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The Invisible Database


Thoughts and opinions on embedded, mobile and self-managing database systems, as well as the software business.

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Blog on the Move!

By Chris Kleisath on December 20th, 2012

As part of Sybase’s integration with SAP, this blog is on the move. Please update your links and RSS feeds to my new “Invisible Database” blog on the SAP Community Network (SCN). Here is the direct link:

http://scn.sap.com/people/chriskleisath/blog

As well, the RSS feed is here:

http://scn.sap.com/people/chriskleisath/blog/feeds/posts

I look forward to continuing to discuss SQL Anywhere, and how it can be used in embedded, mobile and SMB situations, on the new blog location.

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Open Spots are Disappearing Fast for the SQL Anywhere Technical Summit!

By Chris Kleisath on September 18th, 2012

I announced last week that registration was open for the SQL Anywhere Technical Summit. This week, I am happy to report that we only have a few openings left. If you have been thinking about joining us in Waterloo for this one-of-a-kind event, then I would urge you to register soon!

This will be a great opportunity for advanced SQL Anywhere users to learn more about SQL Anywhere, speak directly with our consulting and engineering staff, as well as network with your peers.

Access the registration information here.

Also, the event itself is FREE, however attendees are responsible for flight, hotel and other travel expenses.

I am looking forward to meeting you at the event!

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Registration Now Open for SQL Anywhere Technical Summit

By Chris Kleisath on September 11th, 2012

I mentioned the SQL Anywhere Technical Summit a couple weeks ago in a post, reminding everyone to save the date in their calendars.

It’s now official, registration is now open. I would recommend that all SQL Anywhere experts take advantage of this opportunity to learn more about SQL Anywhere, speak directly with our consulting and engineering staff, as well as network with your peers.

We plan on delivering sessions that will cover SQL Anywhere Server, MobiLink, SQL Anywhere on-demand edition, as well as talking about our next major release (code named ‘Nagano’), which will be going into Beta test around that time.

Access the registration information here.

Also, the event itself is FREE, however attendees are responsible for flight, hotel and other travel expenses.

I hope to see you there!

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Trends in the Embedded Database Market

By Chris Kleisath on September 6th, 2012

SQL Anywhere is one of the most widely used database products by ISVs to embed inside their software applications. As a result, we have quite a large and diverse set of partners feeding us thoughts and requests. I thought I might share with you some of the most important trends we are seeing, along with some indications how we are moving to address these trends. These thoughts came up recently in some planning discussions our team was having.

Embedded database applications moving to the cloud
This is perhaps the biggest trend we are seeing. Vendors of traditional on-premise applications are looking for ways to broaden their customer base by attracting customers who do not want to run software and database servers locally, but are looking for a SaaS flavor of the application. As a result of this move to the cloud, some of the considerations for software vendors such as ourselves are:

  • Self-management, security and availability are important.
  • New licensing models made possible by the cloud.
  • Different developer technologies such as scripting languages are becoming popular.

During many discussions with ISVs, they have voiced these concerns about any database in the cloud approach:

  • Prefer to reuse as much of their existing code and intellectual property (IP) as possible.
  • Avoid vendor lock-in to a hosting provider.
  • The flexibility to ensure security by hosting multiple databases on a per-tenant basis.

Of course, our SQL Anywhere on-demand edition is designed specifically for these ISV customers, enabling them to reuse their existing SQL Anywhere database code, while transitioning their application into a SaaS offering. I’ve written about this in the past. (Here, here, and here).

Hardware Advancements
Over the last couple years, there has been a large number of advancements to computing hardware, affecting ISVs selling software to run on-premise at their customer locations. These include

  • Parallel processing. It is nearly impossible to purchase a machine today without at least 2 cores, if not more. The embedded database needs to take advantage of this new desktop capability by offering intra-query parallelism enabling faster queries, especially of large data sets.
  • Memory based technology starting to replace disk-based technology. SSDs offer the promise of blinding performance when compared to spinning disk technology. It throws into question server algorithms designed to with spinning disks in mind.
  • Rise of the tablet. Enterprise applications are being designed which will require access to data, either locally, or over the internal network.
  • Dynamic hardware. Hardware specs can change often, even while host is online, especially in virtualized environments. An embedded database server needs to be able to adjust itself accordingly, taking advantage of any additional capabilities that become available, and scaling itself back when resources are taken away.

SQL Anywhere supports many of these things, but we will have more to say on this topic later this fall around our upcoming ‘Nagano’ release.

Big Data
While the phrase ‘Big Data’ is relatively new, there is already a huge amount of material on the web about it. Most of this focus is on enterprise applications, and less on embedded databases, but I believe that will change over the next couple years, especially with increasing focus on in-memory technology and support for non-structured data. SQL Anywhere may not play in the Big Data space today, but certainly Sybase and SAP do, with Sybase IQ and SAP HANA.

If you have any additional thoughts to add here, please feel free to comment.

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The Pink Tie

By Chris Kleisath on September 4th, 2012

This week is Orientation Week or “O-Week” at the University of Waterloo, as new students come to university for the first time. From our office in the University of Waterloo’s David Johnston Research + Technology Park, we are close to the action. I’ve written previously about how our team got our start at the University of Waterloo. Many, if not a majority, of our SQL Anywhere engineering team are graduates of the Faculty of Mathematics at the University of Waterloo, myself included. Additionally, we hire a number of UW coop students every term to work on our products.

University of Waterloo Math Pink TieI know that many schools and faculties have unique symbols or mascots. The symbol for the UW Faculty of Mathematics is the Pink Tie. Every incoming student has to earn their own pink tie, and during orientation week, the GIANT pink tie is hung on the side of one of the math buildings on campus. This year, the tie is hanging on the new ‘Math 3′ building, as seen to the right. The pink tie harkens back to Professor Ralph Stanton, the founder of the Faculty in 1967, who loved outlandish colored ties.

I myself have a pink tie from my days as a student, and still occasionally wear my pink tie pin.

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SQL Anywhere on the SAP Price List

By Chris Kleisath on August 30th, 2012

As I am sure many of you heard about in 2010, SAP acquired Sybase. Throughout the beginning of 2012, I have been involved in a number of internal items related to getting Sybase SQL Anywhere to be available on the SAP price list. As you might imagine, SAP (a company of more than 50,000 employees) has its own, unique bureaucracy that is very different from Sybase’s (and certainly very different from our days in the past as WATCOM and iAnywhere!). SAP has rules for everything, including a set of product standards that must be passed prior to being placed on the SAP price list.

In order to allow our team to focus on development of SQL Anywhere on-demand edition and ‘Nagano’, the next major release of SQL Anywhere, I have taken on much of the work for the SA team to prepare answers to, and defend those answers for the various SQL Anywhere products. Of course, I am not working alone, and I thank everyone on the team who has provided input to me on this process. (More about ‘Nagano’ in future posts!)

I am pleased to report that we recently passed all the hurdles, to enable SQL Anywhere 12.0.1 to become available from the SAP price list. Over time, as Sybase further integrates into SAP, most of our products will become available on the SAP price list.

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Save the Date – SQL Anywhere Technical Summit 2012

By Chris Kleisath on August 28th, 2012

Last week, we announced that we will be holding a SQL Anywhere Technical Training event right here at our development lab in Waterloo, Ontario, on November 14th and 15th, 2012. The complete Save the Date announcement is here.

I was a big proponent of this idea when it was first suggested, as it will provide a unique opportunity for our customers and partners to interact on a one-on-one basis with our developers. We also gain, because it enables many additional folks from our team to meet you, rather than just the 4 or 5 folks who were lucky enough to travel to TechWave in previous years.

We anticipate the training sessions will appeal to those who are already experienced with SQL Anywhere, as we are putting together a good set of technical sessions covering SQL Anywhere Server, MobiLink, SQL Anywhere on-demand edition, as well as talking about our next major release (code named ‘Nagano’), which will be going into Beta test around that time.

Be sure to mark the date on your calendar, and look for more information in September on how to register, etc. If you are interested in the event, be sure to provide your input by completing the survey.

I should also mention that the event itself is FREE, however attendees are responsible for flight, hotel and other travel expenses.

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SQL Anywhere on-demand edition now shipping

By Chris Kleisath on August 24th, 2012

A Very Busy First Half of 2012
Regular readers of my blog will have certainly noticed that I have been absent from these pages for a few months. The first half of 2012 has been a busy time on the SQL Anywhere team, and this fall is shaping up to be just as busy. That said, I plan to resume blogging, and will try to keep everyone up to date on all the exciting activities on our team.

Fuji – a.k.a. SQL Anywhere on-demand edition
SQL Anywhere on-demand edition has finally shipped and is available. First demonstrated at last year’s TechWave when it was code named ‘Fuji’, and under development for about 2 years, the product is finally available to customers here.

SQL Anywhere on-demand edition is expressly designed for our ISV partners who require a robust, secure and manageable database system for their cloud offerings. SQL Anywhere on demand edition utilizes the shared server, separate database model for multiple tenants that I have written about in previous blog postings. This model is renowned for its ability to offer tenant customizability and security, while still enabling the ISV to easily manage a large number of tenants.

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Happy New Year 2012 from the SQL Anywhere Team!

By Chris Kleisath on January 12th, 2012

As we enter 2012, our engineering team is hard at work on our new SQL Anywhere OnDemand Edition “Fuji” product that is currently planned for GA launch in the 1st half of this year. Everyone is involved, for example:

  • Development is hard at work on the last set of features and capabilities, fixing software issues and bugs, testing performance and scalability
  • QA is working closely with development to create and run a whole series of new test suites
  • The Doc team is busy writing new books to describe how to use the new software
  • Other folks are busy working out the details for a new cloud-friendly payment process

As you read through this list, you may recognize elements of your own engineering organization. Do we have other matters to deal with? Of course we do:

  • Fixing customer issues (bugs)
  • Enhancements to SQL Anywhere Server, MobiLink and UltraLite in preparation for its next major release, currently scheduled in early 2013 (more about that later this year)

Our team’s goals this year are to continue consulting our customers to ensure we understand what problems are being faced so that we are in a better position to create innovative software to solve those problems. As I say this, I am reminded of a phrase I heard recently:

To understand how to make a product better, understand what job the product is being hired to perform. – Clayton Christensen as heard listening to his talk at the Business of Software 2011 conference

One of my personal goals each year is to interact with our customers, to better understand what “job” our products are being hired to perform.

As a personal note, I would like to thank you for taking time from your busy schedules to read my blog. Andrew Coyne, a columnist in one of the newspapers I read, recently posted this thought, which resonated with me:

Of necessity, then, the writer who wishes to be read must begin with an attitude of humility before the reader. Your parents told you nobody owes you a living? Nobody owes you the two minutes it takes to read your column.

As I start this new year of 2012, I hope to keep you informed about what our team is doing, how we do it, and most importantly, to try and provide you with information you can use in your own organization to make a difference.

On behalf of all of us on the SQL Anywhere team, I would like to wish each and everyone of you a Happy New Year!

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Challenges with Shared Schema Database Model for Multiple Tenants in the Cloud

By Chris Kleisath on November 22nd, 2011

Since the launch of our new SQL Anywhere OnDemand Edition (code named “Fuji”), I have observed that the phrase “Multi-tenant database” is most often used by other vendors to refer to the “Shared Schema” approach I described in Part 5 of my series on Multi-Tenant Database Architectures published in 2009 (1, 2, 3, 4, 5). The important thing I would like to ensure you realize is that there ARE other options. First, lets revisit the challenges that the shared schema model presents to the application developer and the DBA alike:

  • Application Development Time can be much longer because each and every database access must ensure that only one customer’s data is being accessed. Some cloud vendors have tried to work around this limitation by implementing an entire proprietary development system on top of their database server. In these systems, developers must use the vendor system, rather than their favorite application development tool.
  • Database Performance Tuning can be much more difficult, or even impossible, because every database table has data from many different customers, and that data may be accessed in very different ways by each customer. Additionally, the proprietary development environments provided by some vendors completely eliminate any opportunity for database tuning.
  • Security can be problematic. The application or the proprietary environment itself implements the security, rather than the database server. The application must be very robustly tested to ensure that one customer does not see another customer’s data. A minor application bug could completely compromise data security.
  • Customization can be very difficult or impossible. All tenants share the same schema, so every customer’s application needs to be virtually identical. The use of generic schema setups may enable some simple customization, such as the addition of a few extra fields, but even this is limited by the generic schema system. Large scale customization would be virtually impossible.

Even Sybase and SAP’s rival Larry Ellison from Oracle has got into the action in October, criticizing the Shared Schema approach as implemented by SalesForce.com:

That’s a very bad security model. It’s called multi-tenancy and it was state of the art 15 years ago. This is 2011. All the modern compute clouds use virtualisation as part of their security model. You get a separate virtual machine, your data’s in a separate database because it’ virtualised. They put your data at risk by commingling it with others.

Salesforce.com’s database intermingles one everyone’s data, and relies on application system logic to ensure data security.

Our new SQL Anywhere OnDemand Edition uses a completely different approach than the Shared Schema model. It implements a Shared Server, Separate Database architecture for handling multiple tenants. This IS the virtualised database system referred to by Mr. Ellison.

The Shared Server, Separate Database model has many advantages, which I will explore in greater detail in my next post.

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