ISV improves underwater data collection

Barrodale Computing Services (BCS), a Victoria-based ISV, is immersing itself in the scientific software industry by improving data collection for underwater observatories.

The 30-year-old project-oriented research company, turned product-oriented developer, is enabling scientists to store incoming data in real-time with its database extension for Microsoft SQL Server 2008, called DBXten.

The small company has been researching sophisticated databases for 12 years, and began to enter the market when it saw a lucrative new field for a database extension for underwater observatories said BCS president Ian Barrodale.

Seabed laboratories are made up of long fiber-optic cables with instruments attached which lay on the seafloor and collect data.

“The projects we’ve worked on all faced the same problem: a fiber optic cable on the seabed with data coming off it at rates that can’t be stored in real-time,” Barrodale said.

This means many individuals in the scientific community are unable to use databases and are stuck storing their data in files, which makes searching for information later difficult.

“This tells me vendors of databases need to pay more attention to the fact that scientists are not using databases because they are too cumbersome,” Barrodale said.

BCS’ DBXten solves the ingestion issue by attaching to any commercial database and allowing customers to create their own tailored indexes, enabling them to quickly search and retrieve complex scientific data.

“DBXten speeds up ingestion or insertion by about 50 times and decreases the size of an index by a factor of 1000.” Barrodale said. “More importantly it gives users an easier way to retrieve data. It’s a seamless storage system, like a dictionary, which adds all of the measurements and allows you to do simple searches by typing in the date and longitude/latitude.”

Barrodale said the invention is really ahead of the game. A Government of Canada-sponsored report for seabed laboratories identified over 100 potential customers who will all have the same problem of data spilling off the cable and literally falling onto the sea floor. The data extension can also absorb any kind of data sequence, numeric or textual, seismic, maps, financial or temperatures, he said.

“The idea for the software came from seabed laboratories, but the general concept of storing data coming in quickly and in real-time can be applied to a number of other sectors.”

A project BCS is working on in the Gulf of Mexico with the University of Mississippi uses DBXten to study gas hydrates, which sit on pockets of frozen ice and huge reservoirs of natural gas. Studying gas hydrates will help locate natural gas reservoirs, which could be a potentially lucrative business, Barrodale said.

The software works well with Microsoft SQL Server 2008’s new spatial reporting capabilities for geo-location based data, but it can be plugged into any commercial database.

Erin Elofson, senior product manager for SQL Server at Microsoft, said there is an unprecedented level of interest in Microsoft SQL Server 2008, receiving 500,000 downloads since August. Microsoft SQL Server is available for purchase through the channel and DBXten can be purchased directly through the ISV, BCS.

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