a so-called streaming database server, comparable to IBM InfoSphere Streams and StreamBase Server. The main difference between SQLStream on one hand and most other products on the other hand, is that the former is a pure SQL-based product. The statements to stream are according to the SQL standard. Most other streaming products use proprietary languages, such as Spade, or use extensions.

For those who haven't studied this topic in detail yet, a streaming database server allows us to formulate queries on streams of data. Examples of streams are log files of certain systems, messages that are entered, or web logs. Even before this data is stored in tables, we can already access them and analyze the data. Someone once explained streaming database servers as follows: queries executed in the context of a classic database server are like: how many fishes live in this pond, whilst queries executed in the context of a streaming database server  is like: how many fishes swim by in a fast-flowing river during a certain period of time.

SQLStream offers all the features above. In addition, views are used to define streams, and this type of streaming views can serve as input for other streaming views. Through join and union operators, data of different sources can be integrated. In fact, SQLStream supports many of the features normally found in an ETL tool, except that SQLStream uses streams and SQL. Data streams are integrated live the moment they arrive. The result of an integrated stream can be send to an application or data warehouse. See the following link that contains an explanation on how SQLStream can be used together with SQL Power.

In short, SQLStream is absolutely worth studying.

Note: The owners of SQLStream are also the founders of Eigenbase.org. This organization supplies a toolset with which database servers can be developed. As can be expected, SQLStream is also developed with this toolset.


Posted March 9, 2010 5:18 AM
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Last week, my family and I visited a basketball game in Phoenix. The Phoenix Suns were playing against the Philadelphia 76ers. It was a great game, the Suns won with 106-95. However, before I was able to get into the stadium I had the following experience.


A few days prior to this game, I bought the tickets through Ticketmaster.com. To buy those tickets, I had to enter my credit card information. Normally, this doesn't cause any problems, because credit companies operate internationally and know that some of their customers are based outside the US and they know those addresses might have different formats and structures.


What I had to enter was, as you might expect, my name, credit card number, expiration date, and a security number. In addition, I had to enter my address information so that they can verify a few things. So, dutifully I entered my address including the zip code. Entering the address components went well until I got to the zip code. The zip code was not accepted because the system expects five digits and I tried to enter four digits and two letters, which is the format of the Dutch zip code. But it didn't accept the letters. They had probably switched on a simple check: digits only please.


Now, this caused a problem, because for getting through the verification process I had to enter the correct zip code, but for buying a ticket I had to enter an incorrect zip code. Eventually I made the decision to enter the zip code of the hotel I was staying at. And, to my surprise it worked. I got my tickets and printed them.


Unfortunately, Ticketmaster.com had accepted my address information, however the credit card company's IT system had not. I discovered that when I entered the stadium and showed them my tickets. They were not accepted. Guess why? The zip code didn't match the rest of the address and it didn't correspond to the correct address.


How is it possible that in the year 2010 we still have problems with this simple type of data entry. Didn't they get the right definition of zip code from the credit card companies, or don't they check whether the zip code matches the rest of the address? Is their system not aware that the formats of zip codes can be different in other countries? And how is it possible that they first inform me that the credit company has accepted the credit card information, and later on they indicate they haven't. We have about forty years of experience in developing IT systems, and we still make errors such as this.


In the end, I did get in, I just bought new tickets at the ticket sales, and guess what, I got exactly the same seats. I still wonder if I had also entered the full address of the hotel, whether it would have been accepted.

Posted March 2, 2010 5:09 AM
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