Republish: Job Interviews: What is Normalization?

Traveling today, going from the UK to Belgium. Fingers crossed that the trip is smooth.

I’m republishing Job Interviews: What is Normalization? today for you to read.

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Daily Coping 20 May 2020

I started to add a daily coping tip to the SQLServerCentral newsletter and to the Community Circle, which is helping me deal with the issues in the world. I’m adding my responses for each day here. All my coping tips are under this tag.

Today’s tip is to find out about the values or traditions of another culture.

I’m going to Belgium today. I’ve been in Cambridge all week and my wife is flying over this morning. We’re meeting at Heathrow for the trip over to Brussels. We’ll be spending the weekend somewhere in Belgium. Last fall we were in Brussels for a few days. This time, I think we might travel a bit.

A few things I learned last year:

  • French and Dutch are spoken there. More French near Brussels, more Dutch closer to the Netherlands.
  • They love chocolate and make some great treats.
  • The beer is amazing there. It’s thick, rich, and even my wife drank some (she typically doesn’t like beer).
  • Comics are respected, and Tintin is from Belgium. I read that as a kid.
  • Lots of museums, arts, and some great architecture in their cities.

I was reading a few different articles on culture and history (Britannica, Wikipedia, Everyculture).It seems that gastronomy, comic strips, painting dominate their cultural arts. It also seems that different parts of Belgium hold onto their own culture, based on language. Different sections of the country educate their children in their language.

It’s also the diamond capital of the world. I remember scenes from Snatch. Perhaps we’ll do a little window shopping there.

Belgium in some sense seems like a European city. Lots of walking and biked, industry that imports raw materials, produces finished goods, and trades with the rest of the EU. An old area that has been through rule by various different groups before getting their independence in 1830. Not that long ago. However, much of the country feels older, with a rich history of architecture and art. They value the arts and have free training in night schools for artists and musicians. I wish we did more of that.

Some traditions:

  • In Binche, people don wax masks and pelt the crowds with oranges.
  • They have a second Santa, Black Pete
  • Trick or treating on Old Year’s Day.
  • Fish in wine in Geraardsbergen at the Krakelingen festival.
  • Malmedy bakes a giant omelet every August, with 10,000 eggs.

I really enjoyed my last trip and am looking forward to this one.

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Daily Coping 19 May 2022

I started to add a daily coping tip to the SQLServerCentral newsletter and to the Community Circle, which is helping me deal with the issues in the world. I’m adding my responses for each day here. All my coping tips are under this tag.

Today’s tip is to listen to a favorite piece of music and remember what it means to you.

I’m going old school today, partially because I’m old, partially because I ran across this in some random mix that I picked on Spotify.

Red Barchetta was a song I heard early  in high school. I loved the slow start and build into an upbeat song. I also loved the lyrics that talk about a journey in a car out in the country.

I was dying to get my driver’s license and have the freedom to go where I wanted when. At the time I road my bike through a couple miles of fields and farms to see friends, and I got frequent lifts from my Mom to places. However, I wanted to go to more places on my terms.

In the years after I started driving, I’ve listened to various Rush songs while driving, and this one always gives me memories of the trips I’ve made in a car. Back and forth from the University of Virginia to home in Virginia Beach. Trips to the Outer Banks to enjoy the water surfing or windsurfing. Driving across country a few times.

I enjoy driving and seeing new places. Now with the Tesla, I enjoy cruising on the highway and letting the car do some of the work and having a chance to look around a bit at the world around me.

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The General Database Platform

It’s been a decade-plus of the Not-Only-SQL (NoSQL) movement where a large variety of specialized database platforms have been developed and sold. It seems that there are so many different platforms for data stores that you can find one for whatever specialized type of data you are working with. However, is that what people are doing to store data in their applications?

I saw this piece on the return to the general-purpose database, postulating that a lot of the NoSQL database platforms have added additional capabilities that make them less specialized and more generalized. I’ve seen some of this, just as many relational platforms have added features that compete with one of the NoSQL classes of databases. The NoSQL datastores might be adding SQL-like features because some of these platforms are too specialized, and the vendors have decided they need to cover a slightly wider set of use cases.

It also could be that some of the features of the relational database, which are certainly a general-purpose data store, are demanded by customers. I personally think that many problems are solved well by the RDBMSes out there,  and if you need something specific, then add on a NoSQL document, graph, time-series, or other type of database for some part of your application.

A lot of organizations have moved to using multiple data stores in applications. I see it more and more from customers I deal with, often because there is a specialized need, like Redis for caching, that just outperforms the main database for a certain function. As long as it’s easy to integrate, why not use a second database platform in your application?

I don’t know that you want to keep adding specialized systems, however. As the article notes: “the overhead today of having to learn and interact with multiple databases has become more burden than boon.” That can certainly be the case when there are a lot of platforms and your staff changes on a regular basis. We’ve seen this become a burden when there are too many versions of a database platform. Supporting these is hard and learning about all the features is a challenge for developers. Building expertise in many areas is sometimes very difficult for an organization.

My guess is that the future will continue to be applications that use one data store, but the trend is away from this. Especially as more organizations start to use the cloud, I suspect a lot of companies will use a specialized data store for some part of their data. They’ll also be more likely to use a second platform for a data warehouse or analysis platform. With cloud vendors building easier data transfer capabilities, like Synapse Link, I do expect more customers to take advantage of these and use a second, specialized platform where it makes sense.

I like the idea of specialized platforms and systems. I do think that there are some problems that are not well suited to being solved by relational structures. However, I also think that for a lot of critical transactional systems, it’s hard to get away from a relational store.

Steve Jones

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