Blog

integration and implementation of technology-focused business solutions

When something goes wrong in IT

September 18th, 2018

It’s important to talk about the risk of a project up front. Many clients we meet with don’t like that part of the conversation. They think nothing could ever go wrong, but that’s not the reality of the situation.

Any number of things can change the scope of a project unexpectedly. In some cases, a part the customer thought was done by another vendor may be way more complicated than anyone ever imagined. Or even worse, it could be completely missing.

There are times when something doesn’t work like anyone thought it did work or should work, and you basically have to pull out all the wires and rewire it.

So how do you handle it when something does go wrong? When you run into that situation you talked about at the beginning with a client?

Not long ago, we ran into a situation like that. We picked up a project originally developed by another vendor. Once we got in there and started the work, we discovered it was a mess.

Some of the people we were working with in the organization weren’t surprised. Not because of the original vendor specifically, but because it’s part of the nature of any IT project.

However, when we sat down to talk with the client, they let us know we still couldn’t go over the budgeted amount.

Of course, we were willing to work within that. But when there are budget constraints, the scope of the project has to change. We weren’t approaching it trying to sell them on extending our services. We just needed to have a conversation about how to finish the project when that unexpected thing comes up.

When the unexpected happens, be open to talking through possible solutions. You may have to increase the budget to get what you originally wanted, but you may also be able to eliminate or delay certain features or functionality.

The point is, you have to make adjustments and have open communication. Talk through what moving forward on the project is actually going to look like. Because if you don’t have the conversation when the issue is first uncovered, it will be even more of a mess once you get to the end of the project or budget.

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Continual rollout of self-driving databases from Oracle

September 4th, 2018

Oracle continues to roll out features to its cloud-only product, Oracle Autonomous Database Cloud. Their patch process will roll out features on an ongoing basis to ensure the database is on self-driving mode.

Let’s look at some high points about these self-driving databases.

Updates

You’re going to get new features, improvements, and fixes much faster in the database world than you ever would in a car. Oracle has already announced that security patches will automatically be applied each quarter, which is much faster than most manually operated Oracle databases.

And when it comes time to upgrade or patch, the Autonomous Database can apply the real production workload on a test database to be sure there are no unexpected side effects.

Guarantee

Traditionally, Oracle has not been known to give guarantees. But with this product, they’re actually giving two of them.

First, they’re guaranteeing downtime is limited to 30 minutes a year, including maintenance. Second, they’re guaranteeing that they'll beat Amazon's price for AWS by 50%.

Need for DBA

Of course, just like a self-driving car still needs a driver, the Oracle Autonomous Database Cloud still needs a database administrator. However, the overall hours needed to perform routine DBA tasks will be greatly reduced.

Let’s say, for example, that you had ten database systems running in the cloud already. You would probably no longer need two database administrators for that, so one of those individuals could take on a new role or additional duties.

And if you have just one database administrator, this will free up their time to work on other projects. I can’t tell you how many times over the years I couldn’t work on a project because a third of my time was taken up with basic database administration tasks.

Routine tasks around performance, storage, and uptime will continue to be automated, which will eliminate many of those from a database administrator’s to-do list.

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Celebrating long-standing client relationships

August 21st, 2018

One of our clients recently canceled their contract with us. While we’re sad to see them go, we recognize that their business has changed in the time we’ve been working with them-more than a decade, actually.

This particular company was focused on IT services for public school systems and providing a way to keep everything running smoothly without the school system requiring an on-site IT staff. Schools have a lot of data. In the old days, all of the technology to store and process that data was on-premise in the building and had to be maintained by either a team of staff members or an outsourced company.

This client of ours launched a new service in the early 2000s that took all of that data and moved it off-site. Basically, it was a cloud-based software as a service (SaaS) long before we had labels for either of those things. They were frontrunners in that regard. And it was a multi-tenant database before that was normal, too. Each school only saw their own data, but it was all in the same system.

Our company was involved pretty early on in helping them design the database, then there was a short period where another company supported their database before we returned to providing that service. In the almost 20-year history of the company, there were only three database administrators that worked on that project.

That makes a big difference in consistency of a product. It also made it pretty seamless at the end of each school year when things needed to be closed out.

Today, there are a lot of competing systems out there, so this client decided to stop investing in that particular product and move on to other areas of innovation for them. As fast as technology is growing, even the greatest new idea doesn’t stay new for very long. Software as a service is an incredibly competitive field, and that’s a good thing really.

So while we’re always sad to lose a client, we’re also celebrating their long-running success in their industry and their recognition that it’s time to move on to other things.

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When moving to the cloud just makes sense

August 7th, 2018

One of our clients, the Oklahoma Public Employees Retirement System (OPERS), needed to buy some new hardware and do a hardware migration. Some changes in licensing requirements and the need to be in full compliance were motivating the switch. Their internal team priced out options for the hardware migration but also priced out options for moving to the cloud.

They got some pretty impressive pricing for moving the system to the cloud and felt like it was too good to refuse. They hadn’t really explored moving to the cloud before, so they didn’t know what it would cost until they priced it out.

They brought us in as an advisor to verify that the cloud-based resources they were looking at would be adequate. Before spending the money and taking the time to make the switch, they wanted to be sure we didn’t see any issues. And we didn’t.

This situation is a little bit like when you have to take an old car to the shop multiple times for expensive repairs and start to wonder if you should just buy a new car. And then you find out that new car is much cheaper than you ever imagined, plus it’s going to do everything you need it to do. Seems like an easy decision, right?

OPERS switched to what’s called IAAS and DAAS-infrastructure as a service and database as a service. They set up their web server infrastructure and initially thought they would have to pay for new database licenses, but then they learned they could simply transfer their existing licensing. It’s nice when initial perceptions of the cost of a project are way off once you’re really looking at the numbers. It doesn’t always happen, but it’s nice when it does.

Do you have an area where you’re hanging on to the old way because you assume the new way will be too expensive? Try pricing it out, and you might be surprised at how affordable some of the cloud-based options are. But like OPERS, be sure to consult an IT professional to ensure it’s the right move for your business.

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Oracle’s new autonomous database

July 17th, 2018

With the latest Oracle Database release (version 18c), there’s a cloud-only product available called Oracle Autonomous Database Cloud that allows for a more autonomous data warehouse. It’s not artificial intelligence really, but more of a self-monitoring and self-adjusting system.

Some of the hands-on tasks that a database administrator previously had to work on have now been automated. For example, if part of a database was slowing things down due to a bad disk, the database administrator would need to go in, move the data to another area, and restore the bad disk. Now that’s been automated along with many other tasks in this new system.

As this technology continues to evolve, it will certainly make things easier for database administrators and other IT administrators. There used to be a point in time where you had to intervene to let a database grow. Then they evolved to where they could grow more on their own. But you still had to have someone monitoring it to see when it got close to max storage, because it could only grow as long as you had adequate storage.

With this version being cloud-based, it will be interesting to see if it’s the beginning of cloud-only services for some databases. But regardless, it’s an interesting step to watch as they release a database that’s billed as being self-driving, self-securing, and self-repairing.

But what does that do to the database administrator’s job? No, it’s not going to eliminate the need for a database administrator. Instead, it’s going to allow them to do more with less time. They can focus on planning and strategy rather than spending their time keeping the database up and running. Yes, most database administrators are still going to monitor it and check what it’s doing, but it really will free up a lot of their time to focus on other priorities, and that’s a good thing.

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Oracle releases Apex 18c

July 3rd, 2018

At LSG Solutions, we’ve long been proponents of Oracle Apex software. Because of Apex’s low code concept, it allows for developers to produce applications much more quickly and without having to know all the specifics of HTML, CSS, Javascript, and other coding languages.

Apex first appeared as a product in 2004 with HTML-DB, and it’s continued to evolve and improve from that time. Back then, it wasn’t like the normal web apps we’re used to today, but it did allow power users to build their own reports without waiting for a developer.

The latest version is Apex 18c, which we will be introducing to some of our customers because of the new features it offers to them. As with any database release, it’s packed with new features, but some that stand out more than others. You can see a full list of features and release notes on the Oracle website.

One feature we’re excited about is the integration of JET charts into the database. It’s been an independent product in the past. As it offers a much better option for graphs, we’re happy to see it fully integrated.

One thing that’s definitely interesting about this release is that Oracle changed their versioning sequence for this one. Previously, they had used a sequential versioning approach where the biggest number was the most current version.

Now they jumped to 18 to adopt the year of release as part of their versioning strategy. Had they kept their sequential numbering, this version would be 12, so that’s a pretty big difference. Oracle says the new releases will occur on a more regular cycle always designated by the last two digits of the year of release.

This version is available both as installed software and in the cloud, so it provides flexible options for customers who want to implement it in their current setup.

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Flexible options for Oracle Database Appliance

June 19th, 2018

We’ve long been a proponent of Oracle hardware and software and have many clients utilizing it. Many years ago, Oracle didn’t have a lot of flexibility in their offerings to meet different client needs and different budgets, but it was still a great option when it fit the need.

In recent years, they’ve significantly expanded their offerings and have adapted to the changing needs of their target market, which is great. One recent example is the new Oracle Database Appliance offerings, which include X7-2S, X7-2M, and X7-2HA. The disk capacity ranges from 16TB to 300TB.

Back when they first released Oracle Database Appliance, they offered 2S, 2M, and a third one that didn’t have a letter. So a lot of tech industry people joked that the third one must be 2L, or large. Well, now the third one has a letter identification, too. The HA stands for high capacity, and it definitely fits!

So which one is right for you? Well, that depends.

The X7-2S can be a good fit for both production environments and development environments. It has less memory than the others, but it still has lots of memory.

The X7-2M has more memory overall, but that’s really its primary advantage. In reviewing the specs, I don’t see anything else about the medium option that offers a competitive advantage above the small except in terms of storage space.

Either of these options make the most sense for a customer who has already invested in Oracle database. The purpose of this hardware is to make data going out and data coming in as efficient as possible. It’s fast, and that matters for many people.

I’ll be honest-I’m a believer in Oracle products. If it were my money, that’s where I’d spend it. But, I also recognize it’s not the right fit for everyone. You need to know how to set it up and support it (or work with someone who can help you do that). But if you have that part covered, it’s a great option for people who need this level of server.

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Statewide contract for as-needed IT services

June 5th, 2018

LSG Solutions was recently awarded a statewide contract to provide information technology services for state agencies and affiliates on an as-needed basis.

This contract originated with a request for proposal from the Office of Management and Enterprise Services (OMES). OMES is responsible for key functions at the state level, including central purchasing, central accounting and reporting, employee group insurance, human capital management, budget and policy services, and information services.

While OMES has technology staff assigned to various state agencies through their information services division, they recognize that periodic needs to augment staff can occur, especially with the complexity of state agencies and their affiliates.

With this contract, LSG Solutions will be able to augment the OMES staff as needed for a variety of tasks, including special projects or covering routine responsibilities when other staff members are unavailable.

Within our proposal, we provided proof of our past and current experience in multiple disciplines outlined in the request, including the following:

  • IT Administrative Services
  • Project Management
  • Application Development and Support (includes Systems Analysis)
  • Enterprise Architecture (Business & Technical Architecture)
  • Database Administration
  • Data Warehouse Architecture
  • Technical Grant Writing

It certainly comes as no surprise that multiple information technology service companies responded to this request for proposal from the state for a total of 12 responses. We have a long history of providing quality technology services to the state of Oklahoma, and we are pleased to be awarded this additional contract with the state.

Our services will include both on-premise and cloud environments, primarily for Microsoft and Oracle products, although our services can extend to other technologies as well.

The list of potential organizations we could help through this contract is rather lengthy, as the definition of state agencies and affiliates includes boards, commissions, counties, cities, school districts, hospitals, colleges, universities, and more.

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Managed services on cloud-based systems

May 15th, 2018

One question we get from time to time is whether or not our managed services work the same on cloud-based IaaS-Infrastructure as a Service-and as a PaaS-Platform as a Service-set ups as they do on on-site hardware.

The short answer is yes, they do work the same. It doesn’t affect our services or offerings at all.

We’re already remote anyway, so we’re agnostic to the location of the hardware to do everything we need to do in the first place. The hardware is just in a different data center.

We actually set all of our managed services up with that in mind more than a decade ago. Back in the 2000s, we had a client move all their hardware to a data center that had the bandwidth they needed.

At the time, the “cloud” wasn’t a term that was being used. It was known as a hosted solution in a data center. The data center provided all the telecommunications and security their system needed. The cloud has just taken it to another level with virtualization technology.

We were able to provide managed services remotely for that client, and it didn’t matter that their hardware had moved. Ever since, our managed services have been location agnostic.

You might wonder if cloud-based solutions will take care of your database and software as well. They won’t.

Sure, the system administrator piece is offloaded to your cloud provider. That could be Amazon, it could be Microsoft, or it could be Oracle. They’ll take care of your physical hardware, your operating system. But above that in the stack is your responsibility, including your database and software.

Of course, below that in the stack, you still have to hold the cloud provider accountable. If there are any real issues, you still need technical minds conversing with the cloud resource provider to determine what’s going on.

Our managed services still operate just like they would on servers you have on-site. It’s a seamless process for us and doesn’t affect our offerings at all.

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The cloud versus hardware solutions

May 1st, 2018

Not long ago we worked with a state government agency here in Oklahoma that was looking at either upgrading their hardware systems or moving to the cloud.

Initially, they were going down the traditional route, which is procuring more hardware. However, they had a forward-thinking IT director that called Oracle to see what the options were for a cloud-based solution.

The system they went with is known both as an IaaS-Infrastructure as a Service-and as a PaaS-Platform as a Service. Because of how seamless and affordable it is, it was a great choice for their needs.

There were three major reasons it was a good fit.

First, when the quote from Oracle came back, the IT director was rather surprised. It was going to be a lot more affordable to move everything to the cloud than it was to procure the new hardware and have their system administrator set everything up.

They even looked at the cost over a number of years, and it still saved them money.

Second, the physical location was important to them. They were actually working on moving some of their hardware off-site to a state-wide data center. So if they had opted to go the traditional route, they would have needed to set all the equipment up on-site initially, then eventually would have moved it to that data center. The cloud-based solution alleviated any risk and concerns with moving the hardware to a new location.

Third, their usage was going to be a public-facing app. It actually has to be exposed over the internet to users, and those users are everywhere physically. It’s not like they’re just on one intranet. So a public cloud solution was perfect for them in that regard as well.

What we found in this case is that this particular technology was a great option for moving to the cloud. It was very Oracle-centric. It used the Oracle Database Standard Edition, as well as Oracle Application Express. Other solutions with third-party technology can be moved to the cloud as well, but this case was very Oracle-oriented.

While there are times that physical hardware makes more sense than a cloud solution, it's true those cases are become more and more rare.

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(405)285-2500
info@lsgsolutions.com