Saturday, June 21, 2008

Master Data Management - What, Why, How, Who?

I got two interesting things out of Ramon Chen's talk on Master Data Management (MDM) to the SDForum Business Intelligence SIG June meeting. Ramon is VP Product Marketing at Siperian. The first thing is the importance idea is the notion of Data Governance, and as part of governance the emerging role of the Data Steward. The second thing is the big enterprise software vendors are circling.

Large organizations, companies and government collect vast amounts of information and Data Governance is the process of looking after that data. First is the problem of cataloging all the data that the organization has. Next, there may be different versions of the same data that needs to be reconciled and the quality of the data that needs to be ensured. Finally there is the question of deciding who has access to different parts of the data and ensuring that it is correctly secured. A Data Steward is a person who is responsible for some part of the data.

Ramon had some specific examples of problems with data. One is in the Medical field where gifts to doctors are highly regulated. The problem is in identifying a specific doctor particularly where a father and son with similar names may share a practice, which is not uncommon. Another problem is security. Siperian has implemented security down to the cell level to ensure that each user can only see data that they are allowed to look at.

Ramon also described how MDM software vendors are being consolidated by data providers and the big enterprise software vendors. For example, Purisma, who presented to the BI SIG a couple of years ago was bought by Dunn and Bradstreet last year. IBM has been particularly active in buying small MDM related software vendors, however SAP, Microsoft and Oracle have also bought companies in this area recently.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Flex, ActionScript, MXML?

It has been over a week since James Ward and Chet Haase of Adobe gave a talk on Flex to the SDForum Java SIG, and I am still trying to get my mind around what it all means. Adobe has a bunch of technologies and products in the Rich Internet Application (RIA) area, but it is difficult to work out what they are, how they fit together and which one I should use for any particular application. Here is the story as I understand it.

Lets start with the programming language ActionScript. ActionScript is ECMAScript which is JavaScript. There are differences in implementation between ActionScript and other forms of JavaScript, however most of the difference is in the Document model, which can be called the API , but is more like the object environment in which the program executes. JavaScript programs execute in a web page defined by the Document Object Model (DOM). ActionScript started as the language of the Flash player so it is more oriented to construction an environment and this leads to some differences in the objects that it can use.

MXML is an XML based declarative language that compiles into ActionScript. Basically it is a shorthand for defining the static parts of an ActionScript environment. By the way, when I entered MXML into the Adobe site search engine, the first thing that came back was the question "Do you mean MSXML?", where MSXML is a MicroSoft technology.

Next we come to the runtime environments. The Flash player is lightweight client that executes compiled ActionScript and is most commonly deployed as a browser plug in (as opposed to, for example, a Browser which contains a JavaScript interpreter). Adobe AIR is a larger and more capable stand alone client for executing compiled ActionScript as well as HTML, Java etc. (as opposed to, for example, a Browser which is a client for interpreting HTML, JavaScript, et al).

Flex is the framework which means that it is a overarching name for the whole pile of technology. The one piece of technology called Flex is Flex Builder, the Eclipse based development environment for ActionScript and MXML. As they have done with other products, Adobe has open sourced a lot of technology surrounding Flex to bring more developers to the platform.

Overall, I am not sure which is more impressive, the melange of technology in Adobe Flex or the marketing effort that tries to make the whole melange of technology seem like one coherent whole.

Monday, June 09, 2008

New iPhone - New Business Model

Steve Jobs announced the widely anticipated new iPhone at the WWDC today. I have seen a lot of comments on features and price, but nothing interesting on the new business model. Here is my take.

In the old business model, Apple and ATT sold the iPhone at full price and in a highly unusual arrangement, ATT shared its ongoing revenue with Apple. Now Apple and ATT sell the iPhone at a discount. ATT presumable pays Apple for each phone they sell, however there is no ongoing revenue sharing. We will have to see exactly how this plays out when the iPhone goes on sale. It may well be that you have to sign up with ATT to unlock the phone when you register it.

Apple still has a couple of revenue streams which are unusual concessions from a mobile-phone companies, especially in the USA. First, Apple gets to sell all the media and games on the phone through its iTunes store. Songs are still $1, movies and TV shows range from $2 to $5, games and applications range from free to $10. This is a useful revenue stream even although it has a margin of only 20% to 30%.

More interesting is the MobileMe storage and syncing service that costs $100 a year. Verizon charges me $10 to move my phone list from an old phone to a new phone when I have to buy a new one. Nobody there or at any other phone company thought of charging $100 for making this service continuously available. At the same time it is a great idea, that many have picked up as a good reason to get the iPhone.

The only problem with MobileMe is the ridiculously small storage capacity of 20 GB. The phone has 8GB or 16GB. What is the point of having a backing store that is about the same size as my phone? Particularly as storage is not that expensive these days. Google Apps offers 25GB for $50 per year, Apple ought to offer something equivalent.

Apart from that, the new business model keeps Apple ahead of the game which is exactly where it needs to be.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Still HDTV - Not

It is old news to me but HDTV has still to turn on viewers. While working out at the gym the other day and listening to Harry Shearer's Le Show, he mentioned recent research conducted by the Scripps Network that large numbers of viewers that receive a HDTV feed continue to watch the same content in standard definition.

I posted about this problem a couple of years ago. Since then I have successfully trained my family to watch HDTV when it is available, but it took some work to make them HD aware. Still, we do not get a lot of channels in HD and the channels are still in the same obscure 700 range of the "dial".

There is some good programming in HD. Last night we watched 2001: A Space Odyssey on the Universal HD channel and it was stunning. Fortunately there were only a few commercial breaks, because the commercials came in so much louder than the film we had to mute the entire commercial break to remain sane.