Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Going off the Net

The internet is a wonderful thing, it is also a very dangerous place. Any computer system connected to the internet can and will be attacked. There is also a viral aspect to the internet, which means that while it is difficult to do with the internet and it is also difficult to do without.

At work we are building a software product that when combined with a number of other complex software systems on a cluster with a SAN will do wonderful things. However, configuring and debugging all this stuff requires a lot of privileged access.

The company has a lot of rules to protect its computer systems from attack. Part of that is denying users privileged access, which is sensible for most users. However when we want anything privileged done, we have to ask the IT guys to do it as they are the ones with the privilege, and each request takes its own time.

The test system arrived and my first thought was that we could bypass all these rules that slow progress by taking it off the net. If the test system is not connected, it is safe from attack, we do not have to follow all the rules and we can have all the privileged access we need to get things done as and when we want.

I suggested this at our project meeting and the first question was "if it is not on the net, how do I telnet to it for debugging?" I described sneakernet, the secure alternative to the internet. You burn a CD, pop it out, walk across the room, pop it into the test system and "Robert est votre oncle".

Everyone looked at me like I was mad, or maybe they thought that I was just lost in another millennia. The notion that you needed to be in the same room as the test system seemed retrograde. As did the idea that you could not be browsing Slashdot while waiting for that conditional breakpoint to pop. So we are going to have to put up with the constant battle with IT to get simple things done because now it is impossible to go off the net.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Open Source BI

Open Source Business Intelligence is hot. This month the SDForum Open Source SIG hosted a talk from JasperSoft about their open source reporting software. Tonight the Business Intelligence SIG heard from Sandeep Giri about their OpenI initiative to provide an Open Source BI application.

Currently OpenI is a BI application built on Open Source components that provides visualization of data from an OLAP source such as SQL Server or Mondrian. Sandeep has plans to expand OpenI to become a fully fledged BI platform.

I had asked Sandeep to talk about why they are making their application Open Source. Sandeep explained that his company, Loyalty Matrix, provides Software as a Service (SaaS). [This means that they can use most Open Source software to provide their service.] While there are several Open Source components with a BI flavor, there was no ready to run Open Source BI application or platform.

Loyalty Matrix has had to develop their own platform using Open Source software. By giving their application back to the Open Source community they get the implementation help, support and feedback of a large user group to complement their tiny development team.