Wednesday, September 21, 2005

OOW2K5: Queueing Theory

The large number of attendees is really starting to bite. Queueing, not Total Integration or Project Fusion, is the dominant theme of the conference. Whenever two or three delegates gather together they will discuss the queue for a particular session or lunch or the toilet. The queue to get into Tom Kyte's presentation yesterday morning was so long that even Mark Rittman, ACE of the Year and Oracle Goldster, was unable to blag his way in. The English have a reputation for queueing, but these days it's undeserved. The queues here are really orderly, self-policed single files. The normal English bus stop "queue" is just a bundle waiting for the arrival of a bus to trigger it.

There have been rumours that the Conference might move to somewhere bigger, like Las Vegas, but this seems unlikely to me. Moving events of this magnitude makes turning an oil tanker look like spinning on a penny. In 1995 I got into conversation with a couple of events organisers in a Covent Garden bar. Naturally the talk turned to our plans for the millenium. That was the near future to them: they already knew what they would be doing in 2005. Living ten years in the future must be a very odd way to be, a bit like Philip K Dick's "The World That Jones Made". Another idea that has been mooted by a couple of people now is that the conference could be split into or even three separate events. But it seems to me that if the key message is Total Integration of the entire stack from storage technonolgy through applications to the portal then dis-integrating the conference is sending the wrong message. But let's face it, queues are a nice problem to have. They are a sign of success. It would be a lot worse if the conference was just lonely tumbleweeds blowing the Moscone Centre.

The queue for Scott McNealy's keynote started more than forty-five minutes before his keynote was scheduled to start; the keynote, and that was only supposed to last forty-five minutes. Lucky I brought a good book.

So was Scott worth the rock star treatment? Hmmm, not really. As keynotes by CEOs go he is entertaining. But he telegraphs his punches: if the Powerpoint throws up a picture of Larry you know a joke about expensive suits is coming. And the announcements are a bit underwhelming too. Scott talked about, "Let's have an iPod moment!" But Sunfire X64 4+ is not an iPod moment. If hardware floats your boat then okay. But Sun launching a new server is hardly as radical a change of direction as Apple moving into consumer electronics. Even if that server can run Windows. Still, because of the commitment to "planet-sensitive computing" I think we can say it is a Mini iPod in pastel green moment ;)

The most interesting part of Scott's keynote was the emphasis on zero cost of exit. Give away your software to the Open Source community, keep to open standards and compete on your ability to support your own servers. This is an interesting business model, the apparently exact opposite of vendor lock-in. Of course, being able to leave Sun easily is only half the problem for a CIO. If the competitors are all have lots of proprietary, closed products then where else do you go to avoid being locked-in? Smart.

I went to Dr Paul Dorsey's presentation on "Data Modelling with UML" genuinely expecting a How-To. Silly of me, I really ought to read the abstracts. What we got was a broadside against Oracle for abandoning Designer in favour of JDeveloper. Dr Dorsey is smart, articulate and boy is he ticked off. Paul is the first to state that JDeveloper is a first-class tool for developers. His name remains on the JDeveloper 10g Handbook after all. It's just not a tool for database architects. His frustration is evident and understandable. Apart from anything else, the market for JDeveloper is a small one. The tool is competing against Eclipse. A whole bunch of Java coders will never look at JDeveloper simply because it has the Oracle brand. A whole bunch more won't look at it because they think RDBMS is a dumb idea. And JDeveloper panders to this mindset by allowing Java developers to treat tables as just somewhere to persist objects. Paul was fair, he blasted Rational Rose for exactly the same things.

The key thing is that the same class model must generate the Java objects, the relational tables and the mapping between them. Just as Dr Dorsey started to talk about the only tool around that can do this, the BRIM product he has been refining for years, the battery in his laptop went. Was this sabotage by a black bag special ops team from the JDeveloper group? Who can say? I'm sure Steve Muench has an alibi.

In the evening I went to the Oracle Bloggers dinner organised by Mark Rittman. I'm sure everybody else will blog about it so I won't bother to say much. I was a bit fazed by the barman asking which vodka I wanted in my vodka martini. Er, you know, vodka. Tom queried my choice of a vodka martini, gesturing with his own glass and saying, "It's all about the gin". To which I should have replied (but didn't), "No Tom, it's all about the data".

By the way, am I the only person wondering why the Women In Technology International stand is being manned by a man?


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