Lousy Weekend Activity

Relational databases come in all sizes and flavors, Microsoft Access, SQL Express and SQL Server, DB2, MySQL, Oracle, File Maker PRO, and Informix. Upon starting my municipal career about six years ago, I was introduced to Informix SE (standard engine).

Unlike database managers, like SQL Server and MySQL Informix SE is designed for no more than seventy connections, but uses ISAM, which, as I have been told is relatively fast. For smaller applications, Informix SE’s access is fast, because your database requests go through fewer layers than a full-blown RDMS.

The way we have our production systems set up — there are three Informix SE applications — each database is exported, which in Informix terms means turning the binary database into an ASCII SQL file to rebuild the database and a data unload file for every table in the database.

Our test systems grab this exported information, and import into a brand new, freshly created Informix SE database. It all works out quite, well, at least most of the time.

One of the things I like about MySQL, SQL Server and other RDMS systems, is you can unload them, even with there are quirks. This is not so with Informix SE. If the export program does not like something about the database, like catalog corruption, you can’t get the exported form. Then, you are left with the miserable, inevitable task of rebuilding a new database using manual and unauthorized steps.

That is what I got to do over the recent long weekend. Boston Marathon Monday is a local holiday — Patriot’s Day — in some Massachusetts cities and towns.

I had to extract all the schema, unload all the data, and then manually rebuild the database. This is not a fun weekend activity, and brings me to my final point. If a company is going to sell you a database, wouldn’t you think, even if they sold you something additional through support services, someone would have a nice little utility to perform this work. One of our consultants is disgusted with how Informix’s exports work , because his view is you should get the data and an exceptions report for things that went wrong. The export shouldn’t refuse to give you your data.

Oh, well. I have to run more tests for Informix support, pack the database and data up, and ftp it to them. Maybe something will come from that.

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