Actian Newsletter - November 2011
From the desk of Steve Shine
President and CEO, Actian Corp.
Dear Actian Customers and Partners,
As you probably have seen and heard by now, Ingres Corporation is now Actian Corporation.
We have a new name and an exciting expanded strategy to help you take action on Big Data. Our commitment to all our existing products remains unchanged. In December we will be releasing new GeoSpatial functionality to Ingres that is based on industry standards and will support popular GIS products. We now have 20 commercial VectorWise customers, with over 50 evaluations underway. There is also a new release of OpenROAD available, with additional releases in the works. There is progress on all fronts.
In a recent McKinsey report on big data, they estimated there was over $2 trillion of incremental business value to be gained from growth and change in data (ie big data). At the same time we see enterprises investing over $8 billion per year on Business Intelligence (BI) trying to harness this value in big data. But BI simply isn’t delivering on the expectation of value. BI today does a good job of delivering insight but success comes from results and it is action that delivers results.
Recently we announced Action Apps, running on the world’s first Cloud Action Platform (on-premise or public). We believe Action Apps are the most important type of new applications to emerge in a generation. Action Apps are lightweight, high-impact, consumer style applications focused on delivering action. This new strategy builds on our core strengths and track record in providing world class data management and application development as well as our proven ability to bring forward exciting technology innovation like the record breaking Vectorwise big data analytics database. In fact, both Ingres and Vectorwise will be the foundation and the on-ramp for creating Action Apps.
Once again, I would like to thank you for your continued commitment and we look forward to sharing more on these plans with you. Our new website www.actian.com can provide you with much more information around new strategy.
President and CEO
OpenROAD has always provided features to enable rapid application development and deployment. OpenROAD version 5.1 takes this further, providing rich robust support for utilizing XML in your OpenROAD applications. The OpenROAD Workbench takes advantage of this feature by providing an additional XML format for the import/export functionality.
There are other areas that could be exploited using this technology such as integration, storage, and transport of data. For example, since an OpenROAD application is simply data, by using the XML feature you can develop utilities to analyze OpenROAD applications. The XML export/import functionality will streamline migrations to Unicode (multi-byte/UTF8) support being provided in the upcoming OpenROAD 6.0 release. Other functionality included will be building blocks for features coming in OpenROAD 6.2 that will allow you to modernize the look and feel of your OpenROAD application.
OpenROAD 5.1 is now GA on all platforms. This release includes both new features and enhancements to existing features, and was the result of the partnership between the OpenROAD Engineering team and the OpenROAD community. The OpenROAD community assisted greatly by participating in functional specification reviews, detailed design reviews, testing of new functionality via Workbench Express or special code drops to refine the functionality, and attending OpenROAD sprints around the world – contributing ideas and code for features that were included in the product.
New features added to OpenROAD 5.1 include:
- XML support
New system-classes were introduced to provide a rich set of attributes and methods for manipulating XML.
OpenROAD applications and components can now be exported and imported in XML format. This provides the ability to extract and store applications in source management systems with source changes detectable in a more readable manner than the traditional export format. This functionality will also prove critical when ready to make the move to a Unicode environment (multi-byte or UTF8) upon the availability of OpenROAD 6.0. For initial information on enabling OpenROAD applications to handle Unicode in the upcoming OpenROAD 6.0 see the blog entry “Looking to enable your OpenROAD application to handle unicode”.
Our HashTable support was exposed to enable rapid storage and instant retrieval of items. It is simple to use and will clean-up after itself when the application closes. HashTable can store objects using either integer or character lookup-key types. Using the HashTable methods provides a performance boost for lookups compared with using Array.Find() or ChoiceList methods.
A new FormField attribute, BgDisplayPolicy, was added to enable Background bitmaps to be drawn from the top-left of whatever field they are in. This functionality is fundamental to enhancements we plan on introducing in OpenROAD 6.2. For a preview of some of the enhancements targeted for OpenROAD 6.2, view the webinar recording at OpenROAD 6.2 Preview.
Enhancements to existing OpenROAD functionality include:
- Resizeable Workbench
Provided the capability to resize the new OpenROAD Workbench introduced in OpenROAD 5.0
- Exec Objects: new tracing facilities
New attributes of ProcExec make it easier to locate bugs in your application. New attributes added were LineNumber, LocalScope, Name, and Parent.
- StringObject: Split & Join methods
Split Method splits the contents of a string object wherever one of the delimiters appears.
Join Method joins the contents of an array of string objects, interpolating a delimiter (of any length) between them.
For additional information about new functionality and enhancements to existing functionality available in OpenROAD 5.1, view the webinar recording at OpenROAD 5. 1 New Features and review the OpenROAD 5.1 Release Summary at http://docs.actian.com/openroad/5.1/release-summary.
The Actian Geospatial project added new data types and functions to the Ingres 10 platform. These new features are designed for managing spatial data. Spatial data is information denoting relative location for items of interest, such as information to be rendered on a map.
In particular, the implementation and features make Ingres compliant to an important industry standard, the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) Simple Feature Specification for SQL (SFS SQL). This enables Ingres users to create tables with shapes such as point, linestring, polygon, and so forth. The functions provided can quickly calculate area, length, distance, and dozens of other useful functions using shapes.
The team implemented these features building upon technology from the Open Source Geospatial Foundation (OSGeo). OSGeo is a vendor neutral non-profit organization that exists to nurture open source geospatial technologies. The result of this collaboration is that the costs, risks and benefits from software are shared across the ecosystem including Actian. With a thousand developers, the ecosystem is a potent force for innovation and collaborative development.
In addition to the features provided within Ingres, the Actian Engineering team also completed work to allow applications to use Ingres for managing spatial data. Applications available do an outstanding job of web mapping and desktop GIS. As an example, an extension adding Ingres support in ESRI's ArcGIS suite has been developed. This allows users of the industry leading ArcGIS desktop GIS application to use Ingres for storing and managing spatial data. We're working with other companies as well to add support for their software.
These are just a few current examples of the exciting work we are doing in this area. You will be reading more about our efforts in this area in the near future because Geospatial data is becoming more prevalent and relevant in everyday computing.
System monitoring is an important part of keeping your IT environments running smoothly and efficiently. Monitoring software should alert you to potential problem conditions before they impact your business, and allow you to take a more proactive approach to problem identification and resolution. Often this software is very expensive and complex, but that is not always the case.
Take the Nagios™ system monitoring software, for example. The Nagios monitoring platform provides companies with a robust, extensible, and cost-effective solution. It is available in both open source and commercial versions, and there are many plug-ins to be found for most environments – including Ingres and VectorWise.
To get started, you need a Nagios installation. It may seem a bit intimidating at first because Nagios is a highly customizable system built from a large collection of components. But the basic concepts are easy: An event engine that executes plug-ins and processes the results. If the plug-in indicates a warning or critical status, the engine executes user defined notification processes. You can learn more about this process at http://library.nagios.com/library/products/nagioscore
Actian engineers have created and distributed Nagios plug-ins for monitoring an extensive number of operational statistics and conditions in both Ingres and Vectorwise. You can find these at http://exchange.nagios.org/directory/Plugins/Databases/Ingres
One example of an Actian Ingres database plug-in is the database engine monitor. This plug-in can be used to check that the DBMS is running, connection load, I/O performance, memory load, and cache performance. Checks can be made and alarms and notifications can be defined for both warning and critical states. You can get information about impending issues even before they occur! You can monitor system status using any time interval, be notified immediately of problems and keep track of historical information necessary to predict and avoid service outages and performance issues.
What if you like the idea of monitoring, but don't have the time or desire to do this work yourself? The Ingres Operational Services teams have the staff and skills to set up your monitoring environment, as well as provide ongoing hands-on assistance and support. It is a cost-effective way to provide additional technical coverage for your production environments, and to provide additional skills and/or depth when needed. Let our experts help manage and protect your environment! Please contact us at Sales@Actian.com if you would like to learn more about our Remote DBA service offering.
High-Availability and Disaster Recovery Solutions
If you answer the following questions as indicated then you need to talk to us before disaster strikes:
Question1: Do you have any Ingres/Vectorwise systems that would have a serious impact on your business if they stopped working? YES
Question2: Do you have a full copy of your important systems and data that could be up and running if the production systems had a disaster? NO
Actian’s High Availability and Disaster Recovery solutions can provide continued availability of your critical systems – 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, providing:
- High Availability so that the service continues to operate in the event of problems.
- Constant Replication of data to allow for no loss of data if a disaster strikes.
- The backup system can be used as for reporting without impacting your production system.
- This approach provides the option of load balancing as well, which helps to ensure a robust service with predictable response times.
With Actian’s HA/DR solution, companies obtain an exceptional solution for uninterrupted, reliable migration, upgrade, and maintenance projects that impact critical business operations. Outage time can be limited to minutes, or even seconds with automated application switchover.
Sheetz Project Overview
Sheetz (www.sheetz.com) is a family owned convenience store chain based in Altoona, Pennsylvania. They are one of the fastest growing, family-owned convenience stores in the world, with more than 406 locations across six states. For more than 50 years, their mission has been to meet the needs of customers on the go. Of course, things have changed over those 50+ years. Life is faster and busier, and customers expect them to be there when they are needed the most. And now, Actian’s VectorWise is there to help Sheetz achieve that goal.
Sheetz has been a long-time Ingres customer, with their first deployment in the early 1990’s. As with most large organizations, they also use the products of several competitors. As such, there is internal analysis about which product can deliver the features and performance needed in a cost-effective manner. In the Spring of 2011, Jarrid Magalich, Technical Services Manager at Sheetz, requested an onsite “Lunch and Learn” to review the newest Ingres and VectorWise product features with their IT staff.
During that meeting it became apparent that VectorWise had the potential to provide services previously only available from a much higher priced product currently in use, which led to discussions about how their existing investment in Ingres products could be leveraged to utilize VectorWise and deliver higher performance and value to the organization. It was the start of something interesting!
Sheetz performs extensive analysis on numerous types of data from multiple sources as a way to optimize costs, maintain high quality, and ensure that the overall experience of their customers is positive and consistent. VectorWise provided an opportunity for them to expand that analysis from one year of data to two years (approximately three billion rows of data), as well as manage the anticipated growth of data – expected to double over the next 2-3 years.
“Data growth occurs at record and ever increasing rates, so it is important to Sheetz to have a plan to manage this growth, maintain or improve current service levels – even with a growing user base, and reduce infrastructure costs whenever possible,” says Magalich.
The initial project was to convert a character-based reporting application built in ABF (Applications by Forms) to use VectorWise. The application changes required were minimal, with the biggest technical changes being related to “singleton inserts” (row at a time data loading) and table storage structure (schema) definitions. Value is being delivered using several products in the Actian portfolio, and the best part is the ease at which new VectorWise functionality was added to their environment. The next phase is to supplement the existing reports with new reports and dashboards built using the Pentaho Business Intelligence (BI) tools.
“Based on our experiences so far, we are impressed with the results and see potential for expansion of Actian products within the Sheetz environment,” stated Magalich. Indeed, there are many potential systems with big data requirements that could be running on Ingres, VectorWise, or the Cloud Action Platform in the near future.
Actian Customer Satisfaction Continues to Grow!
Actian’s core business is based on subscription services. We recognize that our customers have a choice; if our products do not perform as expected, or if we deliver poor support services around our technology, you may go elsewhere. A key measure of a support organization’s performance is customer satisfaction, which we measure based on responses received from the returned surveys sent on closed support issues. We continue to monitor our progress month-over-month and take pride in reporting that our customer satisfaction rating is now 4.76 (out of 5.0) – well above industry averages.
Reminder – Upcoming End of Life Dates
As a reminder, Actian formally announced the end of Actian Enterprise Support Services for the Ingres Database 9.1 product release for all platforms as of December 31, 2011. This release will join previous versions of Ingres releases as functionally stabilized with no further Enterprise Support Services. The already publicized dates can be viewed at www.actian.com/support/support-lifecycle-dates.php.
We also announced the end of support for the Unixware platform, meaning there will be no further certifications of new OS releases for this platform. The final release for Unixware is Ingres 9.1.1.
If you have not already started to migrate to a newer release of the Ingres Database, please review the information and features for the 9.2 release (the next minor release in the 9.x series) or the Ingres Database 10.0 release. Ingres 10.0 is the latest release of the Ingres Database and continues the tradition of providing important new features to meet the demands of our customers and partners.
Additional information about the Ingres Database 9.2 product can be found at www.actian.com/about/press/08-1118-database.php, and information about the Ingres Database 10.0 product can be found at www.actian.com/about/press/10-1012-database.php. Please contact your local sales and services teams if you have questions about which version makes the most sense for you. A complete listing of Actian Corporation office numbers is provided at www.actian.com/about/worldwide-offices, or you can reach us from the www.actian.com/about/contact page.
After Enterprise Support Services end, if you wish to continue contacting the Actian Support Services team regarding your 9.1 or older installation, you must have an Extended Support contract in place. Telephone and web-based services with Actian Enterprise Support Services staff will only be available for Ingres 9.1 and older releases if you purchase an Extended Support contract.
Zero Downtime Upgrades
To help expedite updating your system to a later supported release, Actian Services can assist you in getting your system upgraded quickly in the minimum time. One key migration offering is the Zero Downtime Upgrade.
Actian Services performs many successful upgrades every year by utilizing our experience, proven upgrade methodology, and a set of tools to ensure success. Using Actian High Volume Replicator (HVR), we can create a parallel upgrade environment that enables the go-live on a new platform (i.e., changing either Ingres, the operating system, or both) to be achieved with no interruption to business services. This technology also ensures that the upgrade can be backed out just as quickly in the unlikely event of needing to return to the older version.
For more information about Actian Services offerings, see www.actian.com/support-services/services, or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Reminder – Actian Security Alert – Announced August 2011
Information security is of utmost priority to Actian. A new vulnerability has recently been identified in Ingres 10.0, 9.3, 9.2, 9.1, and 2.6. We have given this vulnerability a security threat level of ‘Low’ and recommend that the available security patches be applied as soon as possible, if applicable. This problem impacts only the Microsoft Windows platform.
Ingres event overflow using IIPROMPT* – bug 125598.
Description: An unauthenticated attacker can write to a shared memory segment and trigger an event to overflow data in the Ingres name server (iigcn).
Fixes are available for the current release of Ingres 10.0, 9.2, 9.1 and 2.6 versions on their respective platforms. The security fixes can be quickly applied with little to no anticipated impact to systems.
Actian customers with a current support contract can review the following knowledge base document for information on downloading the available fixes.
We would like to additionally thank our community for bringing this vulnerability to our attention.
For more information about Ingres security alerts and to register to proactively receive these alerts via email please register at: http://www.actian.com/support/security-announcements.php.
This past quarter, Actian announced that version 1.6 of Vectorwise was generally available. We had a tremendous reception to the Windows version of Vectorwise, as version 1.6 places Vectorwise as the only big data player on the Windows operating system. More than 90% of business workers use Windows, and this group has been starved of innovation in the area of databases – especially analytical databases. Version 1.6 also introduced enhancements in the way of additional analytical SQL, support for BI tools and improvements in data loading.
We now have a pre-release alpha for Vectorwise 2.0 available on our download site. We continue to add more analytical SQL to the Vectorwise, have created strong improvements to our data loading capability, introduced additional date and time functions, and added the capability to support larger table sizes with our disk-based algorithms. Our version 2.0 release will have support from a broad number of ISV applications, and the large three independent BI tools vendors – Microstrategy, Cognos and Business Objects.
Customer and Partner Updates
The third calendar quarter realized a tremendous gain in customers and partners, we continue to grow at a faster pace each quarter. We made announcements with Microstrategy, Meteorite, Datamatics, and just recently Timocom. Please look for some more exciting announcements in the weeks and months to come.
Vectorwise = the on-ramp to Action Apps!
You may have noticed that we are a new company. We discussed earlier in this letter that since we introduced Vectorwise in the middle of 2010, the big data market has continued to grow, and the opportunity for big data innovations has exploded. Actian will be the leader in Action Apps and is the first to unveil a cloud action platform that takes action on big data. Customers and partners do not need to wait for the completion of the cloud action platform. We are building Action Apps today, on Vectorwise. So please feel free to contact us at Action-Team@actian.com to see how you might get started on an Action App, or feel free to download Vectorwise and get started today taking action on big data.
If you have questions about this newsletter, or items that you would like to see covered in a future edition, we encourage you to contact us at email@example.com.