Slicing and Dicing

This piece was originally published on Aug 12, 2009.

I like music, often listening on headphones while I’m working. We often have an iPod in the car when traveling and take turns picking songs, which prevents arguments and lets us all get a feel for what the rest of the family listens to. I’ve even heard some interesting songs that way that I might not have heard otherwise. My son also has a Zune that he uses at night and while cutting grass, and while he likes picking his songs, he’s also used the FM radio quite a bit to listen to a local station he likes, getting a wider variety of music than he otherwise might hear..

Recently Apple announced that they were looking to re-invent the album with the release of liner notes and booklets along with music. It looks like a way to give more value to consumers, and perhaps convince them to buy whole albums instead of particular songs. I think it’s interesting, and I am one of the few that misses browsing through albums and seeing the cover art that used to go with them. CD liners notes aren’t the same, and digital downloads seem far removed. For those of you that don’t remember what an album is, I’ve included a photo 😉

I remember awhile back the AC/DC released a new album only at Wal-Mart, specifically because they thought that the album deserved to be kept alive, and they didn’t like singles being sold. They felt it reduced the value of the experience. I can see that point of view, and some record company executives think that the iTunes model of singles is hurting the business.

I think this isn’t just a music issue, but more and more a digital information issue. There are lots of companies and business models that depend on bundling things together in order to grow value. In fact, a lot of what we do as database people is find ways to put information together and get more value. There might be some minimum effort (and cost) required to do so, and if we had to slice and dice each section of information up and sell it separately, many pieces of data might not be worth selling or even gathering.

Think of television. If the Golf channel had to be purchased separately, it might not exist. But by bundling the Food channel, the Golf channel and a few more in with other selections, they can all get a slice of the revenue and find ways to survive. The same thing might happen with data marts in your company. The inventory mart might not be able to justify its existence if it had to be built separately at its own cost, but if it’s a spin-off of a larger data warehouse, the incremental cost can exist.

In fact, many IT departments might have problems justifying their costs if they had to exist as a separate entity. We might see more outsourced IT companies if that was the case. By building them into the company and absorbing the cost, the company gets some benefits and synergies that they might not get from an outsourced environment.

I am not sure if iTunes is bad for the music business, or if albums are good or bad, but I do like that the model exists and companies are trying to evolve it to work better. I hope that other digital sources of information remember that they don’t just exist to server the market today, but they need to evolve and find ways to server it better in the future.

Steve Jones

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