Rules for Web Site Projects

Man, web projects are difficult. You've got design vs. functionality, compatibility vs. quality and so much more to combat, but often overlooked are the internal issues.

See, you've got to get a corporate sponsor. That's the person with the political clout to get things done, allocate resources, and sign invoices. Without him/her the whole project is DOA. The drawback is that in return for their clout they also get a say in how the web site comes together, and often they have no functional knowledge of how the sites actually work, or what it takes on the back-end for things to flow and ebb dynamically on the front-end. If they did have that level of understanding, I'd be doubly worried because that meant that they were puttering with computers when they should be minding the business that puts food on my table. Trust me, the former problem is a much better one to have. If you select a sponsor wisely, it will be somebody that you can communicate well with and whose strengths you you can build on. I was able to get a lot of good help from our President on our site.

There are three big issues to deal with early on that will save heartaches.

  1. Make sure and pick a sponsor that is local to you. Having a sponsor that is a hundred miles away can prove challenging in terms of communication and in terms of controlled revision reviews.
  2. Work out a common vocabulary, document it, and stick with it. That common vocabulary can be the Rosetta stone to translate between business and technical interests.
  3. Get marketing writing. This last point is so important. See, the big advantage of these liquid-dynamic sites is entirely built upon the data schema on the back-end. This schema is a literal translation of the aformentioned setup agreed to by marketing interests. One "slight" change in the setup can easily mean labor-intensive changes to databases and the code that extracates meaning from it.

There's more, but that's all I have time for tonight. We've had three "slight" schema changes and guess what? Our schedule is slightly off and my sponsor is getting testy, and from his point of view justifyably so. Yeah, all three of these rules were generated empirically. I violated or allowed to be violated all three. In the end, if you're the PM, it's your fault or glory. We'll get it done, and it will be right!


Yep, Oracle WAS on crack!

Yep, I was right, they were on crack. Here's the deal. The two guys I spoke with, one sales rep. and the other a sales engineer, both don't know diddly about their own product line. Apparently there is no such artificial limit on Oracle Standard Edition (SE) or Standard Edition One's (SE1) storage/DB size. The differences are solely features, such as "gridding" is not available on SE1, but is available on SE. You do have to go to Enterprise edition for the "Advanced Management" capabilities, advanced security features, or the capability to add-on the Oracle Spatial extension. SE and SE1 apparently can each deal with 8-ExaBytes of data.

Those two guys, couldn't understand simple phrases like "We will only have 5-users for the first 6-12 months of the project." and actually got all their aforementioned product capabilities off the Oracle web site, but were too dumb to notice that those were on marketing-recommended configuration guidelines. I imagine they go something like this:

If the potential sucker is actually going to use the database software, up-sell them from the $149/seat license to the $5,000/CPU license license, but using the phrase "high-availability". If the potential sucker says that they will have 500GB or more of data, up-sell them to the $80,000 software from the $10,000 software.

Lesson learned, if you have to talk to Oracle, go straight to a Regional Sales Manager. He was the only one that both understood the product lines and could comprehend our VERY SIMPLE needs.

Yo! Larry Ellison! Train your staff!


Is Oracle on crack?

I spoke with two very nice gentlemen from Oracle today regarding the acquisition of a new Oracle database server suitable for back-ending ArcSDE for our Tampa office. To be honest, I am shopping Oracle against MS-SQL and DB2 and I shared that with him also.

It seems that Oracle, in their infinite wisdom created three edtions:

  • Enterprise
  • Standard Edition
  • Standard Edition One

The price that they advertise on the back of trade magazines like InfoWorld and Information Week is for Standard edition which MSRP's for about $5K/processor or $149/user depending upon how you license it. That pricing structure is comparable to that of MS SSQL Server Standard. What Oracle doesn't say, is that only the Enterprise edition is capable of supporting databases larger that 500GB!

500GB! Now to be fair, that is a good size for a ERP solution for a SMB client. Ours is about 8GB all told (MS SQL-Server). For GIS however, that size is a pittance. Our inital intended data load for that server will be over 1TB. For that apparently, you need the Enterprise edition which comes out to roughly $40,000 at MSRP per Processor! What a rip-off.

Unless they come back with some excuse like "Uhh, we wanted to see how dumb you were...", it's very likely that I'll be implementing another MS-SQL or a DB2 database here for ArcSDE duty. What would be nice would be for ESRI to add support for MySQL with its Spatial Extensions to ArcSDE 9.2. That would be a hoot.


GIS Site Selection and Analysis

Working today on new GIS SiteSelection and Analysis web page. I need to find a way of including more content pointing to the cities (i.e Tampa, Tallahassee, Jacksonville etc...)