It's oh so nice to go travellin'
But it's so much nicer, yes it's so much nicer to come home
Sinatra sang that. Going to OpenWorld this year was great but it meant I missed my son starting reception class (kindergarten). Fortunately I did get back in time to collect Fred at the end of his first full day: his smile when he saw me is obviously the thing that I will treasure most from the week.
Anyway, Oracle Open World 2005. Now that I am back at work what have I been telling people about the trip?
Thirty-five thousand attendees. That's a small town. It's partly a sign of Oracle's success as a product but also an artifact of the major acquisitions over the last twelve months. There were large contingents of JD Edwards and PeopleSoft customers attending OOW for the first time, obviously trying to get a handle on the nature of this Oracle beast. It will be interesting to see if they attend OOW2K6 in such large numbers. At times the sheer number of attendees was imposing. Yet the conference organisation coped. There was enough food, water, coffee for everybody. Most of the time the queues were not excessive (except at Starbucks in the morning) and usually people got into to their session of first choice. The conference scaled well. It must run on Grid. Speaking of which...
Oracle's Commitment to the Grid Architecture
Probably the single most impressive fact I learned this year was the nature of Oracle's own enterprise set-up: a multi-node cluster of 288 CPUs with a BI layer running against the OLTP layer on the same instance. (By contrast, when 10g was launched at OpenWorld two years ago the reference site for the grid architecture was EA's The Sims Online with eighteen CPUs.) But it's more than just resilience. Grid architecture is becoming a key enabling technology for Oracle. Benefits of implementing the grid cropped up in sessions I attended on security, data warehouse architecture and efficient data loading. Oracle have not quite cracked the manageability angle, there is still an administrative overhead to running a grid. But once it becomes possible for us to treat a grid as if it were a single box then any barrier to take-up should disappear.
Oracle's Commitment to the Open Standards
Project Fusion was the key message of the conference: turning the entire technology stack, from database to portal, into a single suite of integrated, hot pluggable components. The integrated bit is obvious. Of course all the products from a single vendor ought to play nice with each other. The interesting bit is their commitment to open standards, such that we can swap any part of the suite for a similarly compliant product from A N Other vendor. So Oracle is going to certify its E-Business Suite against JBoss and WebSphere. They are even contemplating certification against IBM's DB2 database, although this will depend largely on the attitude of the PeopleSoft and JD Edwards customers towards database flavour. Also openness requires there to be other vendors with standards compliant software, otherwise it's just another form of vendor lock-in.
Utility Computing Revisited
Oracle have gone a bit quiet on this front but Sun seems to be going for it in a big way. It's not going to be long before get a site to host your business app will be a simple as filling in a form of six checkboxes and uploading an RPM.
Currently this product is in Beta but it was the most interesting announcement of the week. Essentially it answers the question, "How can I stop my DBA getting access to my customers' credit card numbers?" With Data Vault we will no longer hust have to trust the integrity of our DBAs. It is a set of packages and practices that separates user management from security policy from system administration. So for instance we will be able to enforce different levels of access in local and remote databases for the same user account created with the same system privileges. We could prevent the DBA from querying any table with sensitive business data despite her possession of the SELECT ANY TABLE privilege. We will be able to prevent anybody issuing DDL commands during business hours. Data Vault will feature a robust audit function impervious to tampering by even a DBA. Of course, it will not be bulletproof, but working around Data Vault should require collusion between at least two and probably three people, which is (we hope) much less likely than a rogue individual.
Can you believe it's ten years since O'Reilly first published PL/SQL Programming? Me neither. Now that the book weighs in at 1198 pages maybe it's time to same goodbye to the ants on the cover in favour of something of a more suitable scale, such as a (stunned) water buffalo.
It was nice to meet up with some other ACEs, to put faces and accents (hi Laurent!) to the names. I have a pretty good Namedrop Quotient at the moment.
Oracle seem to have improved the community side of things since two years ago. I attended a couple of get-togethers with a good mix of Oracle and non-Oracle people, and I am sure there were other similar events to which I didn't get invited. The hot technologies in the modern world are those were people can contibute rather than be passive consumers. People feel differently about Java or Python than they do about VB. Participation is the key to a thriving community. By opening up OTN to non-Oracle writers and acknowledging the contribution of non-employees Oracle is moving in the right direction. Although I think it'll be a long time before we're downloading the new version of PL/SQL from SourceForge. Which brings me to...
Badge of the Conference
A freebie from Apress with the slogan, "Life would be so much easier if we just had the source code." Which is very true when you think about it.