Performance


z4OK, so yes, I did go a little mad the other weekend.  I’ve hankered for a roadster for many years and this little beauty presented itself and I took the leap. She’s garaged and only comes out at the weekends. However, that does not matter because she puts a smile on my face whilst she’s standing still as well as when I behind the wheel, feeding that 2.5 litre straight six and pushing her on through some sweeping bends.

Whilst modern she retains some glorious traditional lines, she looks fast when she’s standing still and when you open her up she’s as responsive as you like and she just flies.

OpenInsight 10 (OI10), for many of us has been a project that has seen the interface chance considerably. Whilst hugely functional, the old desktop interface was looking aged and not overly intuitive for new users. For experienced developers, the interface required a fair amount of clicking down through layers to achieve things or, at best you needed to know the shortcut keys. OI10 delivers a brand-new interface that is way more intuitive to use. There is no more clicking down through layers, so much more is right there in the interface or one click away and so, so much more has been exposed in the way of new controls, properties and more.

Whilst the O4W interface is still pretty new, it’s early releases were based around a two-column approach but OI10 opens up an array of new possibilities with multi-column design and drag and drop development.

I’ve played with the latter Alpha releases and I’m now getting more and more into the beta to convert my personally written contact manager that I use on a daily basis at RevSoft. I’m fast learning that OI10 all adds up to an easier to use interface with productivity gains to be found everywhere. I cannot believe how much code I can now remove from my forms by just setting one simple property in the Property Panel – that’s usually a case of inserting a single value (numeric or text), or making a picklist selection or toggling a property. OI10 is making our application developer easier than ever and introducing standards that will no doubt deliver better applications through consistency, stability and refined code.

So, the interface enhancements are nice, the O4W design options are more powerful but people still want better performance and on more than one occasion recently I’ve had discussions about indexing large files.

At conference last year, Bob spoke about the way that the conversion tools will optimise your tables. It is still work in progress but Revelation are mastering the dark art of balancing file-sizes with thresholds and a whole load of things that I really don’t understand. Bob’s also worked on caching things and using memory better and Andrew at Sprezzatura continues to explore ways to better configure the system for Linear Hash and find performance gains.

Some people don’t think that Revelation are taking performance seriously and listening to their customer base. I know for a fact that this is not the case. You only have to sit in the car with Mike on the way back from a User Group meeting to know that he personally takes customer needs and requested extremely seriously. On more than one occasion (in fact on many occasions) I’ve been driving him across the UK and he’s bashing away on his keyboard like it’s going to give up on him in the next ten minutes. We get to our destination and he shows me an example of something a client has suggested or requested and with a big smile on his face, he tells me that I can let my client know that it’s in the next release – subject to testing and quality control of course. It’s the little details like this that have kept me loyal to Revelation for the last 20 years, in a sales role that would normally have seen half a dozen sales people come and go.

Like the motorcar currently sitting in my garage just a few feet away from me, OpenInsight is maturing into one of IT’s classics which continues to deliver on the needs of the modern application developer. Not only does it look good and it’s wonderful to work with, hidden under the hood are a number of highly sought-after enhancements that are set to deliver some of those performance gains that the OpenInsight community have been asking for.

Just yesterday, after yet another call with a client looking at index performance on files with 500,000 plus rows, Andrew told me about some more of Bob’s enhancements to OpenInsight. Well, I just had to get some highlights from the man himself and, as a teaser, this is his reply:

“I have re-written index builds and updates. The high points are:

  • Rebuild uses in-memory hashtables and removes 64k workarounds which were in the legacy build.
  • Rebuild all for a table rebuilds all indexes in one pass, rather than individual passes
  • Update_Index is rewritten so that there is less contention on the root of the index. I made changes to SI.MFS as well.

…”

I don’t fully understand indexing but Bob tells me that the current system has to make numerous passes. One test that he undertook had to make six passes through a system with 500,000 rows. His greatly refined solution now makes just one pass through 500,000 rows, rather than having to work through 3,000,000 rows. He therefore has a very high level of confidence that the rebuild process work well and performance gains will be experienced across the board. I don’t have the figures, but he tells me that the 500,000 row rebuild was much faster and that’s good enough for me.

Other enhancements include a brand new update process that makes use of multiple sessions updating many tables at the same time. This has proven to be robust and fast during internal testing and we look forward to hearing the results obtained by our beta testers in the real world and running against real databases with hundreds of thousands or millions of rows.

I’m looking forward to getting out in the Z4 with Joanna, putting the convertible roof down and enjoying the wind in our hair. In the same way, I’m looking forward to working with the fresh looking OpenInsight toolset, modernising my applications and sharing this new gem of a toolset with the wider MultiValue community and the application development community in general.

We now have a fully integrated, highly functional toolset that is easy to use, powerful and fast. I can’t wait for the official OI10 release and to hear what Mike, Carl, Bob and the team have in the pipeline for OI11.

It’s going to be a great ride for the foreseeable future.

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