Oracle ACE = Oracle’s Bitch?


I got a comment today on my recent Oracle fanboy post, which I thought was very interesting and worthy of a blog post in reply. The commenter started by criticising the Oracle license and support costs (we’ve all had that complaint) as well as the quality of support (yes, I’ve been there too), but that wasn’t the thing that stood out. The final paragraph was as follows…

“One addition. I know you, your past work and you are very brainy person but since last couple of years you became Oracle doctrine submissive person just like most of the rest of ACE Directors. When you were just ACEs, you were more trustworthy than now and you weren’t just Oracle interpreters… And unfortunately I’m not the only person with this opinion, but probably I’m only one who is not affraid to make it public.”

I think that’s a really interesting point and one that I feel compelled to write about…

Let me start by saying I don’t believe this comment was in any way directed at the main body of my website. The articles there have always been “how-to” style articles and typically don’t contain much in the way of opinions about the functionality. I’ve always tried to keep facts in the articles and opinions and random junk on the blog. With that distinction in place, let’s talk about my blog…

When I first joined the Oracle ACE Program in 2006 I was very concious of what *I thought it meant* about what I could and couldn’t say. On the one hand I didn’t want to piss off Oracle as I was very proud of my little ACE badge, but I also didn’t want to be considered Oracle’s Bitch. I quickly learned a couple of things:

  • You are selected for what you are currently doing in the community. If you just keep doing what you do, life will be good. If you spend your whole time slagging off Oracle, you probably won’t get invited on to the program in the first place. If over time you turn into a complete hater, you will probably be asked to leave the program. I guess that’s pretty obvious and true of any evangelism program out there. Does that mean you can’t ever criticise Oracle? Hell no! Instead, I think it makes it your obligation to give constructive criticism whenever possible. One of the things we are encouraged to do is to make stronger links with the product managers so we can give more feedback to help improve the products. If you witnessed the amount of moaning and complaints that get fired at some of the Oracle teams during the ACE Director briefings, you would have no doubts about this. 🙂
  • The value of the Oracle ACE Program to Oracle is that it is made up of “real” people who think Oracle is cool enough to spend their own time talking about it. If the Oracle ACE Program becomes a collection of yes-men and yes-women, then they might as well send a bunch of sales people to every conference. Oracle have (so far), never complained or tried to veto anything I’ve said in any presentation, blog post or article.

So have I become one of Oracle’s bitches over the last few years? Well, I’ve been an ACE since 1st April 2006 (yes, April fool’s day) and I’ve been an ACE Director since some time in 2007 or 2008. I can’t really remember to be honest, but let’s say for the sake of argument it’s been 6 years as an ACED. If it was becoming an ACED that made me an “Oracle doctrine submissive person” in the last couple of years, it must have taken Oracle four years of work to make me that way. 🙂

I don’t believe I alter my beliefs to fit any criteria, but I guess it is really difficult to be subjective about yourself and I would be very interested to know what other people think about this. If I think about some common topics of discussion over the last few years where I don’t fall “on message”, they would probably be:

  • I believe Oracle is too expensive.
  • I believe the diagnostics and tuning pack should be part of the base product and available in all editions for free.
  • I believe anything to do with security should be part of the base product and available in all editions for free.
  • I don’t agree with the pricing of data guard standby nodes that are only used for managed recovery. If they are opened for use (read-only, active DG or snapshot standby) I can see why Oracle would want to charge.
  • Although I love the functionality of Cloud Control, I think the implementation is suffering from really bad bloat. It also exhibits some irregularities when different teams work on different aspects of the same functionality, as I discussed here.
  • I am a fan of certification from the perspective of personal development, but I don’t think the piece of paper is worth anything in itself. I’ve written about this here. Having said that, I do agree with the recent re-certification thing.

I’ve just had a look through my posts over the last year and if anything, I would say I’m promoting KeePass and MobaXterm more than Oracle. 🙂 I know I get a little gushy about the ACE Program during conference write ups, and maybe that annoys people a bit, but I just can’t see that I’ve become a total drone… (Denial is not just a river in Africa?)

Anyway, I have two things to say in closing:

  • To people in the Oracle ACE program : If you are worried about what you should and shouldn’t say, my advice is try to be as honest as possible. If the people in the community lose faith in the members of the program, then it is worth nothing!
  • To people in the community : If you honestly believe you see a change in behaviour when someone joins the program you should call them out on it. I would suggest you do this in private and give some examples of situations that give you concern. If they are “the type of people the program needs”, they should be concerned about this also!



PS. For those that feel the need to, please don’t wade in with comments in my defence as I don’t think this is either necessary or helpful. I think the person in question had a genuine concern and quite frankly that makes it a concern of mine also…

Author: Tim...

DBA, Developer, Author, Trainer.

20 thoughts on “Oracle ACE = Oracle’s Bitch?”

  1. Excellent post Tim, as well as all material you share on your site, just keep going, when you are “doing” there is always someone to criticize, when you aren’t, nobody notes you.

  2. The biggest issue I see with the whole Ace and AceD thing is this:
    you are supposed to “evangelize” ( I really HATE that term) about Oracle but you are under so many NDAs, that whatever you can say is available already anyway from other sources.
    Which makes the whole thing next to useless.
    I don’t think Aces see this, but the goings-on during conferences and the constant blogging about “what they can’t talk about” is absolutely insane and downright unprofessional! No other IT company does anything like that, mostly because it is stupid and purposeless.
    And quite frankly: asking others if they have “patched up” and/or “used RAC/EXA*/ODA*” and a ton of other inane “advice” I’ve heard from otherwise well intentioned Aces is just pure, unadulterated patronizing.
    Something I’d rather not do to any professional.
    Let alone the fact that the entire Ace program from the start was promoted as “the pinnacle of knowledge” about Oracle RDBMS even though for quite a few years it was only Java folks who got it!
    The whole program is so full of contradictions and useless pseudo-elitism, it’s mostly worthless for those who have to cope with running Oracle databases day in day out and put up with its umpteen bugs and “peculiarities”, year after year.
    And if Oracle thinks it can continue to forever inflict on everyone “its ways or the highway”, they better start LISTENING.

  3. Noons: Most of the NDA stuff only applies to the couple of days before OOW where we hear stuff before Larry gets to announce it. We are not allowed to talk about it for fear of spoiling the keynote. 🙂

    I admit it is probably annoying to hear, but it does serve one valuable point. We know what is interesting in advance, so we can make sure we get to the right sessions and ask the right questions at the demo grounds, so I think we are able to add more value by getting to the information and getting it out there. Once it’s said at OOW it’s open for public consumption. People like yourself will see it directly then, but lots of people won’t and rely on blog posts and conference talks to inform them.

    I’m not sure the “the pinnacle of knowledge” was ever part of the promotion. It was 8+ years ago though, so perhaps I’m suffering from selective amnesia. 🙂 If it was it must have got removed pretty quickly. I think a lot of that perception came from people in the program who wanted it to mean that, and people outside the program who assumed it meant that, which gave them an axe to grind. IMHO it has never been more than a pat on the back to say thank you for contributing to the community. Anyone who uses it as an indication of ability/competency is wrong.

    Regarding the last point, I agree. No empire lasts forever!



  4. “If you spend your whole time slagging off Oracle, you probably won’t get invited on to the program in the first place.”

    Oooooooh shit. I have some tweets to delete.

  5. Thanks for impressively frank post. I also believe that the program and personal integrity are not necessarily mutually exclusive. Like in any totalitarian regime, there are people who manage to maintain the integrity and there are people who drown in the s*.
    The list “where you don’t fall on message” is fair. I would personally leave out the “expensive” part. It is subjective and in the end it is “love it or leave it”. What I see as significantly more problematic is:
    – Not providing fully documented/scripted way how to detect usage of every extra cost option (“Options Guide” for Oracle internal purposes only?)
    – Not providing means to prevent accidental extra cost option usage (chopt for “In Memory”?)
    – Enabling some of the extra cost features by default, in some cases even on editions where it is not supposed to be available at all.
    But for me, the most depressing part is that whatever feedback is there, there is no reaction [visible to me]. Or was there any reaction to this eloquently formulated open letter?

    I personally was participating in one “customer advisory board” session. Nice location, nice people, but very selective in what they CAN hear.

  6. Pavel: I agree with much of what you are saying. I do believe a blindingly obvious on-off switch for anything that costs money is necessary and I think it should be off by default.

    I think the conversation about in-memory got off track because the documented on-off switch (inmemory-size), which is off/unset by default, was not working with the feature usage properly. Kevin Closson was on the money about spotting the bug, but I don’t agree with him about the “inmemory_query=enable” being an issue. The feature is off by default, once the feature usage bug is fixed. My own take is it is off by default and needs to be set and restarted for it to be on. I’m not sure I care about chopt, but I know others do, so it is an issue.

    In defence of the developers, they rarely know about pricing during the development process, so “special” parameter names (license_opt_partitioning_enabled etc.) for paid options is tough. That is not our problem though. 🙂 At least if there was an obvious master option parameter for each feature, they could provide the license information in a separate view so you could check them easily. Example:


    Then you know you need to check the pricing for any of these top-level features against the view if you want to set them… Just a thought…

    Feedback is a difficult thing, because like many companies, what people want and what people get is not the same thing. I’ve had many conversations, off the record, where people from teams say they do not agree with certain policies, but ultimately it is not their decision. All I can say is keep raising enhancement requests against the products for the features you want. Keep asking your account manager for them. Keep asking Oracle ACEs and beta testers about them. Discounting licensing costs, Oracle do quite often work on the things most people are shouting about, when they are allowed to. 🙂



  7. Humm, interesting… Sorry for the joke but I could not hold this one.

    Denial could also be my former British colleague Mr. Lichfield who I very much respect ; )


  8. @Tim , Great blog post, as usual. Is there a program for the evangelism or I don’t think there is one thing on your list of criticisms that I don’t also believe in. I was a bit torn on your last point regarding the re-certification topic. In theory I agree with the stance, but in practice I don’t have a lot of faith in OCP program itself. I’ve met my share of OCP DBAs who didn’t know how to start a databases. I also find the upgrade tests very slanted towards new features that many people aren’t even using yet. However, I can see where Oracle would want to push those so that the adoption rate increases and ultimately make more money (this is a business, after all).

    @Don , I submitted an ACE nomination for you (Dec 8, 2011). I haven’t heard anything back yet. Maybe it got plugged in the intertubes?

  9. Bradd: As I’ve said before, certification for me is not about the bit of paper. You can download brainbumps and pass it with about 2 hours of effort if you want/need the bit of paper.

    For me it is about the journey. I write the articles and gradually get to the point where I can sit the exam. An example of that is the RHCSA and RHCE. I wrote all the articles, but never bothered to sit the exams because it would have cost me £800 for a cert that I didn’t need.

    I can agree with many of the criticisms I’ve heard about OCP over the years, but that doesn’t stop me from thinking it is valuable “to me”, because of the process it takes me through. I am goal orientated, so I would probably ignore some features if I didn’t specifically need to know about them for the exam. 🙂



  10. Tim, I totally get where you are coming from. I’m sure my views aren’t original (and they do change depending on how I look at it). I appreciate you putting yourself out there, showing your passion, and most of all, your viewpoint on the subject.

  11. I suppose that some ACEs like to “make nice” with Oracle, but surely everyone knows you are one of the most entertaining whiners in that group.

    Noons – why do you hate the “evangelize” term?

  12. Excellent post Tim.It’s very important that you have an independent view on this Oracle ACE program.We don’t need the yes-man or yes-women,we need is that we should discuss some points about the oracle product problems so that we can prompt the quality.

  13. Almost fell out of my chair laughing upon reading the title to this post. Pretty funny, Tim.

    When you begin to share knowledge in a somewhat public way, you can be relatively sure you’ll get some criticism. Some constructive and some not-so-constructive. I’ll give kudos to the critic here for landing on the constructive side of the line, even though it’s probably best to deliver criticism in private.

    Questionable delivery aside, sharing Oracle knowledge versus playing the roll of Oracle shill can be a tough balance to strike. It’s one that many in the ACE/ACED community struggle with continually.

    Personally, I agree with your advice to the ACE community: call them as you see them.

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