Bulgarian Oracle User Group (BGOUG) 2018 : The Journey Home

It was a 03:00 start, which is never a good thing. I got down to reception to meet my fellow travellers and we started on our trip to the airport. As we walked out of the hotel we were greeted by a lite scattering of snow. It was clearly visible on some of the mountains the day before, but it was quite a surprise to see it here, especially as I left my balcony door open for the whole of my stay…

The drive to the airport was quick, as there was very little traffic. The baggage drop and check-in queue for Lufthansa was pretty large, but fortunately I had checked in online and I was hang-luggage only, so I walked straight to, and through, security. That left me with over an hour before the flight.

The flight from Sofia to Frankfurt was pretty easy. I had an empty seat next to me, so I got the laptop out and started to write two presentations I’ve got to give at work.

I was expecting the layover in Frankfurt to be about 70 minutes, but it turned out is was nearly 5 hours, because I didn’t read the itinerary properly, so I logged into work and cleared down all the crap that collected during the two days I was away.

The flight from Frankfurt to Birmingham was about and hour and went pretty smoothly. Once again I had an empty seat next to me, so happy days!

Getting through security was pretty quick, then I was in the bounciest taxi ride ever to get home, and that is was my last international conference of the year complete.

As followers of the blog will know, this year has been problematic for me from a conference perspective. It’s especially disappointing when my travelling curse hits my favourite conference of the year.

Thanks to everyone from BGOUG for letting me come for the 8th time. Thanks to the people who came to my sessions. The turnout was great, and it certainly lifted my spirits! Sorry I wasn’t able to get more involved on the first day, but at least everything went well on the second day. See you again soon!

Cheers

Tim…

Bulgarian Oracle User Group (BGOUG) 2018 : Day 2

I woke up feeling a little dodgy, but much better than the day before. I even got down to breakfast.

The first session of the day for me was “Oracle Database infrastructure as code with Ansible” by Ilmar Kerm. I’m pretty early on in my Ansible journey, so it’s good to see what other people are doing with it. I had a long conversation with Ilmar after the session, and was joined by Oren Nakdimon, which meant we missed the next block of talks.

Next up I went to see “So, my query plan says ‘Table Access Full’ – what happens next?” by Roger Macnicol. There was some stuff I knew, some stuff I’d written about and forgotten, and some stuff I will pretend I always knew, even though secretly I didn’t. 🙂

After lunch I went to see “Upgrade to Oracle Database 18c: Live and Uncensored!” by  Roy Swonger. In addition to speaking about the options to upgrade to 18c, he also covered some 19c stuff, and did a live demo of upgrading from 11.2 to 18.3. Funnily enough, this is exactly what I’ll be doing on Monday for one of my systems. 🙂 I spent the whole of the next block speaking to Roy about a bunch of different things, including upgrades of course. 🙂

From there I went to see “Oracle Exadata – Laying the foundation for Autonomous Database” by Gurmeet Goindi, which was a run through of Exadata and In-Memory features, amongst other things, and how they have been used as a platform for the autonomous database cloud service to be built on.

From there it was on to a panel session where we were discussing our opinions on Autonomous Systems. I think this was a funny session, and I feel like I was doing a sales pitch for autonomous databases at some point. 🙂 I think the word autonomous is a big sticking point in heads of some of the audience. I don’t really care what it is called. I care more about what it can do.

From there we went to get some food, but I has to duck out quite early because tomorrow is a 03:00 start again for me. Fingers crossed.

Thanks for all the folks at BGOUG for inviting me again. This was my 8th visit to the conference. I wish I hadn’t been unwell at the start, but it was good that I managed to get involved today!

See you all again soon!

Cheers

Tim…

Bulgarian Oracle User Group (BGOUG) 2018 : Day 1

I got out of bed at about 11:00 feeling dreadful. Just before 12:00 I headed down to do my first talk at 12:30. The projector really didn’t like my laptop, so I had to present from Krasimir Kovachki‘s laptop, which meant no live demos. The presentation loses a lot without the demos, but I think it went OK considering.

I took some paracetamol, then grabbed some food and went outside to eat it in the cool air. Pretty much as soon as I moved inside I felt hot and bad again. I went to my room, puked and then it was time for my second presentation.

The second session was all demos, so I was rather worried about the projector situation. It was in a different room and luckily the projector played ball, so I was able to do the session I was expecting to do. I think the combination of adrenalin and paracetamol worked quite well, as apart from feeling a little giddy, I was OK.

Pretty soon after my second session ended, the adrenalin subsided and I felt terrible again, so I went back to my room.

The evening after the first day of the conference is the appreciation event. There’s usually good food, drinks, entertainment and an opportunity for me to join in with some Bulgarian dancing. I didn’t make it out of my room. 🙁

Sorry for being so rubbish! Fingers crossed I will feel better for day 2 and actually be able to get involved in the conference properly.

Cheers

Tim…

Bulgarian Oracle User Group (BGOUG) 2018 : The Journey Begins

It was a 03:00 start, which is stupid. I vowed never to do this again, but there wasn’t really a sensible alternative.

The taxi ride was fine. I got to the airport in plenty of time and it was pretty empty. I walked straight through security and had 50 minutes to get myself together, which basically meant a coffee and diet coke breakfast.

The flight from Birmingham to Munich was scheduled for 1:45, but I think it took a bit less than that. The plane was pretty empty, so there was room to spread out. I nodded off a few times, which is not that normal for me, but I still felt like I’d been punched in the face when I landed in Munich.

I had about 80 minutes between flights, but I managed to walk the wrong way a couple of times… I met Francesco Tisiot at the boarding gate, and we chatted a bit before it was time to get on the plane.

The flight from Munich to Sofia was scheduled for 1:45 again. I was meant to have an aisle seat, but the plane had an extended business class, so my seat was reassigned at boarding to one further back in the plane, and a middle seat. 🙁 I nodded off a couple of times again, so I survived OK.

BTW: The middle aged guy in front and to the right of me was looking at pictures of semi-naked young women on his phone. When did that become a normal thing to do on public transport?

We arrived at Sofia on time and made our way pretty quickly through security, where we were met by Gianni Ceresa and Christian Berg. Soon after Roger MacNicol turned up and we headed to the minibus, where we found Julian Dontcheff. We then started the drive to Pravets.

Once at the hotel I dumped my stuff, grabbed some food, said hello to some more people who had turned up, then went back to my room to veg out for the afternoon. It would have been nice to do something useful, but I was too tired.

There was a speaker dinner in the evening, but by that time I was feeling pretty dreadful, so I gave it a miss in favour of sleeping more.

Cheers

Tim…

Becoming an Oracle ACE

I got asked about this a few times at OpenWorld 2018, so I figured it was about time to visit this subject… Again…

I’m not saying becoming an ACE should be your motivation for contributing to the community, but it is for some people, and who am I to judge. 🙂

Remember, this is just my opinion! Someone from the ACE program might jump in and tell me I’m wrong. 🙂

What do I have to do to become an ACE?

It’s explained here, and if you follow the links. In the past it used to be a bit more “fluid”, but there are still a lot of different types of things that can count towards your “community contributions” with various weightings, but most of the points come from technical content creation and presenting.

If you follow the links provided you can fill in the score card and see if what you currently do adds up to a “reasonable” number of points. I’m not sure if they tell you how many point you need up front, and I’m not going to talk about specifics, but you may be unpleasantly surprised by how few points some contributions get.

Does Oracle User Group work count?

The program was born out of online content. The old timers reading this will remember a time when any user group work, like being on the board, organising conferences and conference volunteering counted for zero. It was not considered as part of your contribution where the ACE program was concerned. Later on it was given a little credit. Now, if you do everything possible with regards to a user group, you can get about half way to qualifying for the ACE program without producing any content. That still means you have to pick up about half of the points from presenting and producing technical content. User group work alone will not get you there.

There are a lot of people who do loads of work for their local user groups. In addition, some write lots of blog posts to promote events. Some are super active on social media to promote events. No matter how much of that you do, from what I can see you qualify for *about* half the points needed to become an ACE. Assuming my calculations are correct, that’s really important, because there are probably some people that think they should be an ACE, and believe they more than qualify, but in fact don’t. You can question the *current judging criteria*, but as it stands, that’s the way it is.

I happen to think this is correct because it’s relatively easy to reach a very wide audience with technical content. In comparison most user groups have a very limited audience. They both have value, but from a “product evangelism” perspective, I think the focus on reach makes sense. Once again, just my opinion. 🙂

Does Twitter (and other social media) count?

No, not really. Technically it does, as you can get 5 points for being super-on-message with your tweets all year. I don’t even attempt to count and submit tweets, because what’s the point? I can get the same amount of points for one technical post. 🙂

If you are using social media to push out your own original content, that’s great. You will get credit for your original content, not the social media posts linking to it. If you are just being “active” on social media, or tweeting out other people’s content, you are not doing something that will earn a lot of points. You are providing a service by introducing people to content they might otherwise have missed, but you will not get a lot of points for it, which means you will not qualify for the ACE program.

Going back to the previous point, it’s mostly about creating original technical content, not curating other people’s content. Some people will feel like they are super active and will feel hard done by if they are not included in the program, but on the *current judging criteria* they should not be included.

What should I spend my time on then?

In my opinion, your time would be best spent on the creation of original technical content.

  • Technical blog posts and articles. Notice the word technical. Blogging random crap doesn’t count, which is why most of my blog posts don’t go on to my score card. 🙂
  • Presenting at conferences and meetups.
  • Videos, webinars and podcasts, but the rules for inclusion mean if you do the 2-3 minute technical videos on YouTube, like I used to, they are not going to count, unless you batch them together into playlists and submit as a single video.
  • Technical books. They get a lot of points, but take a crazy amount of time.

As mentioned, you will get points for other things too, but they are either inefficient, or will not get you “all the way”. 🙂

You get more points for content related to Oracle Cloud. When this was introduced the points difference between regular and Oracle Cloud content was significant and people freaked out. The difference is much smaller now and I don’t think it’s significant. You should be able to make the points easily without doing any cloud content.

But I don’t want to do that!

That’s cool. Do whatever you feel comfortable with, even if that’s nothing. Being an Oracle ACE is not a certification of greatness or a badge of approval. If you love doing this stuff, you get nominated and become an ACE that’s great. If you don’t enjoy creating technical content or presenting, it doesn’t mean you are worse than those that do. Do what you want to do!

I am awesome, but I don’t write/present much!

Remember, this is not a certification. It’s not a measure of how good you are. On countless occasions I’ve read people bleating on about how person X should be an Oracle ACE because they are great, even though they do almost nothing that qualifies for inclusion. It’s about community contribution. If you are great, but you are not out there, you shouldn’t be part of the program.

If you only write a handful of posts a year, even if they are great, you shouldn’t be part of the program because you are not meeting the criteria.

There are a specific set of criteria for entry to, and continued participation in the program. Do you live up to them? If yes, you should be part of it. If not, you shouldn’t.

That’s not to say you have to agree with the *current judging criteria*, but they exist. That is how your contribution is judged.

Conclusion

Don’t project onto the program what you want it to be. It is what it is.

Check out the criteria, rather than making up what you think the criteria should be. They do change over time.

Don’t listen to other people’s interpretation of what counts, even mine. 🙂

Related Posts

As I mentioned at the start of the post, I’ve written about the ACE program a lot over the years, and covered some of these points also. I’ve listed a few of those posts below.

Cheers

Tim…

PS. If I’m factually incorrect, I will gladly make corrections. Differences of opinion may be a little harder to sway me on. 🙂

Autonomous Database : “Hand-tuning doesn’t scale”

I was at a talk by Chris Thalinger at Oracle Code One called “Performance tuning Twitter services with Graal and machine learning”. One of the things he said was, “Hand-tuning doesn’t scale”, and it brought into focus some of the things that have been going on in the Autonomous Database, which is closer to my world. 🙂

In my post called It’s not all about you! I discussed the reaction to a new feature mentioned in the ACE Director briefing. It has been spoken about publicly now, so I guess I’m allowed to mention it by name. The feature in question was Automatic Index Tuning that (insert Safe Harbour slide) might be in Oracle 19c, or in an autonomous database cloud service in the future. Once this feature was mentioned, the list of questions started to pile up, before we even knew what it was or how it was implemented. I mentioned my own reaction to this specific feature, but let’s look at this in the broader sense of autonomous services generally.

As I mentioned, watching Chris’ session brought all this into focus for me. Sorry if I’m stating the obvious, but here goes.

  • Even if I were capable of doing a better job than an automatic performance tuning feature, and I’m not sure I can, that is just me. Is everyone else I work with at my level of understanding or better? Is everyone else who works with the database across the world at my level of understanding or better? If the answer to that is no, then there is a need for feature X, whatever it is.
  • Let’s say I have a group of really skilled people that can do better than automatic feature X. Are they constantly looking at the system, trying to get the best performance possible, or are they working on hundreds or thousands of different targets, and actually spending very little time on each? As their workload grows, which it invariably will, will they be able to spend more or less time looking at each specific feature?

I know there are some consultants that get to go in and solve specific problems on specific systems, and maybe those folks will look down on automatic performance tuning features, but I have to look after loads of disparate systems and I get 30 seconds to get something done before I have to move on. I like to think I’m pretty good at Oracle database stuff, but I need all the help I can get if I want to keep things running smoothly.

When a new automatic feature is announced we always get super intense about it, which usually results in a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth. Sometimes this is for very good reason, as the early incarnations of some features have been problematic, but over time they often become the norm. Think about the following, and what life would be like without them…

For some people reading this, they may never have experienced life without these features. Believe me, it wasn’t pretty! 🙂

Whether it’s a specific automatic feature, like Automatic Index Tuning, or a grander vision, like the Autonomous Database family of cloud services, this is part of the natural evolution of the database. At *some point* in the future I can see all my databases running on the cloud and all of them being some form of autonomous service, regardless of which cloud provider is running them.

Cheers

Tim…

PS. I hope people understand the spirit of what I’m saying, but I feel the need to include a few statements, as some people on Twitter seemed to get the wrong end of the stick.

  • I’m not saying you can do a rubbish job and leave it up to an automatic tuning feature to fix your crap application. Bad software always runs badly, no matter what you do with it. You might be able to mask some of the problems, but you don’t fix them.
  • I’m not suggesting the development process shouldn’t include proper testing, including unit, integration, UAT and performance testing. See previous point.
  • The more you know about your platform, the better job you can do, even if you have automatic features to help you.

Oracle Enterprise Manager Cloud Control 13c Release 3 (13.3.0.0) Upgrade

A few months ago I wrote about the installation and upgrade Oracle Enterprise Manager Cloud Control 13c Release 3 (13.3.0.0).

At the time I did a clean install and an example upgrade from 13.2 to 13.3. The idea behind the upgrade was basically to practice what I needed to do at work.

Just before I left for OpenWorld I got our virtualization folks to give me a clone of the production Cloud Control VM and I ran a practice upgrade on that. It’s important to do a “real” run through, as sometimes you hit issues you don’t see when upgrading from a clean installation of the previous version. In the past the upgrade of the clean installation of the previous version has worked fine, but the real upgrade failed the prerequisite checks as some of the agents or plugins were too old. The latest test on the clone worked fine, so we had the green light to do the production upgrade.

Post OOW18, my first job on returning to work was to get Cloud Control upgraded. I repeated the process I had done on the clone and it went fine.

In a funny coincidence, while I was doing the upgrade someone retweeted the blog post from a few months ago. Weird.

As a reminder, here are the 13.3 articles.

Cheers

Tim…

Oracle OpenWorld and Code One 2018 : It’s a Wrap!

Here are some top-level thoughts about what happened over the week at Oracle OpenWorld and Oracle Code One.

  • Oracle Cloud Infrastructure (OCI) has come of age. I spoke to a bunch of non-Oracle folks who are using OCI for real workloads and the general perception was that it delivers. Of course the Oracle folks are going to say this, which I why I didn’t ask them. 🙂 It’s taken some time for Oracle to get to this point, but they finally seem to have the infrastructure to move forward with the rest of their services.
  • There was a continued focus on automation and the autonomous services. I understand some people seem conflicted about this, but this is a continuation of what’s been happening over the last 20 years. As I’ve said before, what we have now is not the destination. It’s the start (of this part) of the journey.
  • All the base (on-prem) products continue to evolve. As has been the case in recent years, the evolution of Oracle products seems to be based on the features Oracle themselves need to improve their cloud services, but that is fine as it’s making the products better for us on-prem customers too.
  • Oracle’s support of Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) is interesting. Allowing people to do the same thing on-prem and in the cloud is good for a couple of reasons. It helps people in the migration from on-prem to cloud. It also stops people feeling trapped on a cloud service. The former is great for cloud providers from an adoption perspective, but the latter is a little scary I guess. It’s important cloud providers don’t give people a reason to want to move off their services!
  • Speaking to non-Oracle folks, there is a perception that Oracle still lags behind on the customer service side of things. I wrote about this a couple of years ago in a post called Oracle: Tech Company or Service Company? I hope Oracle focus on this. There is no point having great tech if people don’t feel confident about using it because of the customer service side of things.
  • I’m a little confused by the re-branding of  “Oracle Groundbreakers” and the “Oracle Groundbreaker Ambassadors”. I miss Oracle Technology Network (OTN). 🙂

Here are the posts related to this trip.

Thanks to the Oracle ACE Program and the Oracle Groundbreaker Ambassadors Program for making this trip possible for me. Let’s see what the coming year brings…

Cheers

Tim…

Oracle OpenWorld and Code One 2018 : The Journey Home

I had the morning in the hotel, trying to catch up on things I missed during this trip and I did a quick visit to the gym. At about 14:00 I checked out of the hotel and got the Bart to the airport.

My boarding pass looked like it said terminal “1”, which sounded a bit odd, but I went there to check anyway. It turned out it was terminal “I”, for “international”, so I got the monorail back to the original place I had started. I got in the queue for bag drop and Chris Thalinger was at the opposite bag drop grinning at me. He was late for his flight. We had a bit of a chat while moving through security, then he went off to catch get his flight. I was still in plenty of time, so I walked down to by boarding gate, to find my flight had been delayed by an hour, so then I was really early. 🙁

The flight from San Francisco to Dublin took about 9.5 hours, which was nearly an hour quicker than it was listed. They were trying to make up for lost time, and we had a medical emergency on the plane, and this time it wasn’t me. After we landed we had to sit on the plane while the medics did their thing. We ended up about 30+ minutes late. I did a little head-nodding on the plane, but not really something I would call sleep. I couldn’t really watch films as there was so little room, my face was pretty much against the screen in front of me. I turned it off and listened to music instead, and stood at the back of the plane, getting in the way a lot.

I originally had a 5-ish hour layover in Dublin, but because of the delay to the first flight that was cut to a bit over 4 hours. Dublin airport is OK, but hanging around at any airport for more than a couple of hours is soul destroying. I could feel myself getting progressively more jittery as time passed. 🙂

The flight from Dublin to Birmingham was less than an hour, but felt like an eternity. I had a window seat on the plane, but someone was sitting in it, so got the aisle instead, which was a good thing.

After a short taxi ride I was home. I put on my first load of washing, and got in the bath (sorry for the mental image)… By the time I got out it was time for the second load of washing, then bed. I woke up in the morning, put on  the third load of washing, and cut my hair. It was only at this point that I started to feel remotely clean.

That’s another OpenWorld done. I’ll write a wrap up post once everything has distilled…

Cheers

Tim…