Rob Bestgen Shares His Secret for Db2 Web Query for i

Db2 Web Query for i

Paul Tuohy: Hi everybody and welcome to another iTalk with Tuohy. I'm delighted to be joined today by a gentleman whose path I don't cross often enough over the years. So I'm joined today by Rob Bestgen. It's going to take me about 15 minutes to read our all your titles here, Rob, who works for IBM System Lab Services, is a Db2 for i consultant and is the Db2 Web Query for i product development manager. Hello, Rob.

Rob Bestgen: Hi Paul. Great to be talking with you.

Paul: Yeah. So I was trying to think back, Rob, and I'm thinking it is probably I think, 7-8 years ago. I think I first met you back in like―like an event that we were doing back in Boston, and if I remember―

Rob: Yeah.

Paul: Correctly then I can't remember if-were you still working back on the development of the SQL query engine, the SQE back then or had you moved to [IBM] Lab Services?

Rob: I think that was shortly after I moved to lab services but I was fresh out of development, so I guess I was kind of straddling the boundaries at that point.

Paul: Yeah. So you are one of the guys that we have to―okay I was going to say blame, but really what I mean is we are going to have to thank for the SQE. You're one of that great development team who has put this phenomenal, phenomenal thing that we have on the system together.

Rob: Good, bad, or otherwise, yeah, I'm one of the ones you can blame or thank for SQE. You're right.

Paul: Well I think anybody who has ever heard me talk, say anything about the database knows that it's a big thank you, Rob. It's a phenomenal achievement. So tell me Rob, this is―you know there are another couple of people in IBM, whenever I meet somebody who has worked on something like that, when you look back on those sort of years when you were working on that development, is there any highlight that you have there? I mean either something that you guys did with the product or just the process itself that you look back on and sort of go, "yeah, that was a really great thing."

Rob: Great question. I do remember it. I appreciate it more now looking back how that was such a large project and the buy in that management did for such a large undertaking, but it was the recognition that we needed to do something. As for the technical aspect, I would say probably the biggest achievement we did besides that rewrite is it was at that time object oriented, that was very popular and still is. It really was that we went from the ground up with that with object oriented design and programming. And that―I can safely saw at that point there is a lot of places that talk about "oh, we have object oriented database or object oriented this or that," but this is truly from the ground up. I have seen some of those other databases and, you know, someone takes the language C for example, and puts one class in it and calls it object oriented. Well this is really is from the ground up object oriented, so really proud that we were―that was one of our goals and we actually achieved that so I'm very proud we did that. It was not without struggles and sometimes there is challenges with that, but very happy that we were able to hold to that design point.

Paul: Yeah, and I'm guessing that―I mean that the people who are still working on that SQE, I mean they're obviously reaping the benefits now.

Rob: Yeah, the benefits and the challenges of it. Some things, you know, with object oriented, the benefits―one line of code and you can make a dramatic difference in a lot of actions. So they are certainly enjoying that aspect and the challenges as well. I talk to them fairly frequently, so it's good to know they're still making use of it.

Paul: Yeah. So you moved from that development side then over to Lab Services, Rob. So what is it that you do primarily with Lab Services now?

Rob: A little bit of background: Lab Services started out―oh, 20-30 year―25 years ago, I suppose―as Custom Technologies. People a lot brighter than me were recognizing that IBM was coming out, Rochester, IBM i―AS/400 at the time―a lot of technology that folks were not necessarily adopting or maybe trying to learn to adopt. So a group started with "how can we help customers? How can we help them implement or execute on this new technology?" Lab Services has really been in that mind to help bring these new technologies, or even existing ones, to customers, and so that was the goal for me to come over there. That's really what we continue to do today is if there is new technology that comes out or customers are struggling with growth in their business―which is a good thing, but the bad thing is from an IT perspective that can be a challenge. We help them solve those problems or give them guidance on how to solve those problems.

Paul: Of course, Rob, one of the other things and as I mentioned in your―I'm just thinking Rob. I don't want to see your business card. I mean it must be like an A4 page with your full titles on it. [Laughs] Okay is the other side of course where you're the product development manager for Web Query, and I know when we were chatting just beforehand, before we started recording, and you reminded me of something about Web Query and I sort of said to you, I said "okay, you've got to say this on the recording." So let me ask you this, Rob, and I'm going to put the question to you this way: How many people actually have Web Query? Of all of the IBM i customers out there, what percentage of them would have Web Query?

Rob: So that's a great question. So the first question is how many are entitled, how many can get Web Query, and the answer is pretty all of them, pretty much 100 percent. And the reason for that is Web Query, when it first came out, was billed as a replacement for the Query/400 product, which was extremely popular. I would say most every IBM i customer has Query/400 somewhere in there and if they have Query/400, then they're entitled to the Web Query Express. So who is entitled to it, who owns it? Pretty much every customer. Now how many customers are actually using it? Obviously less than that, but that's one of the things that always surprises folks when we ask that question at the beginning of the session when we talk about Web Query. How many of you own Web Query? Two or three hands will go up and we'll say "no, everyone in here does" because we'll ask who has Query/400 and every hand goes up.

Paul: Yeah. So yeah―and it's one of those things that when we were talking, like when you said this to me beforehand. It was something that in the back of my head I knew, but the significance of it―it wasn't until you actually said it, you know, that you sort of go, "well actually everybody has"Vyou know they may not have installed it, they may not have set it up, but it is there and they can just start using it. I'm sorry and just to point out, by the way, Rob, I think is that if they have Query/400 that means they can just use the Web Query Express, and that's at no charge. There is no extra product or that that they have to buy.

Rob: Right. They can go out and ask―either they can order themselves or, most often, ask their business partner to get Web Query and install it. One thing we came out with a few months ago is what we call an easy install option for Web Query, so they can send―if they don't know anything about Web Query and would like to get started―we made it as easy as we could― send an email to and we'll send you a link to a package that you can simply download and the package is a one-command set up that will install Web Query and get it running, and register you and bring you to the web page to get you started on Web Query so that easy―

Paul: No, no, no, no. Rob. You can't be doing this Rob. I mean no. Easy install of IBM software? No, no, no, no, no, no. [Laughs].

Rob: That's what we call it, yes.

Paul: The end of the world is now I think Rob. So―

Rob: Well you can still go through, you know, the install, the download, find the DVD, blow it off. You can still go through all that if you want too.

Paul: Oh, I can still have the pain if I want. Good. Thank you. So Rob, really then there are sort of―there are sort of like two versions of Web Query. You have the Web Query Express and Web Query standard then, which I gather has a lot more features in there than the Express one.

Rob: Yeah, so it's a good question. We talked about most everyone has―is entitled to have Web Query Express. The standard is the other edition of it, and the primary difference between them is for maybe a bit larger customers if you want to do―if you want to have a lot of users using Web Query, that would be a reason to get standard. If you want to do email distributions or scheduling of reports, that's another reason to get standard. The interesting thing and whether―we did intend this but I don't know if it was 100 percent intentional―is with Web Query Express, you basically have all of the tools development. You can have all of the glitzy charts, you can have maps, all of that stuff with Express. The standard is really to get you the extra of distribution, email distribution, scheduling, and many more users.

Paul: Yeah. Excellent. Now actually, since you mentioned a few months ago―as we're recording this Rob, we are just at the point where the next technology release is about to come out. Even though we are recording this a few days in advance, you know this isn't going to air until either just before the technology release or just after, so come on, Rob. Tell us something about what is going to be in Web Query in the next technology release. Come on. Come on, share. [Laughs].

Rob: Send somebody to your house so if I share―you know how IBM is about giving this stuff away ahead of time.

Paul: Yeah, okay. Okay so this is definitely going to go out after the technology release is announced. So in the technology release that just came out Rob, what would you say is one of the highlights with Web Query? [Laughs]

Rob: So, I'm glad you asked, actually. So all kidding aside, the new release is coming out that we're announcing in October has a couple of key features things that customers had asked for, and one that we're responding to some of the competition in terms of―one of the big things I would say in this new release coming out is what's called visualization. That's very hot in the industry right now, and the concept is fairly easy. Sometimes it can be a challenge: how does this differ from others? But today you can write reports, you can write dashboards, do some other things, but you are sort of building a canned sort of implementation. What the visualization does―which is a thing we're excited about coming out the end of this year―is it's sort of like as you think about things or as you start to look through the data and you start to analyze it, you can say "oh, what if" or "well that's interesting," and you can to ask more questions. Well the visualization lets you basically drag and drop things onto the canvas, and it builds the reports as you're thinking about them. The big advantage to that―as opposed to having "well here's a report, here is what you have―usually reports cause you to think about what ifs, or you look at something strange and you want to do more analysis on that. The visualization capability will allow you to do that, to basically say "well that looks kind of funny. Let me drill into that or let me get more information." With the palate that's provided, you drag in with your mouse, get more information out, and kind of go down a path―sort of like as you're thinking about things and you're looking at things, it helps you get to that aha! moment to say "oh, well that's interesting." To do that―it isn't so easy just to use canned reports to do that. You kind of have to build it on the fly, and that's that visualization.

Paul: Okay so this is going beyond just the standard-like analysis of data that we have? This is sort of playing with the what if? Yeah.

Rob: It's, it's sort―it's a bit of a hybrid. It's a―it's the analysis we have, but you can go that extra step as you are looking at the data to say "oh, I want to know more information about this particular aspect" or you know, "why are our sales down in this quarter?" I need to do that. I don't have a report right in front of me. I need to drill down and find some other things or bring in another table and you can start to do that very dynamically while you are thinking about it―

Paul: Cool.

Rob: the Web Query with the visualization.

Paul: So actually, Rob―you're going to be speaking at the RPG and Db2 Summit in October and the TR will have been announced by then, so are you going to be, by any chance, talking about this or maybe demoing some of this when you're at the Summit?

Rob: Absolutely. That's the intent is to talk about this―

Paul: Excellent.

Rob: ...and also talk about some of the other features. So this will be in the what's new in terms of―we also have this concept coming out of auto drill down and auto link, where if you have a couple of reports, the Web Query will automatically detect that―"hey, there's a relationship between these two seemingly unrelated reports." It will allow you to when you're on one report with just a click run the other one―

Paul: Cool.

Rob: ...within context. So yes, we'll be talking about this at the Summit and looking forward to speaking there.

Paul: Yeah, so I'm going to have to check my scheduling now to try and make sure I can get in on that, make sure I'm not speaking at the same time. So Rob, always when I do these iTalks, I always like to end up on a personal note, and so usually my sort of lead in question is "what do you do in your spare time?" But when we were discussing what you're going to be talking about in your personal side, I've got a funny feeling you don't have any spare time. So do you want to share with people what you guys did this summer?

Rob: Yeah, well for one thing―our summer I guess otherwise is fairly normal compared to other folks, but one thing looking back on it was fairly exciting. My father is getting on in years. He's in his 90s now―he's 93―but he's still very active. He still lives on the farm, and still does the farming work, which is pretty amazing. In fact he had a knee replacement here a few months ago and the doctor was telling him, "well that knee, you know it's got a warranty for 30 years, so come back in 30 years and I'll replace it." But my dad just says "okay, I'll see you in 30 years." [Laughs]. But we know―well, time rolls on. So we went as a family. It's a good day’s drive to get to Dad. We went to family and stayed out there a week with him, so the kids―we have seven kids―spent the week with Dad―

Paul: You just snuck that―

Rob: Granddad doing that stuff and looking back, that was really very memorable and really going to remember that for a long time.

Paul: Okay I would remember a day long drive with seven kids in the car, Rob.

Rob: It gets longer as we go because there are a lot more stops.

Paul: So what's the age range of your seven children, Rob?

Rob: Well we just―our oldest just went off to college, so he's 18 now, just turning 19, and our youngest is 7.

Paul: Wow. So that's what I said, you don't have spare time. If you've got seven kids, you don't have spare time, Rob. So listen, Rob, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me. I look forward to seeing you at the Summit and giving you a break from the kids for a couple of days. [Laughs].

Rob: Looking forward to seeing you, Paul, and looking forward to the Summit.

Paul: Okay. So that's it for this iTalk, everybody. Tune in again for the next one. Bye for now.


Paul Tuohy has specialized in application development and training on IBM midrange systems for more than 20 years.

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