Tracking Big Data Trends at Stack Overflow

You know Stack Overflow, of course (a recent Slashdot.org posting was titled "Developers May Be Getting 50 Percent of Their Documentation From Stack Overflow").

So, while doing research for an upcoming article, I learned that StackOverflow.com (which says it gets more than 20 million visitors per month) could provide an interesting take on trends such as the move to Big Data, both from a job-seeking/recruiting point of view and by measuring the number of questions about the technology.

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Posted by David Ramel on 05/10/2013 at 1:15 PM0 comments


How to Grab a Slice of the Big Data Pie

Cloudera Inc.'s recent announcement of its SQL-on-Hadoop tool is one of the latest examples of vendors trying to make Big Data analytics more accessible. But "more accessible" is a long way from "easy," and it will be a while before your average Excel jockey can take over the reins of a typical company's Big Data initiatives.

So data developers are still key, and those with Hadoop and related Big Data skills are commanding top dollars to meet an insatiable demand for their services. But the very top dollars go to the very top developers, and those folks might have to grow beyond the traditional programmer role.

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Posted by David Ramel on 05/03/2013 at 1:15 PM0 comments


Microsoft Ramps Up Database Lifecycle Management Guidance

Need help troubleshooting a Windows Azure SQL Database connection, or getting started with SQL Server Data Tools? Well, there's now a one-stop shop where you can identify aspects of your problem as it relates to the big picture of database development and immediately go to the appropriate resources to solve it.

Yes, data developers now have their own lifecycle management acronym and accompanying guidance.

That's thanks to Microsoft's Louis Berner and his Database Lifecycle Management topic page in the MSDN Library.

"DLM is not a product but a comprehensive approach to managing the database schema, data, and metadata for a database application," the page states. It includes a complicated diagram (see Figure 1) that developers can use to identify apps and actions specific to their scenarios, along with links for guidance in the categories SQL Server Data Tools, SQL Server Management Studio and Windows Azure SQL Database.

Database Lifecycle Management
[Click on image for larger view.]
Figure 1. The DLM Diagram

I asked Berner about his DLM topic page, which has been getting some buzz in data development circles since it went live around the end of January. He explained that he worked in SQL Server Education, collaborating with Microsoft Customer Support Services to spot trends in customer support calls and resolve problems.

Last summer, he identified several issues in his bailiwick: SQL Server and SQL Database (Azure) manageability. He listed them as:

  1. Customers were frustrated in their efforts to get started with the Windows Azure platform.
  2. Data portability was a specific area that stood out as problematic, especially as it relates to service-level agreements, for example, backup/restore, business continuity and disaster recovery.
  3. Connectivity and troubleshooting connection issues were topics of concern.
  4. Understanding basic concepts was lacking in terms of what Microsoft offers for database development, portability and monitoring across scenarios that include on-premise, hybrid and cloud architectures; I described it in general terms as "Database Lifecycle Management."

"Customer frustration was understandable because we had developed features and tools over the course of many releases and a time span of five years or more," Berner explained. "Many resources within feature teams didn't understand the holistic view because they worked on individual pieces of the puzzle, and many were recent arrivals to the product unit. Because of their focus on individual features, they weren't expected to understand the big picture."

One particularly important issue he wanted to emphasize was data-tier applications. "Developers can benefit from use of data-tier applications features to create a package for deployment to production, to create a snapshot of a schema for version control, or to publish a schema update in a controlled manner," he said. "This provides developers the ability to cleanly hand off to DBA or Ops resources. The data-tier application is an under-used and under-appreciated feature, in my opinion, maybe because customers don't know about it."

Well, if you didn't know about it, you do now--and you know where to go to learn more. Berner says he will continue to improve on the DLM page. "As I continue to monitor [Customer Support Services] data and other sources of customer experience, I have developed a backlog of additional topics to include in a topic refresh. I will also iterate on the artwork to improve it. Eventually, I would like customers to be able to drill down through the diagram to get to the content they want."

Berner has received good comments on his project and would like to get more feedback from data developers to help him in his improvement process. So check out the page and let him know what you think in the comments section or by sending him an e-mail with the subject: "DLM topic on MSDN."

We'd like to hear from you, too. Please comment here or drop me a line.

Posted by David Ramel on 04/17/2013 at 1:15 PM0 comments


3D Data Visualization Takes Another Step

Tables, graphs and 3D bar charts just don't cut it anymore. To really glean insights from all that data you're collecting, you need pretty pictures, maps and interactive "cinematic guided tours" that users can play with.

That's the vibe at the PASS Business Analytics Conference underway in Chicago, as witnessed by today's announcement of "project codename 'GeoFlow' Preview for Excel 2013."

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Posted by David Ramel on 04/11/2013 at 1:15 PM0 comments


Silverlight Gets Some VS12 Love, Users Want More

It was just an inconspicuous little reference seemingly buried in the verbiage announcing all the new goodies in the Visual Studio 2012 Update 2, looking almost like an afterthought jammed in at the last minute:

"It includes support in Blend for SketchFlow, WPF 4.5, and Silverlight 5."
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Posted by David Ramel on 04/05/2013 at 1:15 PM0 comments


Retro Database dBASE Making a Comeback?

Ok, that report is due soon, so I'm going to fire up dBASE to run some reports, export the data into Lotus 1-2-3 and summarize everything with WordPerfect--while listening to Wham! and Foreigner, of course.

Oops, my mind was momentarily transported back into the mid '80s.

Amazingly, though, one of those pioneering software products was just updated as of yesterday. Yup, dust off those old .dbf files, dBASE PLUS 8 has been released.

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Posted by David Ramel on 03/20/2013 at 1:15 PM0 comments


BIDS Templates Come to Visual Studio 2012 in SSDT Update

"Does SSDT for Visual Studio 2012 support BI project templates?" asked James V. Serra in a TechNet forum last September.

Some six months later, the answer was yes: "Hi James, the download to add the BI Project Templates to the VS2012 shell is now available."

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Posted by David Ramel on 03/14/2013 at 1:15 PM0 comments


SQL Encroaches on Big Data Turf

Remember when SQL developers felt threatened by Big Data? Relational database management systems were old-school relics that couldn't cope with the vast amounts of unstructured, disparate data. NoSQL was the future. You needed to get onboard with Hadoop and MapReduce, running on Linux.

Well, not anymore.

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Posted by David Ramel on 03/08/2013 at 1:15 PM0 comments


Red Hat Goes All In On Big Data (Whatever That Is)

I tuned in to a Webcast earlier this week where Red Hat announced it was contributing its Hadoop plug-in to the open source Apache Hadoop community and totally embracing Big Data with an "open hybrid cloud" strategy. More on that later.

What I found really interesting was the response to an audience member who asked, "How do you define Big Data?"

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Posted by David Ramel on 02/22/2013 at 1:15 PM0 comments


Bill Gates Says Biggest Product Regret Was WinFS Data Storage

Data developers were interested to learn this week that it was a futuristic data storage product called WinFS that Bill Gates identified as the Microsoft product he most regretted not making it to market.

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Posted by David Ramel on 02/15/2013 at 1:15 PM1 comments


Programmers: Introverts or Extroverts?

"The icon of the shy geeky computer programmer is a mainstay of the technology landscape. But is it true?"

That's how a recent e-mail to me from Evans Data Corp. started out. At a previous company, as part of a class, I took a Myers-Briggs test that indicated I was introverted. And that my personality type (ISTP, one of 16 possible categories) tended to like motorcycles. I didn't need a standardized test to tell me either of those things, but I found it interesting.

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Posted by David Ramel on 02/07/2013 at 1:15 PM6 comments


EF Power Tools Bugs Fixed as Development Heads in New Direction

The Entity Framework Power Tools Beta 3 was released this week, but some data developers eager to get their hands on new features were disappointed to learn it mostly includes bug fixes because the product's functionality is shifting to the EF Designer in Visual Studio 2012.

With EF Power Tools, data developers get additional Visual Studio design-time tools for Entity Framework development.

The most important bug fix in Beta 3 is non-compatibility with Visual Studio 2012 Update 1. Several other issues were also addressed, but some developers wanted more.

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Posted by David Ramel on 02/01/2013 at 1:15 PM0 comments


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