Network of Truth? One Version of the Truth? YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH!

The gents over at the Diversified Semantic Layer (Greg Myers, Jamie Oswald and Eric Vallo) podcast had themselves a spirited discussion around SAP Analytics latest mantra, ‘The Network of Truth’. Make sure to check out the show notes over on SCN for a good laugh and handy reference guide, too. The discussion was always cordial, but got animated when discussing Greg’s theory that perhaps the ‘Network of Truth’ may have some legs to it.  I left this comment on Eric’s Show Notes blog: “I’m going to lean towards Greg’s side of the rumble. I agree with a lot of what he’s saying, plus it’ll be a fair fight now.”  I figured I’d expand that thought a little bit outside the SCN comment box.

I see where Greg is going with his line of thinking.  The whole ‘Network of Truth’ theory (and not the SAP marketing end of it- take the tools out of the equation and think in broader terms) is something along the lines of the evolution of how people utilize data. My take? As data access becomes faster and faster, conventional relational data warehouses become a commodity. Some businesses will require a data warehouse structure in order to aggregate disparate sources, group it together and make it logical.  But it won’t need to live in a slower relational data warehouse.  If the analytics tools that access that data don’t adapt, they’ll be left behind.

To Jamie’s point, ad hoc and ‘green bar’ reporting won’t be going away anytime soon, either.  Folks are going to want formatted reports, ad hoc report access and the like for years to come.  The question should be: How do we manage the needs and expectations of those ‘classic’ users with the changes and new methodology that newer analytics tools are seeming to bring?  Think about it- just a few years ago, BI teams were just getting their hands around analytics for mobile devices!  What will the landscape look like in the next 5 years?  A common semantic layer, perhaps?  Jamie and I are agreement about what we think the benedits of a unified semantic layer could be. (Heck, we’ve both blogged about it before.)

But like a fully implemented ‘Network of Truth’, a common semantic layer (likely based on HANA) is some time in the future.  Then again, so are Greg’s musings from the podcast. It’s going to take transformational changes in how we consume and utilize data to see where the ‘next big thing’ is coming from…and leading us to.

March Madness Road Trip Diary

<I’ve been meaning to get this out, but life seems to always get in the way.  I wanted to document as many details as possible, this way I don’t forget any as I get any older!>

With losses to Saint Louis and Butler, an entry to the NCAA Mens Basketball Tournament was looking bleak for La Salle University.  But with the last pick, the NCAA Selection Committee chose the Explorers for a First Round/First Four game against Boise State University.  Formerly known as a ‘Play-In Game’, it was still a seat at the table for my alma mater.  Not having played a tournament game in 20 years, this  was big and I decided that I was going to drive to Dayton to see the game.  Surprising me though, was Staci’s suggestion that I take Abby along for the ride. It was the beginning of the new quarter, her extended spring break started a few days later and she’s a straight A student.  Spending some quality father/daughter time was alright by me.  I rented a car from our local Enterprise office and we left Wednesday morning and drove to Dayton, Ohio.  The University of Dayton arena was the First Four site to see whether the Explorers would come away with a #13 seed and enter the bracket of 64.

What I didn’t expect was to enter one of the most memorable two week periods of my entire life. A roller coaster ride for my family, alma mater and friends that could be described as ‘once in a lifetime’.  So here’s the long-form Travel Diary!

Day 1: Royersford to Dayton

  • 8 hour drive
  • 520 miles

We headed off in our trusty Enterprise rental, a Mazda 6.  I’ve always had good luck with renting Mazda’s from Enterprise, as they usually include Bluetooth and are pretty comfortable to drive.  I decided to tempt fate and told the clerk to give me unlimited miles all the way to Missouri, just in case.

We left Royersford and headed due west.  The lovely PA Turnpike and I-70 was our trek and we arrived at our hotel in Dayton a little before 3ish.  By good luck, we ran into Jim Gulick in the hotel lobby, La Salle Athletics Alumni head and he gave us a parking pass and instruction to the night’s Pre-Game Reception.  Abby and I caught a few hours rest and headed down to the reception, where we ran into some good friends and fellow road trippers from Royersford!  It was great to see Wade Brosius and his son Jack had the same idea as we did.

2013-03-20%252008.49.02
This was the most common sight of the road trip.

Picking up our tickets from the players/VIP entrance was pretty neat and we headed into the Dayton arena.  What a great spot for basketball!  The arena was large, but not monstrous. I think that an arena like Dayton’s is something that La Salle could strive for, as long as the entire University community is behind it.

It was great to see an actual crowd of folks there rooting the team on.  Students made the drive from Philly, as well as alumni, both local to Ohio and not.  Even seemed that the Dayton fans who stayed were rooting for a fellow Atlantic 10 team. Of course, I would be remiss in discussing fans rooting for the team without mentioning our very own ‘Glitter Bro’!  It was great to see the energy that he brought to each game and more importantly, am proud to call him friend and brother.  Big props to Lieutenant Colonel Douglas LeVien, USA.  Ringleader of the Glitter Bros, Sigma Phi Epsilon brother and friend.  Way to represent!

Final Score: La Salle 80, Boise State 71

IMG_1005
First Round Score…AKA ‘Play-in Game’.

Staci, Abby and I decided- Father & Daughter would drive to the Round of 64 (Second Round) game in Kansas City.  Our alma mater was now a #13 seed, set to face off against #4 Kansas State in what seemed to be a home game for K-State.

Thoughts and ideas on HANA…definitely not at HANA speed.

(Opening Note: I do not profess to be a HANA or 'big data' expert. I'm primarily an Analytics architect in a relational world. But I'm a geek and HANA intrigues me.) That curiosity has definitely been piqued in over the last month, starting with the launch of HANA Enterprise Cloud right before Sapphire/ASUG Annual Conference. And of course, the subsequent references during and after the conference.

The overall picture has begun to become a bit clearer through the murky waters. I've been using these blogs as my primers:

 

Since I do not profess myself a HANA guru, I have NO intention of writing anything to the level of the above. But from the outside looking in, what does all of this movement seem to say? SAP is pushing forward with it's 'all in' HANA strategy, correct? Given the technical effort, marketing push and recent news- that's pretty obvious.

On that note, I've heard some interesting discussions regarding the latest HANA Enterprise Cloud and HANA Cloud Platform announcements. Some SI's/partners/consultants think that SAP might be moving into some of their key spaces. Others think SAP is taking a logical step by offering these services and challenging partners to step up their game, while reaping the benefit of solidifying the HANA market with a level of expertise that currently SAP (and a few select partners) can currently offer. Personally, I think that only time and actual customer purchasing will really tell. Once HANA becomes a commodity, does SAP bow out of the cloud hosting model? These are probably questions that don't have clear answers now, only in the future. But it doesn't make them any less fun to discuss.

Turning to my home turf, what about Analytics? There has been a lot of discussion back and forth about the future of the semantic layer. Today, each semantic layer has a necessary use case/requirement. But what about in the future? Does HANA survive 'the Game' and take 'the Prize'? There can be only one.

Can (or even should) SAP really position HANA as the one 'semantic layer to rule them all'? Companies who can't/won't buy HANA as a database may be open to purchasing HANA as a 'BI Accelerator'. At this point- is HANA any different than installing the 'accelerator' server for other vendor's Analytics tools? Can I can model my data views in HANA and since all the SAP BI tools connect to HANA natively, HANA BI Accelerator Edition is the semantic layer? In the perfect world of my brain- this works. Of course, the reality is starkly different. Licensing, fees, server installs and configurations, designer tools…the list could go on and on.

Think about the possibilities. One semantic layer: a common business layer that brings a single vision of your data. (Yes, yes- I am sure that some may call this data federation. But in some enterprises, that is a 'dirty term' and not easily implemented.) Perhaps that's too Utopian of a vision. Disparate systems, databases, security requirements- that is the reality in most enterprises. What if I could model my HANA layer to connect to my big relational warehouse and a smaller departmental database; bring the data back into HANA and make it available for my Analytics tools. Once my query is done, the dataset is blown away- no persistence. This makes HANA an Analytics 'Appliance' or 'Accelerator' and not an 'in-memory' database. Are there use cases for this kind of implementation?

Perhaps another option is to break out the database from the application engine and use the engine only as your new semantic layer? Instead of connecting to a UNV/UNX/etc, you connect to a 'model' that lives in HANA. No data is brought back, HANA acts as the semantic layer to your data. SAP or agnostic datasources? Doesn't matter. BI developers now have one tool to connect and model. Use cases for this particular implementation may be easier to come by, but is it actually doable?

Did you notice a lot of questions above? Me too- that's why I wrote this blog. I think that there are still untapped markets and possibilities regarding HANA. Does SAP continue to drive the market to a place it thinks and hope that when it gets there, the price and time to production are commiserate with the public perception (and reality)? Or can SAP let the marketplace drive where to go next?

 

Windows 8 Impressions…and why I went back to Windows 7

I have been slowly connecting all of my Windows 8 notes for a few months now and was getting ready to put together a whole long detailed ‘Impressions’ blog.  I even hinted at it when I left a comment on my buddy Dallas Marks’ Windows 8 blog entry.  And then it happened.  I finally lost all patience with Windows 8 and spent 3 hours formatting and reinstalling Windows 7 back on my laptop.   Was it just an angry overreaction?  Perhaps.  Was it that my laptop wasn’t 100% compatible with Windows 8 and it was a bad idea to install?  Perhaps.  Am I glad that it’s gone and back to Windows 7?  Yup.

Here’s the hardware we’re dealing with today:

We’re playing with a Dell Inspiron 1121, also known as a Dell 11z.  The specs are:

  • Intel Core i3 ULV
  • 64 bit Capable
  • 6GB RAM
  • 128 GB Samsung 470 SSD (90GB free space)
    • (Upgraded RAM and SSD)
  • 11″ Screen w/a built-in Sprint WiMAX 4G card

For those who know me, this is the laptop you see me with at conferences and such.  Pretty light, easily transported and with the upgraded SSD and RAM, fairly snappy for what I need it to do:

  • Email (trying Postbox right now, since 99% of my email accounts are Gmail based)
  • Internet Stuff (Social Media, Reddit, etc…)
  • Blogging/Note taking (Evernote, Windows LiveWriter)
  • Light BI Development, mainly web based or via RDC.  But with local installs of SAP Visual Intelligence & SAP Dashboard Designer.
  • Content Creation (Presentations, PDFs, MS Office, etc…)

That’s about it.  A light to medium duty notebook, mainly for internet-ing and making stuff.  In no way is it meant to be a hard-core development machine.  So, I thought that this PC would be a natural candidate for a Windows 8 upgrade.  The majority of my content is stored in Dropbox, so a quick backup and I was off to upgrade.  I documented my upgrade process, as well as the Windows 8 ‘impression’ notes I made along the way. You can find these notes on Page 2 of this blog.

I won’t bore you with the list of differences between Windows 7 and Windows 8- countless blogs and articles are out there for your reading pleasure.  I have three main reasons for going back:

  1. Desktop/Metro app switching.  Chrome- some features only work in desktop mode.
  2. Wireless connectivity.  Or lack of consistency.
  3. Sleep mode.  Lack of consistency.  Sensing a theme?

Ok, maybe you can chalk up #1 to a lack of familiarity with Windows 8. But after a solid three months of use, I never could get used to the whole Metro vs Desktop setup.  I also wasn’t a fan of having two apps installed for the same thing.  Evernote is a great example- at launch, the Metro app wasn’t a full featured client.  You needed to use the Desktop version to do real rich text formatting and features. A Metro app finally came, but it still wasn’t as fully featured.  GMail? When you opened Metro Chrome, you would get a popup that Voice calling was only supported in the Desktop.  And I never got to really use IE10, as the ‘cool’ Metro version only was available if you chose IE as your default browser.

Reasons #2 and #3 seemed to broach a theme.  Like any new OS, there will be times where behaviors aren’t fully consistent. And maybe since I wasn’t using a PC that was ‘certified’ for Windows 8, I shouldn’t have expected it to play nice all the time. But when the OS is set to go to sleep when you close the lid and you close the lid, it should sleep.  Not Windows 8. Even after updates, it would work ONCE and then I had to always press the power button.  This got old, REALLY quickly.  Same for the Wifi.  It would disconnect instantly at sleep and take FOREVER (scientifically proven, of course) to reconnect when woken up.

There were also the little things that drove me crazy: Having to use my Hotmail address as my login token.  (The only reason I still have a working Hotmail account is that I use it for Xbox Live!) The ‘Messaging’ app that like to announce that I had a Facebook message come in, but then wouldn’t load any more of the conversation if I took focus off it.  The fact that in Metro, I had to CTRL-C to see the time, as the clock was only on the Desktop side of the house.  And the fact that my Desktop picture was only on the Desktop and not the Metro side.

At the end of the day, Windows 8 wasn’t worth the frustration and learning curve.  If I had to buy a new Ultrabook, I would make sure that it had a touchscreen.  I kept feeling like I should just touch the Live Tiles.  As touchscreens become more prevelent and apps all become Metro native, I think Windows 8 will find its place.  But right now, it’s just not the right OS for my needs.

<Geeky installation & application notes follow on Page 2>

When worlds collide- Enterprise Technology & FPS Gaming

I found the two videos below on the ‘Montage Parodies’ subreddit (section of Reddit.com) and tweeted out the links for laughs.  I received some funny responses and retweets, but most people didn’t quite understand what was so funny.  So, I figured I’d take a minute to explain why these made me laugh and want to share.

The background for these clips revolve around video games, specifically first person shooters like the Call of Duty series. Gamers would take their ‘favorite’ moments, add some catchy music and post their montage online.  Naturally, montages became a competition in themselves, with more people adding complex transitions and special effects. And with that kind of competition occurring, parody was soon to follow. The parodies usually included mixing gaming clips (good and bad moments), techno or dubstep music, random gamer shouting and of course, silly pictures flashed in. Usually things like snack foods and energy drinks popular with gamers were included in the parodies. The more ridiculous, the better.  A Train simulator montage? Sure- Go for it. (Caution: if you’re susceptible to flash induced seizures, I would steer away.  Plus, it is REALLY LOUD and has some PG-13 language.)    

Now, these particular parodies are obviously geared towards SAP professionals who are also gamers (like myself).  That’s why I found them an fun way to mix work and play. And definitely shareable.  Plus, what SAP-er wouldn’t love a video with a flash of Bill McDermott’s awesomeness! 

SAPVisi Hard Mode

Spreadsheets: Minimal Scopes

If you’re a gamer (casual or serious) or just want a good laugh- take a second to check out these videos. (Remember to wear headphones if you’re in the office!)  To the person responsible- thanks for the laughs!  I enjoyed the funnies about SAPVisi and ‘spreadsheets’.  It’s nice to take swipe at our day jobs sometimes!

Amazon Kindle Fire HD: First Impressions

I've been wanting a smaller form factor tablet for a while. And when I got a couple of Amazon Gift Cards and a coupon for Christmas, I decided to take the plunge. I was torn for a long time between the Kindle Fire HD 7 (KFHD) and the Nexus 7. For me, the KFHD ended up winning the debate for these reasons:

  1. I am an Amazon Prime member. This gives me access to the large library of included free streaming movies and television available to US-based Prime members.
  2. The KFHD has a MicroUSB port. I have used this port and a $2 cable from Monoprice.com to play the above mentioned media to my HD television. With my new Sony sound bar, the output looks good and sounds great.
  3. The price. At the end of the day (using giftcards and coupons), I got the KFHD for $30. I did just spend an additional $35 on a SquareTrade Accidental Damage warranty, since I plan on not really using a case for the KFHD.

So, why the 7-inch form factor. To be honest, I was looking for a 'one-handed' media consumption and internet browsing device. Something light and simple that I can use from my armchair and throw in the front pocket of a bag easily. I have been looking at the iPad Mini, but really couldn't justify the cost for a non-essential device. But for less than $200 MSRP, one could theoretically save enough pocket change to pick a KFHD up. Here are my thoughts:

Stock Apps:

If you aren't technologically savvy, a KFHD with the stock apps and downloads from Amazon's App Store may be enough. Especially if you're a reader and are just reading books, checking email and Facebook and doing some light web surfing. Amazon's Silk browser isn't really living up to the hype, though. You can open up attachments in the standard version of OfficePro. But if you're a bit more technologically astute, I would recommend 'sideloading'.

Sideloading:

Sideloading is the process of manually loading an app (called an APK) to the KFHD. Change your KFHD's settings to allow for third party apps, install a file manager app from the Amazon App Store (I like ES File Explorer) and you're all set. This is how my KFHD has really become quite useful. Using the XDA developer forums and Reddit's Kindle Fire subreddit, I was able to discover the 'Google Apps' zip file. This has allowed me to get a KFHD Gmail client, Google Maps, Google Talk and most importantly- Chrome on my KFHD. I was also able to sideload a number of apps that I use daily on my iPad, including Dropbox, Zite and Wunderlist. So far, the only hiccup has been that for the Google apps, you must turn off the notifications or else the Kindle's status bar will disappear. A few simple clicks and that's taken care of. I use the stock email app to alert me and head over to Gmail in order to do any real emailing.

(My Kindle Fire HD 7 home screen. Google Chrome? Front and Center!)

 

App selection:

The reviews are correct- the Amazon App Store is definitely limited compared with Google Play or the Apple App Store. But that's OK by me- the KFHD isn't my main tablet. If there's an app I really need and not on the Amazon App Store- I'll try and find the apk online. If I can't find a trustworthy APK, I'll fire up my old Droid X and download the app from Google Play. Then, I back it up to the Droid X's SD card, connect it to my computer and copy it over to the KFHD. A few extra steps? Sure. But I saved myself a bunch of money and I get to tinker a bit with all those devices.

So, I've got some apps on it- what am I actually doing with the KFHD? Pretty much what I said at the beginning- it's my armchair companion. Instead of having my iPad open and on my lap while watching TV, I have the KFHD. It fits nicely in one hand to read a book, much like my Kindle Keyboard. The screen is quite nice and is easier on the eyes (resolution-wise, that is) than my iPad 2. It's portable enough to just slip in a pouch with my MiFi and earbuds and take it with me. Much less bulky than carrying around my iPad in a case. The verdict is still out on the KFHD long-term, but as an Amazon Prime member- I am definitely taking advantage of the larger movie and TV ecosystem. I haven't changed my spending habits, though. I don't think a device is going to make me do that!

 

Next steps? I am thinking that once I get bored of the stock look and feel, it'll be time to start playing with 'rooting' the device. Perhaps I'll just root it to remove the carousel and run Fancy Widgets or even take the plunge and completely wipe it and replace with Cyanogenmod. But the moral of the story is, the Kindle Fire HD 7 isn't really a bad option as an additional media consumption or companion device. Would I use it as replacement for my iPad? Nope. Would I use it as an optional or secondary device? Absolutely. And so far, the KFHD is doing a pretty good job at it.

And yes, I posted this via Blogsy on my iPad. But it was written (in Evernote) on my Dell Inspiron 11z, which I used to call a netbook, but it really isn't anymore. I'm thinking that a “what's in my bag” entry should be next on the blog roll!

 

London 2012 Summer Olympics Travel Diary

[Author’s note: This is going to be a long entry, but is separated by day.  Olympic days are on pages 6, 7 and 9. Picture slideshows/links are on page 11.]

After over a year of planning, saving and scheming, we finally got on a plane to London a few days prior to the Opening Ceremony of the 2012 London Summer Olympics.  We were lucky enough to get tickets via the ticket lottery held by the official US ticket seller, CoSport.  The lottery gave us the chance to purchase tickets to the events we attended.  We totally missed that we had to buy separate Olympic Park tickets, since we didn’t have any events that took place.  But luckily for us, we have good friends living in the UK who were able to help.  A big, public thank you to Esther Sheffield for bailing us out!!

We had tickets to three Olympic events: Women’s Volleyball, Women’s Gymnastics and Table Tennis.  In addition, we had admissions tickets to the Olympic Park for one session and the Men’s Road Race took place on the Brompton Road, right outside our flat.  That made for 5 total events in 8 days. Busy, but hopefully not so busy that we don’t enjoy our vacation.  Without further ado, I present the Loranca Family “What we did on our summer vacation” essay.