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Sunday, November 22, 2009

CVS Pharmacy - Real pain, no gain

I was amazed by what I experienced in a CVS Pharmacy store, near my Hotel in Bloomington, Minnesota. I had a terrible sinusitis, and went to a CVS pharmacy for asking some drugs to help.

First thing I found funny, is that the pharmacy is selling cigarettes and cigars.

I went directly to the back of the store, where the pharmacist are. Two women dressed with a white overall were talking, behind their computers, and ignored me for a bout a minute. Then suddenly, one of them came to me (well they noticed me cool). I explained my issue.

The woman serving me looked back to the other employee "can we sell sudafed with a passport". Second women said yes. Great!

Then, problems begins. "It's not gonna work". The it's not my fault it is a software and regulation issue. The woman was not able to enter my French passport information in its software and could not deliver the right drug to me. She asked for help the second person, who told her more or less, "do not ask me I do not know and I do not have time". She was alone with the software ...

CVS Pharmacy software was not able to deliver a drug to me because I do not have an address in the USA! INCREDIBLE! The women asked me if I can use the identity and address of somebody in the USA. Well, no, we are Saturday and I stay at the hotel near your pharmacy.

So she decided to give up, and not to find a solution. Amazing! She proposed me another drug she can find over the counter (OTC) and that can be sold without any passport required. She said:
- "it's not exactly the same, but some people find it good also".
- Then I asked: "what is the difference between the two box of sudafeds (the one over the counter and behind the counter)"?
- "It's not the same drugs" ...
- "Yes I know, but what drug is not there and what is the impact on what I feel today (fire in my head)".
- "It's not the same drugs" ...
- And to close the discussion: "hopefully you will get better tomorrow".

Do you believe that? "hopefully you will get better tomorrow". You understand what it means: I do not care about your pain, my computer is not letting me deliver the drug, please leave the store and I hope you will not suffer to much. I was not looking for empathy, but this sentence killed me.

I will not spend some time on describing how much time it took me to pay, the corporate credit card not working at CVS, but working at Pizza Hut (restaurant in front of the pharmacy)

CVS pharmacy is more a shop than a real pharmacy. They clearly benefit from a regulated environment where the notion of service does not exist and they hide their inefficiency behind the healthcare regulation. I was ready to pay 50 dollars for the right drug (and again, nothing dangerous here). But they were not able to sell it to me and and the full experience was a real pain.

If you are a traveler without a US passport, do not go to CVS pharmacy, they will not help. People there are not passionated by their job and by helping people, they just sell boxes, barcode machine in hands.
The french pharmacist near my home missed me a lot yesterday ...

Friday, November 13, 2009

SonarJ 5.03 Connected to Sonar

SonarJ 5.0.3 was released and the first version of their plugin for Sonar. The SonarJ plugin is the first plugin for Sonar that allows you to check architectural and structural aspects of your project. These aspects have the biggest impact on testability, maintainability and comprehensibility of your code.
Now you can document your code architecture and push the result in your quality tool, running on your Continous build platform. And it's for free for small projects). 

Doing SOAP and Rest Services without changing code

I do not know what to think about Netrifex from Proxisoft ...
Netrifex adds web services to existing Java applications using a point-and-click browser interface.
As stated on their website the product enables users to:

  • Create web service APIs in a fraction of the time and cost required by traditional programming methods.
  • Add SOAP and REST services to applications without modifying their code.
  • Start, stop, add, modify, and delete web services without shutting down or disrupting production applications.
  • Create and administer web services through a simple point-and-click user interface. Common use-cases require no programming.
  • Generate web service interfaces automatically for applications built from common frameworks such as Apache Struts.
  • Implement stateful web services that are aware of user sessions and other types of application state.
  • Web-service-enable applications without source code (e.g., third party products, libraries). Netrifex does not need to read or re-compile source code.

Netrifex adds web services to stand-alone Java programs and applications running in Java EE containers. Netrifex works with Java 1.4.2 and higher. Windows, Linux, and Mac OS X operating systems are supported. Supported containers include Apache Tomcat and Oracle WebLogic Server. WebSphere, JBoss.
Licensing is made on CPU basis.
The question is why using such a tool? Any idea?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

2009 - Data Integration War in the cloud

The war is raging on Data Integration and data services. Two products are clearly changing the landscape: Informatica platform V9 and Pervasive DataCloud 2.

Informatica V9

To quote the company, Informatica 9 "uniquely delivers a comprehensive platform by combining products in six categories: enterprise data integration, data quality, B2B data exchange, application information lifecycle management, complex event processing and cloud computing data integration," and can be deployed "on-premise or in the internet cloud."

I will not state again, how much benefits a company can get from Informatica V9. It was really built with user needs in mind (we had intense discussions on current and future needs) and is for me clearly a step ahead from the competitors. You can read this excellent post for a better deep dive.
Disclaimer: I was associated to Informatica V9 discussions with the company since about a year now and my company is using Informatica.

Pervasive DataCloud 2

To quote the company "Pervasive DataCloud 2 is a secure and reliable on-demand services platform fully powered by Amazon Web Services. It's for developers who need to rapidly create Data Integration, Application Integration, Analytics and other data-intensive services."
The offer seems impressive and is also providing a platform, but on demand. I was especially interested by the DataRush offer which is combining the power of cloud computing with the one of data management.

Data Management for non IT people ...

Several tools are emerging to empower user on their laptop to do data manipulation without the need of a backoffice application. I call this new trend BI on the desktop.

Ormetis - Power to the user with no programming
The first one that really impressed me was Ormetis. Ormetis enables business users to quickly analyze, combine and transform multiple data sources to produce a coherent result without the help of IT.
Such transformation process is called a Scenario in Ormetis and is automatically recorded while you manipulate your data. The advantages are twofold: you get a complete audit trail for free and you can instantly recreate new results by replaying the Scenario whenever you get new input data. Ormetis does not provide any charting solution (yet?). Another advantage of Ormetis is related to data and security governance! You can then prove than no data value was changed in a scenario and you can also show what changes were made in any scenario (that can aslo be replayed if needed).
Ormetis is positionned in a niche, but can bring lots of value if you consider the time spent by non IT people trying to merge files coming from text, excel, etc.

I also looked at QlikView personal edition and Lyza. Below, you will find a high level comparison.

Ormetis vs. QlikView
Ormetis and QlikView don’t compete with each others, they actually complement each other really well.
QlikView is primarily a reporting software (Business Intelligence – BI) while Ormetis is primarily a data transformation software (ETL). BI tools are very good a presenting data (reports, graphs, dashboards, etc.) but you need to be able to get the data properly structured in the first place.
In any business, a fraction of the data is very well structured (usually stored in datawarehouses/datamarts and managed by the IT department) while the vast majority of it (sometimes up to 90% of the data) is floating around in Excel spreadsheets, text files, etc.
This is where Ormetis really shine by enabling business users to transform multiple sets of data (with different structures) into a single, coherent data set that they can then use immediately. All of that without the help of IT.

Ormetis versus Lyza (from Lyzasoft)

Ormetis and Lyza have a similar positioning. They both promote user’s autonomy (from IT), complete audit trail, on the fly analytical capabilities and innovative user interface.
Still, there are some very fundamental differences in philosophy as well as technical architecture. Lyza tend to be a all-in-one solution ranging from data preparation to reporting and analysis while Ormetis focuses only on data transformation part (which include analytical capabilities in order to make decisions about how best to transform the data).
From a technical point of view, Lyza embed a relational database (MySQL) and relies on the fact that every single piece of data is organized in a tabular way (columns and rows). While this is certainly true of some of the data, this is clearly not the case for the majority of it (data spread across multiple files, multidimensional data, complex spreadsheets, etc.)
Compared to Ormetis, Lyza lacks OLAP capabilities (groups), automatic detection of Text/CSV files structures (Ormetis patent pending), resilience to structural changes (column order, column delimiter, etc.), complete support for Unicode (non-Latin alphabets) and regional settings (date and number formats).
Because Lyza relies on a traditional relational database (rather than doing full in-memory transformation) performances degrade rapidly (disk access rather than memory access) on a standard desktop machine. For instance, some quick benchmarks made show that Ormetis is 30 to 50 times faster than Lyza for files bigger than 100.000 rows or columns.

Ormetis is indeed a good investment! Millions of rows/columns is probably the point where things start to break down in Lyza while this is Ormetis’ comfort zone. Ormetis is also recommended for Audit team due to its capability to show the content of a scenario and its impact on data.
Ormetis doesn’t have reporting capabilities (beside saving in Excel or XML format and handing of the job over to Excel) but BI tools can’t do any good reporting without good data. This is why combining it with other dedicated tools, like QlikView, is ideal. Recently Paul Clayton from Microsoft also made a post on how to use Ormetis with Excel, look here.
Lyza is also a good tool, a more all in one solution but requires more install on the desktop and is not providing the audit trail I was looking for.

Let me know your thoughts.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Cloud Computing - evolution of IT to explain the benefits and challenges of cloud computing

As shown on this post from Kaavo cloud provider company, the evolution of IT can be used to explain the benefits and challenges of cloud computing, and to showing why and how we got to cloud computing.
You can read the full post here.

SOA - Service categorization

Dear reader(s)

I was invited to publish a guest post on SOA governance concerning how you could categorize your services. Take a look at : Art of software reuse blog.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

New articles and publication

Here is a recap of the latest publications or articles I was involved in:
  1. IS Rating: French article here and English article here.
    The official web site is here. Check the spreasheet and let us know if it works for your organization
  2. The article I wrote on Cloud Computing (InfoQ): here
  3. I answered some SOA questions in a virtual pannel published on InfoQ, here.
Enjoy reading them and feel free to comment.

Document, Document, Document

Documenting architecture and assessing that the code follows the standards architecture patterns defined is not an easy task. presented below are two tools that helped us doing it.

Documenting (and assessing) Java code architecture
I like SonarJ as a tool to help the solution architect to assess and validate the application architecture. It is free if your application is not too big (500 classes)!
The new release, version 5.0.2, comes with new metrics and a Maven plugin is now able to generate SonarJ system files out of Maven POM's.

Documenting EAI/ESB projects

PIKE Electronic has started close cooperation with TIBCO in the early 2000`s. They provide a tool called makeDoc, recognized as an official analysis tool for TIBCO`s BW, BE and iProcess products.
Now they claim to be extending their offer towards ORACLE’s ESB and BEA products and are testing MakeDoc for webMethods with Software AG before launching it on the market.
Cross EAI/ESB analysis will then be possible? Let's wait and see.