Enterprise Software in the Cloud: Why We Chose Azure as our First PaaS Platform

By Terence Craig

SW in the cloudI’ve been absent from the blog too long, but if you’ve been following my colleagues (Mary and Marilyn) postings, you’ll see it’s been a very busy and fruitful time at PatternBuilders.  While I’m still overdue for the next segment of the architecture blog series, I thought I would take a break and talk a bit about some of the things we learned as we moved our product and business model to Microsoft Azure.

As someone who has worked with Microsoft technology and partnered with them off and on over the last two decades (even flirting with going to work for them a couple of times), the most surprising discovery was how serious Microsoft has become about the cloud, open source, and being an active and supportive partner for startups.  As many of you who have been around as long as I have will no doubt remember, this is a very different, some would say revolutionary, move for the world’s most powerful proprietary software company.  We had some concerns when we became members of Microsoft’s Azure Startup program BizSpark Plus and subsequently the more exclusive BizSpark One, but it has turned out to be a great experience for us on both the business and technical level. (more…)

May 4, 2013 at 6:10 pm 4 comments

Boston Marathon Bombings: How To Help

By Mary Ludloff

Sadly, this week we were reminded once again of the fragility of life and the resilience of the human spirit. Terence, myself, and the PatternBuilders team send our condolences to all who were impacted by this tragedy. For those who would like to help, donations can be made to:

A number of resources can also be found here.

Much as it pains me to say this, beware of bogus Boston Marathon charity websites. Melanie Hicken of CNNMoney offers some advice on what to look out for.

Finally, there have been many moving tributes made by people via blogs, twitter, and other media sources. We leave you with this simple statement projected on the wall of the Brooklyn Academy of music:

Boston Marathon 2

April 17, 2013 at 4:04 pm Leave a comment

Big Data Project: Start with a Question that You Want to Answer

A top-level view of our data project over a series of posts.

By Marilyn Craig

Start with a questionWelcome to the second post of a series on a big data project that will (Mary and I hope) provide clarity and insights on how to successfully complete a big data initiative. Now, just in case you’ve forgotten the first two rules in our Big Data Playbook, I am going to repeat them here because they play into our topic of the day which is all about “starting” your big data project:

Rule #1: Big Data IS NOT rocket science.

Yes, far too often those lucky internal folks tasked with managing a big data project fall into the trap of data science paralysis which is similar in thought to analysis paralysis. By this I mean that there are so many moving pieces to capture, so many technology decisions to make, so many skill positions that need to be filled, so many fill-in-the-blanks that need to get done that you never actually get started which leads me to our second rule:

Rule #2: Garbage in, garbage out.

(more…)

April 3, 2013 at 5:39 pm 5 comments

Big Data Project: Let’s Start at the Very Beginning—The Big Data Playbook

By Mary Ludloff

big data playbookIn my last post, I wrote about the three V’s of big data and why there are only three. There has been a messaging pile-on that seems to be happening in the big data space that even I, long-time marketer, find disconcerting. So, over the course of a number of posts, my colleague, Marilyn Craig, and I are going to de-mystify a big data project, taking apart each stage of a real big data initiative as if it were a release post-mortem. We will be talking about roles and responsibilities, data governance, project and process management, what went right, what went wrong, what we should have done differently. Except in this case, it will not be after the fact but rather a stage-by-stage review as we work on a real-world project. For your sanity and ours, we have created a special category, Big Data Project, as well as a tag with the same name. If you search on either, you will see all posts related to the project. Additionally, all posts about the project will start with Big Data Project in the title. Who knows? Maybe when we’re done, we’ll write a book (knowing what I know now about writing a book, I can’t believe I just said that)!

We’ll talk more about the project in the next post but first I wanted to take a look at a big data failure that anyone involved in a major enterprise application deployment could have seen coming and is Rule #1 in our big data playbook:

Rule #1: Big Data IS NOT rocket science.

(more…)

March 21, 2013 at 10:50 am 4 comments

Strata West, Law, Ethics, and Open Data: Smart People Solving Some Very Hard Problems

By Terence Craig

Strata 3Last week the Bay Area was treated to another great Strata West hosted by the O’Reilly team. For those of you who weren’t able to make it, keep checking strataconf.com for updates on the videos and speaker slides—one of the great things about this conference is that many of the sessions are available to anyone as are the videos and slides.

I had the pleasure of co-hosting the Law, Ethics, and Open Data track with my friend and fellow O’Reilly Author (and Civilization devotee), Alex Howard.  Alex is O’Reilly’s government reporter and his book, Data for the Public Good, is a must read. Our track was two days long and featured thoughtful sessions and speakers–bringing together people who are solving difficult technology problems and then showing us how those problems and solutions are impacting lives and society. If you check out my tweets from last week you’ll see my 140 character attempts to highlight some of the sessions.  Here is a “longer” version of the highlights of the sessions I hosted:

  • Fred Trotter and DocGraphFred actually tweeted his presentation as he was giving it, so check out @fredtrotter for last Thursday starting around 10:40 am PST.  A presentation of 140 character sound bites made for a very succinct message.  He’s done some amazing work creating the DocGraph, probably the largest public social graph in the world, showing the referral relationships between doctors in the US. You can view a nice visualization his team has done here. (more…)

March 8, 2013 at 6:02 pm 1 comment

A Big Data Showdown: How many V’s do we really need? Three!

By Mary Ludloff

3 vs of big dataMarilyn Craig (Managing Director of Insight Voices, frequent guest blogger, marketing colleague, and analytics guru) and I have been watching the big data “V” pile-on with a bit of bemusement lately. We started with the classic 3 V’s, codified by Doug Laney, a META Group and now Gartner analyst, in early 2001 (yes, that’s correct, 2001). Doug puts it this way:

“In the late 1990s, while a META Group analyst (Note: META is now part of Gartner), it was becoming evident that our clients increasingly were encumbered by their data assets.  While many pundits were talking about, many clients were lamenting, and many vendors were seizing the opportunity of these fast-growing data stores, I also realized that something else was going on. Sea changes in the speed at which data was flowing mainly due to electronic commerce, along with the increasing breadth of data sources, structures and formats due to the post Y2K-ERP application boom were as or more challenging to data management teams than was the increasing quantity of data.”

Doug worked with clients on these issues as well as spoke about them at industry conferences. He then wrote a research note (February 2001) entitled “3-D Data Management: Controlling Data Volume, Velocity and Variety” which is available in its entirety here (pdf too). (more…)

January 17, 2013 at 7:06 pm 4 comments

Our Favorite Reads of 2012

By Mary Ludloff & Terence Craig

Fave ReadsGreetings one and all! 2012 was a breakout year for PatternBuilders and we are very grateful to all of you for helping to make that happen. But we would also like to take a minute to extend our condolences and share the grief of parents across the world that lost young children to violence. Newtown was singularly horrific but similar events play out all too often across the globe. We live in an age of technical wonders—surely we can find ways to protect the world’s children.

This is our last post of 2012 and in the spirit of the season, we decided to do something a little different this year. Recently, the Wall Street Journal asked 20 of its “friends” to tell them what books they enjoyed in 2012 and the responses were equally eclectic and interesting. Not to be outdone, Adam Thierer published his list of cyberlaw and info-tech policy books for 2012. Many of the recommendations culled from both sources ended up on our reading lists for 2013 (folks, 2012 is almost over and between launching AnalyticsPBI for Azure and working on our update for Privacy and Big Data, not a lot of “other” reading is going to happen during the holiday season!) and spurred an interesting discussion about our favorite reads of the year. One caveat: Our lists may include books we read but were not necessarily published this year. So without further ado, I give you our favorite reads of 2012! (more…)

December 21, 2012 at 7:07 pm Leave a comment

AnalyticsPBI for Azure: Turning Real-Time Signals into Real-Time Analytics

By Terence Craig

PBI 3 0 archslide 3For the second post on AnalyticsPBI for Azure (first one here), I thought I would give you some insight on what is required for a modern real-time analytics application and talk about the architecture and process that is used to bring data into AnalyticsPBI and create analytics from them. Then we will do a series of posts on retrieving data. This is a fairly technical post so if your eyes start to glaze over, you have been warned.

In a world that is quickly moving towards the Internet of Things, the need for real-time analysis of high velocity and high volume data has never been more pronounced. Real-time analytics (aka streaming analytics) is all about performing analytic calculations on signals extracted from a data stream as they arrive—for example, a stock tick, RFID read, location ping, blood pressure measurement, clickstream data from a game, etc. The one guaranteed component of any signal is time (the time it was measured and/or the time it was delivered).  So any real-time analytics package must make time and time aggregations first class citizens in their architecture. This time-centric approach provides a huge number of opportunities for performance optimizations. It amazes me that people still try to build real-time analytics products without taking advantage of them.

Until AnalyticsPBI, real-time analytics were only available if you built a huge infrastructure yourself (for example, Wal-Mart) or purchased a very expensive solution from a hardware-centric vendor (whose primary focus was serving the needs of the financial services industry). The reason that the current poster children for big data (in terms of marketing spend at least), the Hadoop vendors, are “just” starting their first forays into adding support for streaming data (see CloudEra’s Impala, for example) is that calculating analytics in real-time is very difficult to do. Period.

(more…)

December 12, 2012 at 5:22 pm 8 comments

Introducing AnalyticsPBI for Azure—A Cloud-Centric, Components-Based, Streaming Analytics Product

By Terence Craig

It has been a while since I’ve done posts that focus on our technology (and big data tech in general). We are now about 2 months out from the launch of the Azure version  of our analytics application, AnalyticsPBI, so it is the perfect time to write some detailed posts about our new features. Consider this the first in the series.

But before I start exercising my inner geek, it probably makes sense to take a look at the development philosophy and history that forms the basis of our upcoming release. Historically, we delivered our products in one of two ways:

  • As a framework which morphed (as of release 2.0) into AnalyticsPBI, our general analytics application designed for business users, quants, and analysts across industries.
  • As vertical applications (customized on top of AnalyticsPBI) for specific industries (like FinancePBI and our original Retail Analytics application) which we sold directly to companies in those industries.

(more…)

November 29, 2012 at 8:38 am 8 comments

Even Geniuses Pass Away

By Terence Craig

Today, I got the sad news that a dear friend and an early contributor to PatternBuilders passed away.

Andrew (Andrei) Leman was a gruff, kind and generous man who will be deeply missed.  Andrei was also a very talented mathematician and software engineer who created some of the fundamental theories around the mathematics of graphs.  His papers on that subject are still heavily cited.

More importantly Andrei was a loving husband to his wife Elena and a great friend  and mentor to many, many folks.

He will be missed but his work and the respect and affection he engendered will endure.

пухом my friend.

November 8, 2012 at 6:19 pm Leave a comment

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