Wednesday 31 August 2016

Podcast Interview with Dirk Vermeylen, HP Enterprise

Last month I had the pleasure of interviewing one of my fellow countrymen, a Belgian graphista living a short distance from my home in Antwerp, who had submitted a very cool graphgist to our challenge earlier this year. Dirk Vermeylen did a great gist about trying to model sports results as a graph database - very interesting, so I will let him explain it to you himself. Here's the recording of our conversation:
Here's the transcript of our conversation:
RVB: 00:02.538 Hello everyone. My name is Rik, Rik Van Bruggen from Neo Technology and I am here again recording a podcast episode with someone in my own country. That's actually very, very-- I don't think that's happened before. Dirk Vermeylen, from HP Enterprise is joining me from a couple of miles down the road on our phone call. Dirk, welcome. 
DV: 00:23.708 Thank you, Rik. Thanks. 
RVB: 00:25.290 Cheers. Thanks for coming online. Dirk, we got to know each other because of some GraphGist that you created recently which we'll talk about more a little bit later, but why don't you introduce yourself to our listeners first of all? 
DV: 00:41.285 I am working for HPE, used to work for EDS. So that was taken over by HP then became HPE and there is some changes in the future as well. I work as a consultant in the service delivery and infrastructure environment. 
RVB: 01:04.137 Okay and then what's your relationship to the wonderful world of graphs? How do you get into that if I may ask? 
DV: 01:13.628 It is more or less by accident. I am-- as part of service delivery and a lot of work is done on configuration databases on CMDBs, where what we need to do is migrate CMDBs and varying CMDBs on for example, what is important is you want to know what service are implemented in specific data centers and what applications are related to it. There are many, many relations in between like server databases that are installed and instances at business services that are configured to it, so you only have all sets of relationship. We need to work with it and I was looking into better ways on how we can manage the data on it. Then Neo4j was mentioned when reading the internet, so at some point in time I thought I may get this a try. I did it and it worked in fact, [?] though. 
RVB: 02:18.972 I think there's a lot of people out there that are using Neo4j for configuration management databases because of the relationships and review and the impact analysis that allows you to do. So, if something happens in your configuration, what's the impact on the rest of the configuration. Is that also your case or was that your background as well? 
DV: 02:41.301 Exactly. Exactly. And the advantage is that when you do queries, actually Neo4j allows to document and very well decipher way of working is the very nice way of documentation. It reads easier than you do with complex SQL queries whereas we join and all of that that's a bit more tricky to understand what you have been doing a couple of days later. 
RVB: 03:05.779 Absolutely. I have so many people that talked to us about that. That's great to hear. But you ended up writing that GraphGist for something completely different, right [chuckles]? What was that all about? It was about your running partners, right? 
DV: 03:21.132 That's right. I was working on CMDBs also a little bit in my free time. At some point you have done and you're ready with it. At that time the GraphGist challenge appeared and it says try to do this problem if you can do it on a wide board, it will work. In my free time I tried to collect information about our running competition which is just like we go running with a couple of friends. And first at the rising in the race gets 50 points, second 45, third 40 points, and so on. And then we just add them all up together and at the end of the year you have a winner for motivation. We keep track of this points in the Excel spreadsheet. I want to automate it because automation is fun. And I tried to make a big draw. The problem-- and it worked very well at the same time as the GraphGist challenge, so I thought probably I should spent a little bit more time and work on this GraphGist challenge. 
RVB: 04:33.723 Super cool. We'll put a link to your actual GraphGist on the blog post with this episode as well. What was so nice about it? What was it that made the GraphGist and Neo4j such a good fit for that particular running assignment that you wanted to solve? 
DV: 04:53.803 GraphGist was easy to use, and you need the AsciiDoctor which is like-- you take notes-- part plain text and then with very little markup or markdown, as it was called, you can specify query. And see the results actually directly in the GraphGist. And Neo4j is very visual so you create-- when one query, you see a little bit of the dots already and you say "Ah, I need a second query." And from the second query you go to the third query. So, it's very visual. It allows you to very quickly progress in your problem fields. 
RVB: 05:36.505 Very, very nice. I bet your running buddies were happy with the result [chuckles]. 
DV: 05:44.441 I didn't show it to them already. Part of the thing is that I used test results which means the races are correct, the people are correct, but the sequence of rival is not correct in the GraphGist. So I'm not sure if they will be so happy with me what I assumed there. 
RVB: 06:05.157 You made yourself win every time [laughter]. 
DV: 06:08.787 No. Not me. Someone else. But it's-- really it's test data. 
RVB: 06:13.784 I understand. Very cool. All right. So what are you going to use this for in the future, Dirk? Do you have any more professional or personal plans with this? Or where do you want to take this in the future? 
DV: 06:26.347 And part of the GraphGist as well was to get more experience with cypher and I used it for CMDB to challenge with configuration management databases that you have like 20,000 objects and 18,000 relations. So if you launch a query, it may or it may not end up with the result that you are expecting because of lack of experience. With my very small example, it's a lot easier to understand what you are doing. And where I want to take it in future is configuration management databases, of course. Also, on open data-- I'm more and more involved in open data. And open data is all about linked data. And with linked data, you are very close to Neo4j and these graphical relations again. 
RVB: 07:19.085 Super. Well, I mean, I think we will meet again there. Because that's exactly the type of stuff that I've been working on in the meetups here in Belgium as well. And I'm sure we'll have a chat about this in the future then. Very cool. Anything else you want to add, Derrick? Is there anything that would should be paying attention to in your work? Or otherwise, I think we'll keep this podcast recording short. 
DV: 07:45.950 That's perfect. I'm happy with what Neo4j was doing already. I was working on Neo4j version two. And py2neo is very important. The py2neo library. I had a little bit of issues that I've seen-- that the new version of Neo4j and the new version of py2neo solve them all. So I'm looking forward to play around with these. 
RVB: 08:10.485 Well, it's summer time. You know, this is perfect time to experiment with those [crosstalk]. 
DV: 08:16.662 Exactly. 
RVB: 08:16.236 All right, Dirk. Thank you so much for sharing your work with us and with the entire community. I really appreciate it. And thank you for coming online to do this recording. And I'm sure we'll meet very soon. 
DV: 08:28.730 Thanks, Rick. Thanks. It was nice doing this. 
RVB: 08:30.685 Thanks a lot. Bye. 
DV: 08:31.662 Thanks. Bye.
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