Thursday, February 03, 2005

OLTP and Batch Processes

OLTP and Batch Processes

Chinese New Year (or "Imlek", as it is known in Indonesia) during the month of February is usually very hot and dry affair in Malaysia; but here in Jakarta, where the rainy season is just beginning to move into full swing, Imlek celebration is often wet and watery, with the ever-looming treat of floods.

I will have to be home for Chinese New Year of course, but I'll still have to be working over the holidays. Nowadays weekends and public holidays don't make much difference to me. I am also not very keen to go on a long stretch of holiday without work, for it is very difficult for me to get back to "match fitness" after that. You are no longer sharp and you strain to remember facts that should be at your finger tips. A small but steady stream of work with short breaks in between is what I'd personally prefer.

Work comes in two forms: "OLTP: and "batch". What I mean by "online transaction processing (OLTP)" type of work are tasks such as replying emails, making quotations, participating in conference calls and meetings. These are relatively easy to handle and they don't need a lot brain-racking; just simple request-and-response action.

"Batch" processes are tasks such as writing a report, doing analysis on data, brain-storming for fresh ideas, software development and any kind of project work. These things require continuous concentration and often, a lot of inspiration too; not to mention the willpower to endure the drudgery of having to piece together words, sentences, diagrams or computer code to fill up lots of blank pages/screens.

Sometimes the batch process needs to run in the background: you live and sleep with the problem and in doing so, fresh ideas emerge spontaneously. Batch processing is a very lonely task indeed, but the fruits of the labour can sometimes be very satisfying. You see your ideas germinate, evolve and flower into something tangible.

Going into a project is also like falling in love. It is an immersion process that consumes your body, mind and soul. You hold your breath and dive into it all. You come out feeling exhausted, spent and sometimes a bit lost. Karma is worked out.

OLTP-type of work merely drains your energy, because you are always rushing for time, trying to squeeze as many transactions into your day as possible. Batch processes on the other hand eats your soul: It sucks your essence but transmutes it into something subtler.

OLTP love is easy--one-night stands and short affairs. But when love comes as a batch process, one has to be very very careful, for it often ends up consuming one's whole life.

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