Thursday, August 27, 2009

On downloadables

Among all topics that I mentioned in my previous "catching up" posting, I chose to talk about downloadables. The Forrester report mentioned "free downloadable" as a criterion, and one of the authors defended this criterion in a short article. Paul Vincent has written about his impressions from the summer school he participated in that some of the academic people like to use open source, so they can play with the implementation code.

There are two issues here: whether downloadable is a criterion in product evaluation, and whether for academic reasons one should use open source or commercial product downloadable ?

As for the first question: the Forrester report stated that event processing is moving from being niche technology to being part of mainstream computing. An enterprise can chose in using a specific product, either because it is being sold through some solution / application, and in this case the line of business owning the application, may select this application and get the product behind it as a by-product, this is exactly niche technology kind of behavior. Getting it as part of mainstream computing, mealing that this product is being used in enterprise architecture, and being endorsed by the IT side of the enterprise. I have spent 8 years in my life in an IT shop of a big enterprise, and from this angle, the world seems somewhat different, decisions (if not constrained by force majors) are being determined after the IT developers have studied the products from all angles. Big enterprises don't typically have problems to get any software for free evaluaton; however, where free downloadable may help is for people who want to explore products by their own initiative, whether they are developers in organizations that have not decided (yet) that they want to do formal evaluation, or by students, who are the future generation of developers. Investment in students is considered a good investment and thus many vendors provide free software for academic purposes. As I have written in the past, the publisher of the EPIA book we are writing is very keen on providing downloadable software for the reader. Since we told him that there are multiple approaches and we don't want to restrict the reader to a single approach, we have approached several vendors, who agreed to: a). provide free downloadable; b). provide a solution of (at least a subset) of the "Fast Flower Delivery" example that accompanies this book. Currently we have several vendors that already agreed to work with us on this: Aleri (representing the Stream programming style), Rulecore (representing the ECA rules programming style), Apama (representing the script programming style). We also got agreement from Esper (which is already an open source) to provide the solution of the case study in ESPER. I hope that other vendors will follow. I am sure that the readers will be benefited by this exercise (we'll put all solutions in an appendix to the book, and point at the soft copy of the solution, and downloadable from the book's website).

Now, to the question of downloadable vs. open source in teaching. I am giving students two types of programming assignments (depends on the course) -- one is to write some application using a product, the other is to write a subset of an event processing engine.

For the first type of assignment, both product downloadable and open source can be used. In the database area, I guess that the majority of the basic database courses are using My SQL, however, in the event processing area we don't have a standard language yet, and typically products are more advanced than open source.

For the second part -- writing a subset of an event processing engine -- one can take an open source as a basis and extend it, which may be one approach (common in operating systems course), my personal preference is to let students build such system from scratch, the reason is that again, due to lack of standard, the use of open source will restrict the student to use the approach taken by that open source, alas, the approach in which I am teaching event processing is somewhat different. I also think that students have to think about how to implement concepts rather than to ruminant on other food. More on teaching considerations -- later as I am prepared to teach an event processing course twice in the two semesters for two different populations, in the Information Systems Engineering program at the Technion, where I'll ask the students to use products, and in the Computer Science program, where I'll ask the students to write a mini-product.

A comment: I am moderating comments after some spam attack in the past, recently I am getting everyday a comment to this Blog in a charachter set which may be Chinese or Japanese.
I wanted to respond: לא הבנתי מה רצית ממני, but as this Blog is being handled in English, I will not post comments in other languages, I don't even know whether they are spam or real comments.
I also don't post comments from people who don't identify themselves.

Last but not least, a reminder: The EPTS 5th event processing symposium is getting closer, if you wish to participate, and have not registered yet, please do it on the conference site, the reason we need this registration ASAP is that there are quite a few of requests to register from non EPTS members, and since we limit the number of participants, we want to make sure that we are within these limits. BTW - the program on the site is not up-to-date. The updated program will hopefully be published next week.

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