Friday, March 22, 2013

Why NoSQL became MORE SQL and why Hadoop will become the Big Data Virtual Machine

A few years ago I wrote an article about "When Big Data is a Big Con" which talked about some of the hype issues around Big Data.  One of the key points I raised was about how many folks were just slapping on Big Data badges to the same old same old, another was that Map Reduce really doesn't work they way traditional IT estates behave which was a significant barrier to entry for Hadoop as a new technology.  Mark Little took this idea and ran with it on InfoQ about Big Data Evolution or Revolution? Well at the Hadoop Summit in Amsterdam this week the message was clear...
SQL is back, SQL is key, SQL is in fact the King of Hadoop
Part of me is disappointed in this.  I've never really liked SQL and quite liked the LISPiness of Map Reduce but the reason behind this is simple.
When it comes to technology adoption its people that are key, and large scale adoption means small scale change
Think about Java.  A C language (70s concept) derivative running on a virtual machine (60s)  using some OO principles (60s) with a kickass set of libraries (90s).  It exploded because it wasn't a big leap and I think we can now see the same sort of thing with Hadoop now that its stopped with purity and gone for the mainstream.  Sure there will be some NoSQL pieces out there and Map Reduce has its uses but its this change towards using SQL that will really cause Hadoop usage to explode.What is good however is that the Hadoop philosophy remains in-tact, this isn't the Java SE 6 debacle where aiming after 'Joe Six-pack' developer resulted in a bag of mess.  This instead is about retaining that philosophy of cheap infrastructure and massive scale processing but adding a more enterprise friendly view (not developer friendly, enterprise friendly) and its that focus which matters.

Hadoop has the opportunity to become the 'JVM of Big Data' but with a philosophy that the language you use on that Big Data Virtual Machine is down to your requirements and most critically down to what people in your enterprise want to use.

Its great to see a good idea grow by taking a practical approach rather than sticking to flawed dogma. Brilliant work from the Hadoop community I salute you!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

BTVision iPlayer not working - and the excuses BT use

I've had an experience in the last few months with the folks from BT that really brought home how bad support can be when they have a real issue and how they look to trot out excuses to fob you off when they dont actually have a fix.

So in January iPlayer stopped working at my mother's house.  She isn't a techy so I took over support.  The first call went fine, and a secondary follow up call with 2nd line support was scheduled.

They said the issue was the use of a 3rd party router

Now the challenge is that iPlayer was working with that router previously, also every other iPlayer device in the house is working perfectly well, laptops, iPads, iPhones.  So I check it out with the official router, the problem remains, but I switch back to the 3rd party Asus router as its quite a bit better.  This is BT Infinity so the router is purely the LAN and WiFi.

For the next few calls the story was the same and a 2nd line call was scheduled.  This phoned the wrong number, left a message saying they'd call back... which never happened.

The next time, and we are six weeks in now, the story changed.

This is a well known fault with the BT Vision box it will be fixed in 48 hours

3 days later... yup you guessed it, still no iPlayer so the calls start again.  On each of the previous calls I've got through the menus, let them profile the line and do everything they want to.  I must have seen BBC iPlayer failing to work on 4 different calls.  So this time I just said 'I want this fixed, how can you fix it?'

The YouView box doesn't have this problem

But the person on 1st line support can't do anything about that so their supervisor is called (actually they were meant to call me back, didn't so I called again) this person tries to transfer me to the customer options team... but can't actually make the transfer properly to an agent to explain the situation so just dumps me in the queue.

Customer Options tell me that they can't switch my mother to YouView for .... £300.  I point out that my problem is just to get a box that does what BT advertise BT Vision for, namely having BBC iPlayer.  This is apparently not their problem and in the words of the UK call centre person

I've never heard of a problem with the BT Vision box

So she can't help me, she just wants my mother to pay several hundred quid or sign up to a new more expensive contract.  In other words to get the service that BT advertised her answer is to charge more money... isn't that extortion?  No that involves threats... its fraud I think.  Her coup de grĂ¢ce however was offering to transfer me back to the fault support people who'd transferred me to her in the first place as they said they couldn't fix the problem.

So then I tweeted to BT Vision who referred me to BT Care who got me to fill in a form which resulted in a call which.... resulted in me talking to the fault department where I was told the following...

  1. This has been a fault on all BT Vision boxes since January 11th
  2. The issue is with the Content Delivery partner, the internet is ok but for BT Vision the BBC iPlayer/TV signal isn't being broadcast
  3. The internet iPlayer is ok but BT Vision doesn't use the internet for iPlayer

I know that the last 2 are really the same excuse but I've put it down twice as I really got her to go over, and over, this topic and she did change the story a bit.  But her claim was that the issue was with the content delivery partner.  I said I just didn't believe this as I'd never heard of BBC iPlayer working over the air and couldn't see how that would really work.  She then settled down to

Its a software problem and it will be fixed on 31st March

So that was a nice clear statement, very like the '48 hours' statement and one that I couldn't help think was just meant to get me off the phone and have me waiting around before calling again in 3 weeks because they really have no clue and no intention of fixing the problem.

What has been amazing in this is just how disconnected the systems are at BT.  The BT Options team had no view on my customer complaints and service history, quite clearly or they'd have seen the fault report.  The fault people clearly had no idea about the Options team and how they worked as when they offered to switch me to them they didn't know that it was simply a question of extorting money.  2nd line support is clearly not interested in fixing problems but just making calls and getting off the phone and if the reality is that this is a broad problem with BT Vision there is a ridiculous amount of fluff and bullshit being thrown around.

If it really does impact all BT Vision customers then why isn't it more visible on the BT Help site?  The only issues appear to be from 2012.  If its really to do with that router (I doubt it) tell me the ports and protocols and I'll test/fix it.  If the only box that BT have that works as advertised is YouView then shouldn't I just get that box so I get the service they advertised?

The shame is that this is the only thing that doesn't work, but its become such an integral part of how people watch TV these days its a major issue.  BBC iPlayer is a key feature of BT Vision and it not working massively devalues the box, worst however is the constant bullshit and fabrication by BT Support.  I took over doing this as my mother isn't technical, I hate to think what they would have told her had she phoned.  So at the end of this BT are saying they have a known fault, its been known since January but....

Its taken 2 1/2 months for them to admit that

Is it really worth wasting my time, call time and support time on a known issue in the hope that you can fob people off to think its their mistake or issue?  That really doesn't seem to be the way to run a support call, the lack of a single view on the customer and the ability for someone to actually case manage across channels and areas is also a massive gap.  Dealing with BT is less like dealing with a company and more like dealing with a series of separate organisations whose only interest is to shift the blame to someone else.

Not good, not good at all