Commercial Open Source Appliance by Sun and Greenplum

The online article Sun and Greenplum Launch Commercial Open Source Data Warehouse Appliance for Business Intelligence by announced the use of Solaris 10 OS and Bizgres MPP "to deliver a turnkey appliance capable of analyzing hundreds of terabytes of business data at a better price-performance than virtually any product on the market". It sounds really neat (and we’d love to play with such an appliance &#59;D) but as I read the article, I couldn’t help but wonder if the market is ready for it. Yes, there is a lot of buzz about Open Source BI right now but are enterprises really investing on new infrastructure and technology?

OSCON 2006

OSCon 2006 started today. For a variety of reasons, we had to cancel our plans to be there. But being very interested in the news from OSCon, we found the best was to keep track is through the Technorati Tag...

OSBI Book Status

The Open Source Business Intelligence Book, as originally conceived, is dead. Despite the transparency of the blogosphere, we don't feel the need to go into the details as to why. The Open Source Business Intelligence research project, blog, wiki and lens, will continue, and improve, without the distractions and roadblocks posed by the book project.

We do want to share some of the things that we have learned during our year long attempt to have our book published.

The traditional process of publishing a book doesn't serve the needs of the technology industry. Joe Wikert, in his "A Book Publisher's Blog", discusses many of the issues. A simple summary would be that it simply takes too long; by the time a book is accepted and published, it is, in many cases, out of date.

One lesson that keeps coming up over the years, is that every partnership, every business arrangement must be in writing, with as many details and contingencies thought out as is humanly possible. Until everyone is willing to put things in writing, you aren't doing business.

Some large publishing houses are hopeful that eBooks will be the answer for their technical book sales woes. But as long as the model is the traditional publishing model, the problems aren't addressed. Whether the end product is a static eBook or a static physical book, books sales will continue to slide.

Our frustrations with attempting to use traditional methods, and our learning experience with online publishing platforms, as well as our use of various eBook systems is causing us to reconsider our formulation of the TeleInterActive Press, with its blogs, podcasts, wikis, surveys, CMS and document management systems. What would other authors want? What do consumers need? How must the publishing industry change? How will all of this come together into a viable new publishing model to make technical publications relevant, immediate, easily updated and convenient?

We'll see as we continue to develop the OSBI wiki, this blog and related lens, surveys, and total content/document management, all in the context of researching other book topics.


We've been rethinking our podcasting strategy and hardware - mostly due to the poor sound quality of our previous podcasts. We also realize that we want to podcast on more than just open source topics, so "Open Source Conversations from the Open Source Café doesn't cut it.

Merienda in Tagalog [via Spain] and Merenda in Italian, mean snack or the small dishes that make up the snack, such as might be served in an Enoteca. Podcasts are very much the same, a small dish for the mind, to be taken in hand, and consumed on the run, or savored as you while away the time at your favorite wine bar, enoteca, caré or caffé. So, Meri^enda will be the name and tag for our podcasts going forward.

We did some web research, received recommendations from friends who are podcasting, and advice from Mike at Manor Music, Inc. and have begun investing in some podcasting gear [Note that links go to our Amazon store].

This gives us the capability to record directly to MP3, for quick podcasts from the field, the ability to do higher quality recordings, to roam around an audience, and even to record off the phone or skype or computer. We have some podcast plans for the summer, so keep a look out for Meri^enda. Enjoy.

Open Source Effect

Recently, Clarise and I attended the Churchill Club Executive Roundtable "The Open Source Effect". The panelists were

It was the best panel I've attended, primarily because of the moderator, Sarah Lacy of BusinessWeek. She asked great questions, knew her subjects, kept the panelists going, and made the discussion very lively.

The Churchill Club podcasts its events, through ZDNet, but, if history serves as a guide, it will be several months before the MP3 file is posted.

The overall impression that I got from the discussion, is that Open Source is still waiting to happen in terms of real penetration into IT shops. Linux, especially Red Hat, and the Apache web server, are pretty much there. JBoss application server has a strong market share. Databases are likely the next infrastructure area that will open up to open source [for example, MySQL, has certain niche penetration]. Applications are still a long way from acceptance, and much of the penetration of open source into an IT shop is still by stealth. The CIOs are awakening to the fact that they have open source solutions as the underlying software for some of their infrastructure and some of their projects, but many haven't made a deliberate move towards open source solutions, and many don't have an open source strategy as yet.

Actually, a comment by David Roux, who spoke at a recent OracAlumni event, really struck home during the Churchill Club roundtable. David said that open source is simply the realization that savvy customers don't pay the large software licensing fees anyway, with 80% discounts being readily available, with 90% discounts being negotiated. David may be right, one can see this in the ever increasing percentage of revenue coming from services at IBM, Oracle, Sun and other enterprise software OEMs. From this, I would conclude that, with the barrier to entry for new enterprise software being so high [enormous cost of change over for the customer, or costs for development for a proprietary model OEM] the only new database and application software companies that have a chance to succeed, may need to use open source licensing and explore business models based on those licenses.

An interesting point of discussion centered around where the market for open source really segmented. Is it the large organization or the small and medium enterprise (SME)? Will it ever take hold in the US, as it has in other countries? One comment by Stuart was that this [open source] stuff is just too hard for the SME. But a counter by Kim, was that the VARs trusted by the SME really make the decision. The ability to implement open source solutions is the service that is most sought.

Andy and Marc had many, very interesting opinions. I think that you'll need the podcast to really do them justice, though. :>> So, keep checking the Churchill Club list of podcasts to see when it gets posted.

Hosting of open source solutions for SME never came up, nor did open source BI specifically. The microphone never came my way, so I wasn't able to ask those questions. We did get to speak with Andy afterwards. He's very engaging, and was very supportive of our interest in OSBI and EnterpriseDB. We hope to have a podcast focusing on EnterpriseDB by the end of this summer. Stay tuned.

Open Source BI Surveys

Two colleagues have recently pointed us to two different surveys concerning Open Source Business Intelligence.

Christian Donner is running a survey in support of his upcoming talk at the June Enterprise Open Source Conference in New York.

Donner OSBI PHPsurveyor

The President of the PMI recently pointed us to this survey by the Cutter Consortium

Cutter Consortium OSBI KeySurvey

Christian's survey is a quick 4 (or 5 depending on your answer to 4) questions on use of various BI tools. The Cutter survey is more comprehensive, but can still be completed in well under an half-hour.

Please help expand the statsitical base on using open source business intelligence and fill out these surveys.

Update: We've added a module to our OSBI Lens to list surveys covering open source projectsfor business intelligence solutions. If you know of, or are running one, please let us know via the comments here, and we'll add it to the list.

Building a Sun Fire SC RJ-45 to RS-232C DB-9F Adapter

As we mentioned on receiving the Sun Fire T2000, one surprise was the need to use a terminal emulator to initialilly set-up the server through the system console port. Even more suprising was that it was still using a RJ-45 connector for the serial line, just like an old Dec VT100 terminal. Of course, we're not the only one to be so surprised.

Then the time came to plug it in. That’s where the trouble started: the machine doesn’t do any video-output at all. I know it’s not really necessary for a server box to have the latest and greatest in video acceleration hardware, but a most servers come with a MACH64 of some kind onboard so you can at least get up a text console without hassle. Not the Sun– it requires that you have a computer available with a serial connection. That’s all fine with me, I have such stuff anyway. But the serial connection for this uses an RJ-45 connector instead of the standard DB-9 one. And the only adapter I had for that didn’t seem to be the right one. Luckily I was able to fabricate my own...end quotation
-- » Sun Fire T2000

You can also find more links about this in Frostyland "Sun Fire T2000 Try and Buyers".

As we said previously, this isn't new for Sun, but it is a bit of a pain if you aren't set up as a Sun-centric data center. We used the hyperterminal terminal emulator that comes with WindowsXP on a laptop, and the RS-232C serial port [DB-9 male] on the back of the laptop. We did see available Cisco Console standard RJ-45 to USB cables. That should work as well.

If you don't have soldering irons or appropriate crimp tools, building your own is also painful, as Pins 4 & 5 from the Sun need to be spliced together to go into Pin 5 [all signal ground pins] of the DB-9 connector. If you don't have the right tools, one way to do this is to simply cut the wires for both pins 4 & 5 from the RJ-45 part of the adapter, strip some insulation off of the wire for pins 4 & 5 from the RJ-45 and off one of the pins that you cut off, and twist all three together, and push the pin into the hole for pin 5 of the DB-9F.

Interpreting the pin-out was a bit dicey as well, both for the Sun system console from the manual, and for the adapter that we bought. Doug, one of the owners of Strawflower Electronics in Half Moon Bay, helped us to figure out the color coding and pins of the RJ-45 half of the adapter that we bought. Of course, the pin-out for the Sun SC port and the stanadard RS-232C determined what pin to push into what hole of the DB-9F half of the adapter.

Here's what we came up with, and it worked wonderfully well - for the entire three minutes that you actually need it before you can switch to the system console network port and use telnet over ethernet.

Sun Fire SC RJ-45 to DB-9 Adapter
Click to view original size

In addition to the pin-outs on the picture, here they are in a table.

Signal | RJ-45 Sun SC | DB-9F RS-232C | Color
RD Pin 3 Pin 2 Black
TD Pin 6 Pin 3 Yellow
DTR Pin 7 Pin 4 Brown
GND Pin 4 Pin 5 Red
GND Pin 5 Pin 5 Green
DSR Pin 2 Pin 6 Orange
RTS Pin 8 Pin 7 White
CTS Pin 1 Pin 8 Blue
Not Used
Pin 1
Not Used
Pin 9

We don't show it, but when you twist Red and Green together to connect Pins 4 & 5 with Pin 5 for the signal ground, you might want to put a bit of electrical tape around the bare wire. And you may want to close up the adapter housing, or not, as you only need the thing for less than five minutes.

Don't forget to read "Powering On the System" in the Installation Guide, 819-2546-10. Get all the docs.

sc> poweron
SC Alert: Host System has Reset
sc> console –f
Enter #. to return to ALOM.

Which lead to a bunch of system messages and the ok prompt

ok show-disks
a) /pci@7c0/pci@0/pci@2/pci@0,2/LSILogic,sas@4/disk
Enter Selection, q to quit: q
ok boot [use the value from above]

Which leads to more system messages...

and then the console login:

Now install some software and go have some fun. :>> We're starting with mock source systems to use in our Open Source solutions for BI testing, and then the open source databases and software for the ODS, data warehouse and tools.


The Sun Microsystems Sun Fire T2000 "try and buy" server arrived today.

Sun Fire T2000 arrives
Click to view original size

Opening the box brought joy to this rainy day...

Opening the box
Click to view original size

It comes with Cat5 cables and rails and cable management...

Cable Management Assembly
Click to view original size

And instructions are printed right on the case...

T2000 Instructions
Click to view original size

It's a handsome machine...

Sun Fire Front
Click to view original size

But, no racks here, and shades of the past, at least 10 years past for both of us. That was the last time we had set up a SPARC server with SunOS from scratch. Our hosting service uses machines leased from a rack company, at NOCs in Los Angeles, Texas and Virginia - we've never seen them. Same with our test servers. Being TeleInterActive, we all work from home.

On first start-up you must access the beast through the server console port...

T2000 SC Port
Click to view original size

Though you can use a terminal emulator on a PC [anyone remember hyperterminal?], but...

Er, no RJ-45 serial port here
Click to view original size

So, Clarise and I spent the rest of the day hunting for a RJ-45 to DB-9F gender bender, not at CompUSA, not at Radio Shack, but thankfully, I remembered Strawflower Electronics in Half Moon Bay, and yes...

RJ-45 to DB-9F adapter
Click to view original size

Now, let's see, where's there a pin-out? On the Sun site, in a manual. Look for Table 1-3.

And we can find the RS-232 DB-9 pin-out, but tomorrow.

Somehow, I don't think a ranger without a sys admin background could have dealt with the requirement for terminal hooked up to the SC port. Nor do many such folk as Jonathon targets, have a rack system about.

And to answer a few of the comment questions - the offer applies to anyone interested - not just corporate customers. We don't care if you're an educator or a park ranger or a blogger or a physicist or a CIO - so long as you're in the market for the fastest/most efficient server on earth.end quotation
-- Jonathon Schwartz Niagara FREE TRIAL - Update

But, this is going to be very interesting as we test the open source solutions for BI on the open source Niagara. We can't wait to finish the set-up. We'll keep you posted.

Sun T2000 Try and Buy

It looks as though we've been accepted for Sun Microsystems' "Try and Buy" program. Yep, a free Niagra Server, as explained and updated by Jonathan Schwartz.

We received a quote today from Doris Hamel of Sun.

Here's a quote of the Try & Buy T2000, should you decide to purchase after the trial period.end quotation

Here's the specs and the price:

1 Config ID 4296652 Configuration: T20-104A-08GA2C 1 $8,295.00
1.1 T20-104A-08GA2C Sun Fire T2000 Server
4 core 1.0GHz UltraSPARC T1 processor,
8GB DDR2 memory (16 * 512MB DIMMs),
2 * 73GB 2.5" 10K rpm SAS hard disk drives,
1 DVDRO/CD-RW slimline drive,
2 (N+1) power supplies,
4 10/100/1000 ethernet ports,
1 serial port,
3 PCI-E slots,
2 PCI-X slots,
Solaris 10 and Java Enterprise System software
(Standard Configuration)
1 $8,295.00
1.2 X311L Localized Power Cord Kit North 2 N/C

We'll be using the Sun T2000 for testing of open source solutions for Business Intelligence, in support of our research both for our book project and for our strategic consulting services. We'll be reporting the results of our testing on this blog, the wiki and lens. We'll also be using Linux and Windows platforms as part of the testing. In addition to the performance and functional testing, we're also providing background information on the OSS BI projects. An example of which can be found in the series of podcasts that we just published with the folks at Pentaho. Part 3 also contains links to Part 1 and Part 2.

I also asked if Doris knew when the T2000 will be shipping? It will help in
our planning to know when to expect it. And it will help me contain my excitement at getting this new toy. :>> Clarise is pretty excited too.

Update: It looks like we'll have the machine by the end of March. April and May are going to be very busy.

Open Source Business Intelligence Squidoo Lens

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At the beginning, The Open Source Solutions Blog was a companion to the Open Source Solutions for Business Intelligence Research Project, and book. But back in 2005, we couldn't find a publisher. As Apache Hadoop and its family of open source projects proliferated, and in many ways, took over the OSS data management and analytics world, our interests became more focused on streaming data management and analytics for IoT, the architecture for people, processes and technology required to bring value from the IoT through Sensor Analytics Ecosystems, and the maturity model organizations will need to follow to achieve SAEIoT success. OSS is very important in this world too, for DMA, API and community development.

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