Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Capital IQ - Moving To McGraw Hill Financials

In a move to foster innovation and drive growth, The McGraw Hill Companies (NYSE: MHP) announced several Organizational and Management changes a few days back (November 15th 2010).

Though there are a few Management changes, I will be mostly stressing on the Organizational changes here. From a bird's-eye view, the current financial services of McGraw-Hill will be realigned into two segments - Standard & Poor's and McGraw-Hill Financials.

Currently, McGraw-Hill Companies is divided into three segments -

  1. Financial Services which includes Standard & Poor's Credit Market Services and S&P Investment Services (which includes Capital IQ)
  2. McGraw-Hill Education
  3. Information & Media

Beginning January 1st, 2011, McGraw-Hill Companies' reporting segments will be -

  1. Standard & Poor's - the leading credit rating company
  2. McGraw-Hill Financials - combining Capital IQ (including ClariFI, Compustat, etc.), S&P Indices, Valuation & Risk Strategies and Equity Research Services
  3. McGraw-Hill Education - the world's premier education services company
  4. McGraw-Hill Information & Media - a global business information company

The words of Harold McGraw Hill III, President and CEO of the McGraw Hill Companies on the strategic decision -

"This change will enhance our ability to deliver a broad and deep suite of products for investors across asset classes around the world, positioning us to capitalize on the growth trends we see in the global financial markets."

Check out the official announcement here. Coming to the impact of this decision on the Capital IQ brand - I guess our tagline "A Standard & Poor's Business" might change accordingly. However, there hasn't been any official confirmation on this. I will post in an update if we have anything.

Monday, November 15, 2010

RockMelt - Will Melt Your Heart

In my previous post I said I would be writing about Hibernate in this article, however I made an exception to write about a new browser I just started using - RockMelt. RockMelt is a social media web browser developed by Tim Howes and Eric Vishria and backed by Netscape founder Marc Andreessen.

It wouldn't be an overstatement if I say that it will melt your heart, especially if you're into social networking and particular a regular Facebook user like me. Here's how RockMelt looks like -

By this time, I guess most of you must have realized that it looks pretty much like Google Chrome. In fact it is more-or-less Chrome itself. Developers who have been interested in Google Chrome would have heard about Google's Chromium project - the open source project from which Chrome was born. Chromium was the parent of browsers like Nickel and now RockMelt.

However RockMelt was built to target a specific crowd - the Social Networking generation, especially users of Facebook and Twitter. Let me highlight a few features of RockMelt which I found interesting -

Friends Strip

RockMelt integrated Facebook's chat application directly into the browser as a strip running in the left side. The chat UI is pretty impressive; in fact it is as good as Google Talk. The best part is that each chat window now runs as a desktop app independently of the browser allowing users to use chat windows individually like Google Talk.

Status Updates

Updating your status in Facebook is just a click away from any site. With RockMelt, you need not actually go to Facebook to change your status or share a link. The browser itself allows you to do it.

RSS Feeds

The best thing I liked about RockMelt was its integration of RSS/ATOM feeds with the browser itself. Though many browsers manage feeds, nothing can beat this. The integration of the feeds as a strip to the right is really awesome. By default, feeds of Twitter and Facebook are built into the browser. Feeds from other sites like Gmail and Blogs can be added easily.

For people who use browsers only for surfing the web and reading articles, these changes won't be much and the regular Chrome browser should be enough. But people who are into Networking, Blogging, etc. will find it exciting and might enjoy it.

RockMelt was released a few days back and is presently “By Invitation” only and if you are interested, you should register yourselves here for an early access - Lucky I got an invitation from one of my friends :). So if you want to try it, either register at the mentioned site or catch hold of a friend who already has an invitation :D.

Know more about RockMelt straight from the horse's mouth -

I will back on Hibernate and ADO.NET Entity Framework in my next two posts. Until then Happy Facebooking and Happy Twittering :)

Friday, November 12, 2010

Object-Relational Mapping

Over the years we have seen a paradigm shift in Programming Languages from the traditional Procedural programming approach to an Object-Oriented approach. However Databases have changed very little in terms of their fundamental principle - Set Theory. Databases are and have been Relational almost from their advent. Most of the Database Management Systems which we use like MySQL, Microsoft SQL Server and Oracle are Relational to a very large extent. Though there have been approaches like Object-Relational DBMS and Hierarchical DBMS, they have rarely been adopted in production environments.

This article focuses on creating a relationship between Object-Oriented Programming Languages and Relational Databases through a concept called Object-Relation Mapping. This article will be followed by two related articles - Using Hibernate in Java with NetBeans and Using ADO.NET Entity Framework in .NET (C#) with Visual Studio.

Before jumping into ORM, here are two common concepts which most of you must be familiar with -

Class - A class is a construct that is used as a blueprint (or template) to create objects of that class. A class defines the properties that each and every object possesses.

Table Schema - A table schema primarily defines the fields and relationships of a table. A table contains records which have the same structure.

Observing closely, we can notice that these two definitions are pretty similar. Both of them talk about a template which multiple instances follow (objects in OO and records in DBMS). Both of them talk about fields (properties) these instances possess.

This similarity is the basis of ORM. Table Schemas of Relational Databases correspond to Classes in an Object Oriented Programming Language and Records of these tables correspond to instances of the Classes (Objects).

Consider an example of a Student table in a Database created with the following schema -

CREATE TABLE Student_tbl

This table can be translated into a Class with the following structure -

class Student
Int32 StudentId;
String Name;
Int32 Age;

Each record of the Student_tbl will be an object of the Student class.

There are several free and commercial packages for Object Oriented languages that perform Object Relational Mapping. Most of these packages incorporate advanced features like -

  • Automating the class generation process from the Database Schemas
  • Maintaining foreign key dependencies using Lists
  • Generating identity keys while inserting records and using these keys in subsequent insertions as foreign keys if required
  • Creating methods for retrieving data and saving data directly as objects

The major advantages of ORM lie in -

  • Minimal database dependency - most of the ORM packages use a concept called 'Dialect' to identify the DBMS the application is connecting to. So changing the dialect when the DBMS is changed is sufficient for the application to run. No application code has to be changed
  • ORM reduces the amount of code that needs to be written by a developer

However it is often argued that ORM packages don't perform efficiently during bulk deletions and with joins. So generally it is recommended to check if there a hit in the efficiency of the application when ORM tools are introduced, especially when complex operations are involved.

Though ORM is a simple concept, it's a rapidly over-shadowing the traditional database connectivity models in Object Oriented Programming Languages like Java and C#. In my next post, I will be introducing Hibernate - an ORM package for Java and in the subsequent post I will introduce the ADO.NET Entity Framework - an ORM package for .NET.