Saturday, November 01, 2008

Didn't make it to IOD? Try IDUG's regional DB2 conferences

IDUG Website: Regional training events for Q4 2008

IOD is a glittering, sprawling spectacle of DB2 education, but it's not for everyone. Whether you were unable to attend last week's conference because of work conflicts, budget issues, or a moratorium on business trips to Vegas, IDUG has you covered this month with three affordable DB2 conferences, conveniently located at west coast, heartland, and east coast venues. For only US$425, you can attend two full days of DB2 education for both the z/OS and LUW platforms, delivered by IDUG's most popular speakers.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Today in the US Supreme Court: Will bad data trump your Fourth Amendment rights?

Wired Threat Level Blog: Supremes Mull Whether Bad Databases Make for Illegal Searches

Although I tend to reserve this space for items about DB2, Ryan Singel's story about Herring vs. US 07-513, a Supreme Court case scheduled for today, struck me as being timely enough and important enough to mention here. I think you'll agree that the implications of this case on database administrators are profound, no matter which side of the argument you happen to support.

If you agree with the adage that says the most important tests of our civil rights involve the least defensible members of society, then it will come as no surprise that the Mr. Herring for which the case is named is a truly skeezy character, enough to arouse suspicions when he visited the Sheriff's Office in Coffee County, Alabama back in 2004. When an investigator there ran a couple of warrants searches on him, they got a hit in nearby Dale County and used it as the justification for locating Herring, pulling him over, and searching his truck for evidence. Sure enough, their search turned up drugs and an illegal weapon, giving them the makings of what appeared to be an open-and-shut case. The problem is that Dale County had no business telling anyone that there was an active warrant out on that guy. The warrant was supposed to have been removed from their system months earlier, but nobody got around to it. If they had, there wouldn't have been any compelling reason to pull Herring over and conduct the search. You might think that a bust made as the result of erroneous data would kill the case, or at least disqualify the resulting evidence obtained during the arrest, but the government disagrees.

Any database professional involved with law enforcement or criminal justice data should be rightfully concerned about such a precedent (should the Supremes uphold it), since it tells us that bad data in our systems may not only open us up to civil suits (the only recourse we citizens have, according to the government), but also to searches and seizures directed at some otherwise upstanding citizens who are guilty of nothing more than bad luck.

How much longer until you as a DBA are asked to insert some knowingly bogus data to help an ongoing investigation?

Keep an eye on this blog for more details on the case.

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Monday, September 08, 2008

Last chance to submit your abstracts for IDUG 2009 North America

IDUG 2009 North America site: Call for presentations

Today is the last official day to submit presentation abstracts for IDUG 2009 North America, which will be held in Denver from May 11-15, 2009. IDUG is looking for 60-minute technical presentations from real-world DB2 users (and vendors and consultants, too) that will help IDUG continue its long tradition as the premier provider of technical DB2 education. If your abstract is selected, your conference registration fee will be waived.

Don't be intimidated by the impending deadline. The abstract should contain only a brief summary of what you will present, followed by five (not six, not four) bullet points that show the major sections of your presentation. Submit as many abstracts as you like, and they will be reviewed fairly by the IDUG Conference Planning Committee (a volunteer group of DB2 users just like you).

Monday, May 26, 2008

IDUG turns the Big D into the Big DB2 2008 North America conference wrap-up

Disclosure: Last week I attended the IDUG 2008 North America conference, not just as an IDUG member, but also as a volunteer on IDUG's conference planning committee, which started organizing the event over nine months ago. If you attended the conference, I and my fellow CPC volunteers probably played some part in your (hopefully positive) experience.

After last year's North American IDUG conference, which somehow managed to be both sprawling and cramped at the same time, it was a relief to find a bunch of Texas-sized rooms situated relatively close together this year. Most of the sessions had fifteen minute breaks scheduled between them, which allowed for a good deal of casual networking given the short distance between most rooms.

As expected, Arvind Krishna's Monday morning keynote provided a detailed state of the union of IBM's holy trinity (DB2, Informix, and IMS). Here are some of the happy numbers I remember:

  • DB2 on System z powers 9 of the world's top 10 insurance companies, 23 of the top 25 retailers in the US, and every single one of the top 59 banks in the world.

  • Just one IMS customer (presumably one of the bigger ones) handles as much as three trillion dollars in transactions in a single day.

  • IMS databases handle transactions for 95% of Fortune 1000 companies

  • The sum total of all live data managed right now in IMS is estimated to be over 15 exabytes, or 15 billion gigabytes, served up on over 3 million MIPS of mainframe hardware.

You get the idea. DB2 and IMS are big, they're definitely not going away, but IBM keeps working to improve them anyway. Some of those statistics were repeats from previous DB2 conference keynotes, but I believe they're still worth mentioning. One thing that was all new, though, was Arvind's introduction of IBM's newly-acquired SolidDB product as a memory-resident cache that front-ends DB2. As an old UNIFACE Seven developer from the 1990s, I had mostly good experiences working with older versions of Solid, and I can only imagine it must be even better these days.

Curt Cotner's half of the May 19th keynote focused squarely on IBM Data Studio, which appears to be IBM's sincere attempt to atone for Control Center and a rogue's gallery of other infamous DB2 tools. By building Data Studio on top of the Eclipse integrated development environment (which IBM gave to the open source community a few years ago), DB2 admins and developers have a much more solid foundation for building a decent DBA toolkit. I've been working with it for a little while, and it generally does what I want. If you haven't pulled Data Studio down for yourself yet, I recommend you give it a try.

After four days of solid presentations from DB2 users, I was ready to hear some of the folks from the Toronto Lab share what they could about IBM's DB2 product strategy and drop some hints about the next release (whenever that will be). Tim Vincent from IBM spoke for an hour and a half on best practices for DB2 LUW, and ended with a link to a collection of detailed documents that you will want to check out.

Held immediately after Tim's session on best practices, the LUW panel was as informative as ever, with Chris Eaton serving as emcee/quizmaster. Even when the inevitable long, rambling questions started rolling in from the audience, Chris handled them as well as anyone in that position could. The panelists confirmed the rumors that some future version of DB2 LUW will allow a migrated database to be enabled for automatic storage, which will be a big help to all those DBAs sitting on databases that were rolled in from DB2 V8.1 or older. There was also mention of finally disabling some of Express-C's forbidden features, but judging from the questions IBM was asking the audience, it was hardly a done deal. If such a lock ever materializes, it may just be a voluntary switch that a DBA can flip at will.

Attendance was down a bit from last year's IDUG conference in San Jose (which attracted lots of Bay Area IBMers with single-day passes), but there were plenty of favorable comments coming in from this year's crowd, who came all the way to Dallas just to get their DB2 on. Being a CPC volunteer kept me pretty busy at times, but I was still able to enjoy much of the conference. We ate barbecue, played poker, and some of us really got to know a decent local beer. We renewed our certifications, mocked the robotic livestock, and did whatever we could to get out of line dancing. We didn't know if we'd ever find ourselves in Dallas again, so we did what we could to have a good time while we were there.

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Friday, February 01, 2008

Still looking for open source DB2 monitoring tools?

Hyperic website:Hyperic HQ open source version 3.2 released

It's fun when somebody crashes a dull party, and very few parties have been more dreary over the past few years than the gathering of open-source monitoring tools that work out of the box with DB2 LUW. After deploying and customizing Nagios for a few of my DB2 customers, I felt the need to work up a bit of a rationalization for its abstruse configuration files, but we all know how much comfort rationalizations offer. What I really needed was a solid monitoring stack for DB2, and -- even with a price tag of zero dollars American -- Nagios was often a difficult sell (although their upcoming Version 3 looks somewhat better).

When my friend Irving described Hyperic HQ as the monitoring platform that Nagios should be, I was more than ready to give it a spin. HQ's built-in support of DB2 V8 and DB2 9 was enough encouragement for me to get it running. Seeing so many servers and services automatically register themselves with the HQ server was a welcome change from the "don't do me any favors" philosophy of Nagios.

Before the shiny new release of Hyperic HQ 3.2 earlier this week, I poked and prodded versions 3.0.5 and 3.1.4 as they monitored DB2 and other servers running in my lab. I wasn't wild about the documentation's insistence that I monitor DB2 as the instance owner, so I made the DB2 plugin connect as a SYSMON user instead. The plugin did a decent job of autodetecting the tables and tablespaces that were encountering activity. Best of all, once I installed my agents, I was able to configure everything else over the web, with no hateful configuration files expecting me to learn an arcane language that makes httpd.conf look like a Little Golden Book. One more thing: just about everything in HQ can be graphed. Don't get me wrong, I'm still a big fan of RRDTool, but I'll happily use another graphing tool if it's going to do nearly all the work for me.

The secret gem of Hyperic HQ is the SQL Query server type, which will run any piece of SQL you can throw at it, and even graph the resulting number. If the number returned (or query execution time) fall outside of your predefined limits, it will send you a civilized email alert. Unless you'd rather wait for your users to inform you of database problems, I heartily recommend using Hyperic HQ to wire up DB2 (if not everything) and learn what normal looks like in your shop.

Hyperic HQ is an open source project written in J2EE that runs on an embedded JBoss server. Its internal database is PostgreSQL, but MySQL and Oracle are also supported. If anyone on Planet DB2 are interested in lending a hand with the DB2 port, I'm sure you'll receive a warm welcome from the HQ team.

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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Non-DB2: Someone blog-tagged me

Blog tag 8*8:My response to Craig Mullins

If you follow the Planet DB2 blog aggregator, you'll see that there's been some blog-tagging going on, with my blog being one of the more recent targets. Although I generally stick to DB2-related content for this blog, I'll play along and reveal eight things you may not know about me. Then I'll tag eight more bloggers before someone else gets to them (we know a lot of the same people).

1. I played the tenor saxophone pretty much every day from junior high through college, in nearly every possible format: marching band, concert band, jazz big band, combo, and various jazz/funk/R&B groups that gigged around town. Although my grades were good, all of my scholarships were music-related.

2. Being a band geek meant it was inevitable that I would meet my future wife at band camp. This year we will have been married ten years.

3. By the time I first rode on an airplane, I was 18 and had just finished a summer internship at Honeywell, where I was editing Pascal source code for the Airbus A320. So, I was debugging airliners before I ever set foot on one.

4. Since moving to Portland over 11 years ago, I've become a bit obsessed about coffee. I even volunteered (but did not compete) at a regional barista competition, which was more than enough to convince me to stick with my day job. After giving up on trying to make good espresso at home, I now brew my morning coffee a cup at a time, using a Melitta cone, electric teakettle, and two digital scales. (OCD much?)

5. Last spring I donated my 14-year-old car to charity and started riding a bicycle for the first time in 20 years. Despite all of my business travel last year, I still managed to bike over 500 miles on it, just running errands around town. It sure beats hunting for a parking space in downtown Portland.

6. I'm both proud and a bit surprised that the homegrown TiVo I built last summer from commodity PC hardware still works. It uses MythTV software to simultaneously record shows from two different HDTV channels. It's the envy of my neighbors (at least the ones who understand what it is).

7. A few years ago I found a really good recipe for baby back ribs, which I make every summer for my neighborhood potluck. Invite me over, and maybe I'll bring some.

8. 2008 marks my third year as an independent consultant, a bold and exciting move that I've never regretted. One of the things that has helped me succeed is having a large room to use exclusively as a home office. Working from home also gives me the opportunity to fiddle with various pieces of networking equipment, a secret hobby of mine.

That wasn't too painful. Now I take great pleasure in tagging Alexander, Dan, Dawn, Jeff, Leon, Martin, Scott, and Vincent

Friday, December 14, 2007

Free PHP software to monitor DB2 website: DB2 Monitoring Console

If you're looking for a web-based monitoring suite for DB2 9, IBM's brand spanking new upload of DB2 Management Console (DMC) to SourceForge may be worth a look. Peter Kohlmann from IBM mentioned this project at IOD 2007, and it's good to see that DMC is already classified as Production/Stable, and free/open via the Apache 2 license. If you're not the type of person who builds and installs PHP servers for fun, Zend Core for IBM installed rather cleanly for me, allowing me to run DMC without much hassle. Give it a try and see how IBM is approaching the idea of building open-source, web-based monitoring for DB2.

Excellent photo of the worst movie theater ever courtesy of MadMask