Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Real-Time Communications via WebRTC

Your modern web browser is fabulous for consuming data: text, audio, and video; all natively. However, for the web's promise of real-time audio/video communication with others, you will need a browser plugin (e.g. Flash) or a different application altogether (e.g. Skype).   
The recent trend in application development is to create applications as a service and access via the web browser.  Users demand functionality found in traditional, native applications for example, drag & drop found in Windows and OS X applications.  The latest HTML 5 specifications meet many of these requirements, however, there still remains a gap in functionality. 

To enable native RTC functionality in browsers, Google Engineers have been busy developing and integrating an API into their Chrome web browser that allows developers to natively add peer-to-peer video conferencing, file sharing, and screen share functionality without plugins.  Additionally, there is work by W3C to standardize this API.  Both Firefox, and Opera already support experimental versions of WebRTC; however, Microsoft has no plans to support this API and instead plans to introduce its own competing API.  It will be interesting to see how this turns out, but given Google's clout over browser standards, WebRTC has a good chance of ultimately becoming the RTC standard for browsers. 

The possibilities for building, rich, collaborative, web applications, are significantly enhanced by this API, and is yet another step in establishing the web browser as one of the most powerful tools available to you. 

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Create a better user experience

So often the user experience is ignored or its importance is marginalized. A bad user experience is no different than a bad customer experience; a bad experience means that person is not likely to return or recommend your product or service. Imagine shopping in a store and the shelving is maze like, aisles are too narrow, and goods are displayed haphazardly making it hard to find the items you wish to purchase. It’s unlikely you would want to shop in that store again. It’s no different when it comes to a user’s experience in adapting to new processes and systems. A bad user experience leads to resistance in accepting the changes despite any change management processes you may have in place. This is true for all types of change whether you are implementing a new off-the-shelf product, custom building a new application or enhancing an existing application.

User experience isn’t just about delivering a list of functional features or providing pretty graphics and colours. It’s also about providing a user interface that makes it easy for the user to navigate, find what they need, and do what they want quickly and without fuss. Accessibility is also an important component of the user experience. Accessibility includes universal access for users with special needs such as screen readers as well as for users who require mobile access or have slow bandwidth connections.

User experience is all about how a user feels and perceives when interacting with the system. Perception of the value of a system, ease of use and efficiency in performing tasks are key components to a positive user experience. The goal is to ensure the system achieves these fundamental objectives of a good user experience: usable, credible, inspires loyalty, and attractive in appearance.
The user experience doesn’t end with the implementation. Follow up and obtain feedback on the user’s satisfaction formally with a survey or informally with conversations. Feedback can provide valuable insight into what could be improved in future phases.

We hope you have found this week’s edition of "To The Point" by Jan Crowe to be helpful and informative. Look out for our next week instalment as we continue to explore unique topics from business to the latest technology.

We want to hear your point! If you have any ideas, suggestions or any questions about our weekly blog, please contact us at:

Warm regards,

Point Alliance Team

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

SQL Server 2014 – compelling reasons for upgrading

Microsoft SQL Server 2014 was released April 1st 2014. There are many organizations who are only now considering rolling out SQL Server 2012. The effort involved in planning and testing commercial products and custom line of business applications with a new database server version is often one of the largest barriers to upgrading. However, there are some compelling reasons to consider upgrading to SQL Server 2014 earlier than later especially when it comes to delivering comprehensive Business Intelligence solutions to your organization and its decision makers.

SQL Server 2014 delivers on that promise to provide the right tools and insights to everyone anytime and anywhere. There is very little point in gathering data if it can’t be analyzed easily and quickly. In today’s competitive, fast paced and mobile environment, businesses require better access to data to make timely informed decisions. Organizations can better direct the competitive course of their business with user-oriented self-service business intelligence.

Performance, scalability and high availability enhancements are key components for fast analytics. Each version of SQL Server since 2005 has had significant performance improvements and 2014 is no different. In fact it’s the most significant yet.

The biggest performance change in SQL Server 2014 is the support for in-memory OLTP. You can place those tables and stored procedures that need a performance boost into memory. By moving those select tables and stored procedures into memory, you can dramatically reduce I/O and improve performance of your transactional based applications. SQL Server 2014's in-memory columnstore can increase data warehouse queries anywhere from 10 to 100x. Also, SQL Server 2014 with its enhanced integration with Windows Serer 2012 R2, can now scale up to 64 virtual processors and 1TB of memory when running on a virtual machine.

The new analytics platform in SQL Server 2014 is "big data in a box" according to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella.

Microsoft Analytics Platform System (APS) is a big data analytics appliance for SQL Server. It brings Microsoft's parallel processing data warehouse technology (PDW) together with Hadoop using PolyBase. It enables queries to span across relational data stored in PDW and non-relational data Hadoop that is stored in the Hadoop Distributed File System (HDFS). Users can quickly and easily use tools such as PowerPivot to connect to the PDW and pull in data from the PDW tables as well and external Hadoop tables without having to understand Hadoop or HDFS.

The performance enhancements alone offer a compelling reason to upgrade. Combined with the new analytics platform system or even just then enhanced Data Tools for BI and PowerQuery provide further enticements for considering an upgrade.

For more information SQL Server 2014, please see

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Leadership vs. Management

Throughout my career I’ve been fortunate enough to have great managers (and not so great ones) from which I’ve, equally, learned something: from the great ones what true leadership means and what it takes to be a good leader; from the not so great ones I’ve learned what mistakes to avoid. This is what I’d like to share with in this short post, and because I believe quotes are the best way to share the wisdom of ages, I’ll use them extensively.

A Leader Is...
“A good leader is a person who takes a little more than his share of the blame and a little less than his share of the credit.” — John C. Maxwell
This is one of the many quotes that best define what a true leader is, and what differentiate it from a manager. The true leader is selfless in the pursuit of team’s goals and success, often giving up personal goals and aspirations in the process. Be humble and people will notice your leadership more often than if you’re trying to make them aware of your achievements.

Boldness and Courage
"Courage is the enforcing virtue, the one that makes possible all the other virtues common to exceptional leaders: honesty, integrity, confidence, compassion and humility." — John McCain
I don’t think there is better way to say it. Courage is about taking (calculated) risks, going where no one has gone before, opening up new paths and trying new things. A true leader is one who doesn’t fear failing, but rather embraces failure because he/she can learn a lot from it. Leaders are those who not only go outside their comfort zone themselves, but who encourage and help others overcome they fear and do it.

Challenges and Difficulty
"Leaders aren’t born, they are made. And they are made just like anything else, through hard work. And that’s the price we’ll have to pay to achieve that goal, or any goal." — Vince Lombardi
Those who think leaders are only born are those who seek excuses all the time; excuses for not trying get better, for not searching to self-improve, for not trying new things. The path to leadership is very hard, that’s why those who succeed being good leaders are special and people around recognize them right away.

"Character makes trust possible, and trust is the foundation of leadership." — John Maxwell
Character is the only attribute a great leader can’t learn. You either have it or not. Enough said.

"Earn the right to be heard by listening to others. Seek to understand a situation before making judgments about it." — John Maxwell
The art of communication is important not only to leaders. I personally believe that everyone should work on being a communicator to be successful in life. It’s incredible how many things one can achieve just by being able to say the right things; make no mistake though: I’m not talking here about being able to deceive others through carefully crafted words, but rather being able to convey to other what you truly hold in your heart.

There are so many other things to talk about leadership, but I promised to myself to keep this short and concise so I’ll end with two quotes that I love very much:

"The challenge of leadership is to be strong, but not rude; be kind, but not weak; be bold, but not bully; be thoughtful, but not lazy; be humble, but not timid; be proud, but not arrogant; have humor, but without folly." — Jim Rohn

"I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel." — Maya Angelou

We hope you have found this week’s edition of "To The Point" by Claudiu Tomescu to be helpful and informative. Look out for our next week instalment as we continue to explore unique topics from business to the latest technology.

We want to hear your point! If you have any ideas, suggestions or any questions about our weekly blog, please contact us at:

Warm regards,

Point Alliance Team

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Exploring NoSQL database. What are they and how do they work?

Most modern applications use databases to store data in what’s known as a Relational Database Management Systems (RDBMS). RDBMS have evolved significantly since they were introduced in the 1970’s. They do have some drawbacks with certain types of applications. The relational model is too heavy as it has to parse, lock, log, keep track of buffer pools and spawn a lot of threads. In many types of applications however, RDBMS systems are perfect for the task.

NoSQL is non-relational, distributed with the ability to horizontally scale, high performance and highly scalable.

You would use a RDBMS if you need to have structured data, transactions, ACID capability, and simple or complex aggregations.

You would use NoSQL if you need high read/write throughput and unstructured or semi-structured data. NoSQL databases are usually simpler to implement as you don’t need to have an architect to design a relational model.

NoSQL databases provide schema free storage and allow indexing of individual fields for fast data retrieval. Data is stored in JSON (Binary JSON to be more specific). This means that you can store arrays and arrays inside arrays, making it very flexible for many types of applications.

If we were to build a simple blogging application that used NoSQL as a backend database.
We would need to create a Collection (table) that contains the blog information like Title, Date Published, Content, array of meta tags, array of comments by anonymous users.

When loading a specific blog, you have all the data with one query.

A JavaScript like language is used to query NoSQL databases. If you know JavaScript the syntax is easy to pick up.

An interesting fact about JavaScript: You can now write a complete end to end product using JavaScript. Web Browser and/or Apache Cordova for mobile, back end API with NodeJs, Database system with NoSQL.

What really sets NoSQL apart is the ability to distribute the data to multiple servers known as data sharding. Imagine that you have a multi-terabyte SQL database with millions or billions of rows of data in each table. Querying this much data becomes very expensive and tricky on a RDBMS system. You would need to have the right team with the right skillset and a big server or cluster of servers.

With a NoSQL solution, this is much easier. You would need to buy a bunch of commodity servers with lots of memory, and an initial configuration to shard your data. Your millions and billions of rows of data are now distributed between your physical commodity servers. For example, let’s say that you have 6 servers/virtual machines and 6 billion rows in total.
Once your data sharded each server will contain 1 billion rows of data that it can query. There are no changes to the application, your application still sees all 6 billion rows or data due to the underlying architecture of the NoSQL platform. If this was a RDBMS, it would need to keep track of all 6 billion rows of data.

A NoSQL system can offer a lot of ease when dealing with large data to scale horizontally and a quick start because the relational model does not need to be defined upfront (the application logic defines database model).

Some of the popular NoSQL database servers are MongoDB and CouchBase.

We hope you have found this week’s edition of "To The Point" by Fetbi Irsat to be helpful and informative. Look out for our next week instalment as we continue to explore unique topics from business to the latest technology.

We want to hear your point! If you have any ideas, suggestions or any questions about our weekly blog, please contact us at:

Warm regards,

Point Alliance Team

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

The internet browser challenge

In early 2001 I embarked on a project to build a centralized line of business application for a customer. The customer had numerous decentralized applications of varying technologies across their divisions globally. In an effort to make faster and better informed decisions and ensure no conflicts of interest occurred between their locations, the customer embarked on building a centralized application to serve their needs. Their chosen technology for any application development was java which required installing java and the application on each user’s desktop. This was not ideal, as there were challenges with managing the various java versions and the applications that used them as well as the IT support required to roll out the application and subsequent updates to each user’s desktop which numbered in the thousands. By this time, developers were also finding they could not build new applications using the latest version of java because installing java updates often broke existing applications. Java wasn’t the only one with this problem either, Microsoft (pre .NET) had similar issues. This was termed “dependency hell” or specifically “DLL hell” and ”JAR hell”.

At this time, internet browsers, although in in their early years of maturity, were showing promise as a platform for business applications. Thus the business case was made to build this customer’s solution as a browser based application. The business case looked at a number of factors for example:
  • Reduced IT support costs due to (a) Internet browser installed with the Windows operating system automatically and (b) the line of business application didn’t’ need to be installed on the user’s workstation
  • Globally accessible
  • Centralized business logic, security and data
  • Internet browser supported the level of UI required for the line of business application
  • Internet browser standards were supported across multiple browser with the creation of W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) and HTML 4 became an ISO standard
  • Eliminated dependency hell
  • Cross platform compatibility
Moving forward to 2014, we have followed a browser compatibility road of ups and downs, twists and turns. Even though leading browser vendors have been involved in the creation of web standards since the W3C was formed, these same vendors often failed to uniformly support those standards. This lack of conformity has caused a great deal of frustration for developers and users alike. Decisions on which browsers and browser versions to support have become critical to a project as those decisions can affect the budget of that project. It’s a decision based on whether the cost of development and testing is too high vs. the number of potential users that would be turned away.

Today, considerations are also needed for supporting mobile devices especially with the movement towards BYOD. Some organizations are even providing tablets instead of computers to their employees. HTML 5 and responsive design standards are starting to show promise for improved cross browser compatibility including mobile device browsers. However, HTML 5 and responsive design aren’t always the answer for some browser-based applications on mobile devices as they are too complex in functionality and too difficult to maneuver on a small screen. Additionally, a mobile device can easily be disconnected from their network (cellular or Wi-Fi) and thus the user could potentially lose any data they were entering into the browser-based application. Native applications installed on the mobile device are proving to be the better way to go for some functions including banking. But the diverse mobile device operating systems and their native development languages are providing challenges in containing IT development and support costs.

Organizations are still needing to contain IT development and support costs. Finding ways to help organizations achieve that goal is critical to helping those organizations stay current in their technology and achieving and maintaining their competitive edge. Decisions are still required to be made on which platforms to support. Do you support tablets and smartphones? Do you support Apple, Google, Microsoft and Blackberry? Which OS versions do you support? The emergence of cross platform application development environments for the major mobile device platforms is beginning to show promise with the ability to build one application that can be installed across multiple device platforms.

As technology advances and standards change, we constantly seem to be in a state of flux, never seeming to reach that goal of full standards compliance and cross platform compatibility. However, today we are definitely closer to achieving those goals than we were even a few years ago which provides better opportunities and fewer challenges for organizations wanting to modernize their older applications and web sites leveraging the newer standards.

We hope you have found this week’s edition of "To The Point" by Jan Crowe to be helpful and informative. Look out for our next week instalment as we continue to explore unique topics from business to the latest technology.

We want to hear your point! If you have any ideas, suggestions or any questions about our weekly blog, please contact us at:

Warm regards,

Point Alliance Team

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Ease the pain on testing using!

As web developers we need tools to test our web applications across all browsers. If you asked the majority of developers which browser causes more issues on debugging, they would say Internet Explorer (No offense Microsoft). But most companies, specifically the majority of big corporations, use Internet Explorer because Microsoft is the only one that offers the most robust enterprise deployment management tools of any browser vendor. Microsoft touted research conducted by Forrester that said that 96 percent of businesses standardize on a single browser because it saves them money.

As web developers, we know older versions of Internet Explorer are still lingering out there, so what do we do now? Aside from installing at least three browsers from different vendors on our PC to test cross browser compatibility, we also still need to test on different versions of IE. Finally, in early 2013, Microsoft launched “” to help developers spend more time on innovating versus more time on testing.

The website has a collection of free tools and resources for developers that can be downloaded from the website. The most useful tools that I personally like are the Test VMs for different IE versions.

All the Test Virtual Machines for Internet Explorer are available for Windows, Mac and Linux. These VM’s are a real time saver. You can download all the RAR files that are appropriate for your testing needs and all of them can be loaded in one PC. - Screen Capture 1

You will be surprised, that you can even download a test VM for Internet explorer 6, running in XP! - Screen Capture 2

Another useful free tool that I use from is the “Site Scan”. As the name suggest, it scans your site for common coding problems. Just type in the URL on the given input field, and click on “Scan”. You can also download the open source version in GitHub. - Screen Capture 3

This tool will help detect compatibility problems on IE that prevent users from getting a better experience in their web apps. After entering the desired URL for site scan, it will produce results indicating a check mark that means pass or “!” for suggested enhancements. - Screen Capture 4

So now it's been a year since the website was launched and I would agree that it probably did saved a million of development hours for web developers out there for testing web sites using the free tools. Less time testing ! more time coding!

We hope you have found this week’s edition of "To The Point" by Eleanor Boado to be helpful and informative. Look out for our next week instalment as we continue to explore unique topics from business to the latest technology.

We want to hear your point! If you have any ideas, suggestions or any questions about our weekly blog, please contact us at:

Warm regards,

Point Alliance Team