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Class Discussion March 3, 2008

Posted by mervatabuelkheir in Faculty Life.

In the class of this week (I have only one course; distributed database systems; to teach this semester and over two days I give 7 classes,) we had a discussion about whether or not database systems are becoming obsolete. I told them it’s a possibility and the debate is considerable about this issue, they asked me then what technology is competing, and I said technologies like data warehouses and data marts are examples (most of them don’t hear about data warehousing until after graduation.) Then they asked the obvious question any self respecting Egyptian student would ask :D, which is why are they studying databases and distributed database systems if they are obsolete. I said they’re not obsolete, but new technologies are always trying to find a solid market share for themselves to justify their costs. An example I gave was Cobol; which is still deployed in some big corporations and organizations despite database systems being the norm of the era. Then we asked ourselves; why do such big organizations keep old fashioned technology. The lengthy discussions lead to us making the conclusions that there are three reasons why:

  • Whenever an organization is thinking of deploying Hi Tech for the first time, it goes without saying that they will pick the most up-to-date technology there is. This means that the chosen technology is highly expensive because it’s cutting-edge. The investment in this technology becomes a part of the organizations assets.
  • Migration from “supposedly” obsolete technology to more top notch technology may result -in addition to and extensive transition time- in possible loss of data that’s very valuable to the organization.
  • Most people don’t like change! It’s a miracle people accept Hi Tech solutions as it is, but to force them to adapt to the very quick pace of technological advances is beyond reasonable! After all, old habits die hard. I, who should be quick to adapt because I was born and educated in the Hi Tech era, still find it very hard to change my home page from Yahoo! To anything else, even if it was more informational!!

The importance of the discussion was not due to us making any breakthroughs or novel discoveries; I’m pretty sure more sophisticated outlines of the situation are already established in business and systems sciences. What made me write this entry was that I really was content to push them for once to discuss things despite the fact that they were aware what I’m saying is:

  • Out of the main point of the class.
  • May not be included in the final exam!!

Not that I don’t trust students to be interested in anything rather than making the grade, but I know from experience that they don’t get excited about things easily. There is no wonder in their minds about science and how and why things are what they are. To feel that we make the closest thing to a seminar in an undergraduate class made me feel good about my decision to choose a course that I can provide ideas about on the fly without having to go to the books to know the answers. That’s a real pleasure, even when I’m pretty sure than practical-wise, they’re most probably (or at least a subset of them) better than me.



1. mohamed elashri - August 30, 2009

really I was so interested when i study this course with Dr hisham arfat in 2002, and I remember my passion with Database technology at that time, and may I ask the same questions your students ask , and I was dreaming to have this in real life, but when I graduate I find the real life which implement commercial technology, and this have many reasons.
But what could I say now, that it’s applicable to implement it now in Egypt and in our area, because technology already moved to this part through implementation in Business intelligence Field using a lot of commercial technology like below
a. Microsoft Analysis Services
b. PerformancePoint Server 2007
c. Proclarity
a. Hyperion Solutions Corporation
a. Applix
b. Cognos
a. Business Objects
b. OutlookSoft

mfahmy78 - August 31, 2009

Indeed Mohammed things changed considerably just in the past couple of years; we accept new technologies more easily and they’re more lightweight and flexible to be integrated in existing systems. The problem here is how should developers, programmers, and users deal with the ever upcoming technologies which may not revolve around similar concepts. It’s not the lack of the latest trends in Egypt that is a problem, it’s the lack of understanding of the paradigms that underly them.

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