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Inmagic Interview With Independent IT Consultant Al Novissimo

How is this going to affect me?

When you bring your Inmagic solution to your MIS or IT manager for review and approval, you’ll almost never hear this sentence uttered — at least within earshot. But the fact is that it’s quite likely that the typical MIS manager at least thinks these words when presented with a data solution from a company other than from one of the large software companies.

Such reactions make sense. MIS personnel are very busy learning, integrating and managing the technology they already know. They’ve typically had some unpleasant experiences with software unfamiliar to them. It’s their right to initially look at an Inmagic solution with a suspicious eye.

It then becomes your opportunity to give them the facts so that they clearly understand how Inmagic solutions can bring them benefits unobtainable with some of the larger products. The following is an interview we’ve recently conducted with independent IT consultant, Al Novissimo. Al recently had a situation where he was called in to evaluate Inmagic’s DB/Text WebPublisher against a FREE copy of one of the larger relational database products. Read the interview below and find out what happened.

Inmagic: Can you expand a little bit on your background, both technically and professionally?

Al: My Last major IT role was as a Vice President of Research and Development with Computer Associates, a 6 billion-dollar software company. I was one of a team of three people doing design and development work on a systems management software product called CA-Unicenter (seen today in ads for Unicenter/TNG). In designing Unicenter, we used various databases in the development of the systems applications to ensure that clients could use the database of their choice. I became very familiar with Oracle, Open Ingress, Sybase (before it became SQL Server) and DB2. In the first year, Unicenter sold 450 million dollars worth of software and has been going great guns ever since. I retired 5 years ago, moved to Nantucket, and now run a small systems integration business.

My background is very technical—operating system internals and systems management. Earlier in my career, I was involved with data center management, consulting for some large companies like Caterpillar. I also worked for Cheeseborough-Ponds, helping them integrate their systems management software. I was often sent out to help large clients make their software work.

Inmagic: How did you first come in contact with Inmagic software?

I first came across Inmagic when I did some small system integration work for the Nantucket Historical Association (NHA). The NHA were (and still are) Inmagic users. They wanted to post their data to the Web and were wondering if they should take on the expense of purchasing DB/Text WebPublisher. Since the NHA had a benefactor relationship with Microsoft, the relevant question was, who needs Inmagic?

Inmagic: A free copy of Microsoft SQL Server. That must have been very tempting as compared to a solution you did not know.

When I came upon the scene, we had the option of purchasing WebPublisher or writing things in SQL. What struck me is how flexible Inmagic is on searches. Typical databases have keyword values. With Inmagic databases, you can search on anything, anywhere in the database.

Though it is true that you can do any sort of search with any relational database, if you need to search all the data, the typical RDB will perform a sequential search, which is very slow and resource heavy. You’ve got poor applications design at this point. What really impressed me about Inmagic is the fact that it works like a marriage of a traditional database and a powerful search engine. All sorts of searches can be done quickly and easily without utilizing lots of processing power. If the NHA used SQL, I feared they were going to wind up with one of two things. They might have an application that was not going to work as well as Inmagic due to restricted searching capabilities. Alternatively, they might have an application that was going to utilize too much processing power and leave a heavier footprint on the system. In terms of the NHA application, the management of large sets of data, I recommended that they stay with Inmagic and implement the DB/Text WebPublisher solution.

Inmagic: Was that the reason you recommended to the Nantucket Historical Association that they adopt a DB/Text WebPublisher solution?

I realized that the product is very simple to use. Education and training time for end-users is minimal. The product does not need a DBA to run it. If I had set up a SQL system for the NHA, a full-time person would be needed to run and maintain the system. As opposed to this, DB/Text WebPublisher is an almost out-of-the-box solution, easily used by non-expert personnel.

Inmagic: Do you have any words of advice for those in MIS in regards to adopting an Inmagic solution?

Let me play devil’s advocate for a moment. MIS people hate it when a user group introduces yet another product. Every IT manager has his own bag of horror stories about using non-mainstream products. These products typically have hard to understand features or bugs that can really tie up manpower resources. IT managers know the mainstream products they’ve selected. If they’re using Oracle, they’re experienced with its intricacies. Why use anything else and have to expend time and effort to learn and troubleshoot it?

My response is that though IT managers are gun-shy; if they try Inmagic they’ll find it to be remarkably clean, leaving a light footprint on their system and resources. It is a “try it, you’ll like it” product. The IT manager simply needs to get over the hurdle. Everything I’ve seen is that the product is clean and is not demanding on the systems administrator.

The product runs very easily on a workstation. My advice to the IT manager is to put it on your own workstation and give it a shot. If you’re doing things with collections or archives, the product is almost turnkey, right out of the box. If someone were to come to me with a collection or an archive for a database, and the person coming to me has this product, and if I had an open mind, I’d give Inmagic a try because it is just easier.

Think about what the IT person will be giving his end-users. If he uses SQL, what he is providing the user will take more time to set up. At a minimum, he will be required to maintain another set of tables. Inmagic, being a set it and forget it application, requires less work.

What it does in terms of managing large collections is great—that’s what it does! It’s a very good database for the non [IT] professional user. 

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Revised: 08/15/03