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…

Why Automation Matters : Continuous Improvement and Buying Time For Yourself

In previous a post I talked about lost time associated with manual processes and hand-offs between teams, but in this post I want to look at time from a different perspective…

One of the big arguments I hear against automation is, “We don’t have time to work on automation!” If you don’t think you have time now, how are you going to make time when you have to deal with another 10, 100, 1000 servers? I don’t know about you, but every week I have to deal with more stuff, not less. If I waited for a convenient opportunity to work on automation, it would never happen.

I think a lot of this comes from a flawed mindset as far as automation is concerned. There seems to be this attitude that we have to get from where we are now to a full blown private cloud solution in a single step/project. Instead we should be trying to incrementally improve things. This idea of continuous improvement has been part of agile and DevOps for years. It doesn’t have to be great leaps. It can be small incremental changes, that over time amount to something big.

As a DBA we might think of these baby steps along the path.

  1. Stop doing GUI software installations. Instead focus on silent installations of software. This is probably the easiest thing a DBA can automate because Oracle have done all the hard work for you. Silent installations of most Oracle products are really easy. What’s more you can put your scripts into Git and you have a proper record of what you did. It’s surprising how many people have no record of what they did and how they did it!
  2. Stop doing GUI database creation. Just like the silent installations, Oracle has done all the hard work for you here. You can use the DBCA in silent mode and once again put your scripts into Git.
  3. Once you’ve got 1 & 2 sorted you can start thinking about scripting post installation and post DB creation tasks including patching and other operational tasks.
  4. Once that’s all running, you have some basic automation in place, which you can improve over time, you might want to try out some alternatives, like switching from shell scripting to something like Ansible.
  5. Once you’ve got some stable and reliable automation, you can start trying to integrate it with your System Administrator’s build and patching processes.
  6. At some point you might want to make some of these operations self-service, so users/developers don’t even have to ask you anymore, they initiate the automation themselves. You will still be responsible for creating and maintaining the automation, but you don’t have to be there 24×7 to manually run the scripts.

If all you have time to do is steps 1 & 2, you will still have saved yourself some time, as you can start a script and do something else until it finishes. That could be working on improving your automation. Added to that you’ve improved the reliability of those steps of the process, so you won’t have to redo things if you’ve made mistakes, or live with those mistakes forever.

I understand that company politics or internal company structure can make some things difficult. Believe me, I run into this all the time. I can build whole systems with a single command at home, but at work I have to break up some of my automation processes into separate steps because other teams have to perform certain tasks, and they haven’t exposed their work to me as a service. As frustrating as that can be, it doesn’t stop you improving your work, and maybe trying to gently nudge those around you to join in.

Remember, each time you save some time by automating something, invest some of that “saved” time into improving your automation, and automation skill set. Over time this will allow you to take on more work with the same number of staff, or even branch out into some new areas, so you aren’t left out on a limb when everything becomes autonomous. 🙂

Cheers

Tim…

Birmingham City University (BCU) Talk #7

Yesterday I went to Birmingham City University (BCU) to do a talk on “Graduate Employability” to a bunch of second year undergraduate IT students. I’ve done this a few times at BCU, and also at UKOUG for a session directed at students.

The session is what originally inspired the my series of blog posts called What Employers Want.

I’ve mentioned before, these sessions are a little different to your typical conference sessions. Perhaps you should try reaching out to a local college or university to see if they need some guest speakers, and try something outside your comfort zone.

Thanks to Jagdev Bhogal and BCU for inviting me again. See you again soon.

Cheers

Tim…

Oracle 18c and 12c on Fedora 29

Danger, Will Robinson! Obligatory warning below.

So here we go…

Fedora 29 has been out for a bit over a week now. Over the weekend I had a play with it and noticed a couple of differences between Fedora 28 and Fedora 29 as far as Oracle installations are concerned. There are some extra packages that need to be installed. Also, one of the two symbolic links that were needed for the Oracle installation on Fedora 28 is now present in Fedora 29, but pointing to the wrong version of the package.

Here are the articles I did as a result of this.

It’s pretty similar to the installation on Fedora 28, with the exception of the extra packages and a slight alteration to the symbolic links.

Once the “bento/fedora-29” box becomes available I’ll probably do a Vagrant build for this, but for the moment is was the old fashioned approach. 🙂

So now you know how to do it, please don’t! 🙂

Cheers

Tim…

Why Automation Matters : Keep Your Auditors Happy

We were having some of our systems audited recently. I’ve been part of this sort of things a few times over the years, but I was pleasantly surprised by a number of the questions that were being asked during this most recent session. I’ll paraphrase some of their questions and my answers.

  • How do you document your build processes? We have silent build scripts (where possible). The same build scripts are used for each build, with the differences just being environment variables. If a silent build is not possible, we do a semi-silent build, and use screen grabs for the manual bits.
  • How do you keep control of your builds and configuration? Everything goes into a cloud-based Git repository, and we have a local git server as a backup of the cloud service.
  • How do you manage change through your systems? Requests, Incidents, Enhancements, Tasks are raised and placed in a Task Board, which is kind-of like a Kanban board, in Service Now. Progression of changes to production require a Change Request (CR), which may need to be agreed by the Change Advisory Board (CAB), depending on the nature of the change.
  • Are changes applied manually, or using automation? This was followed by a long discussion about what we can and can’t automate because of our internal company structure and politics. It also covered the differences between automation of changes to infrastructure and in the development process. 🙂

There was a lot more than this, but this is enough to make my point.

The reactions to the answers can be summarised as follows.

  • When we had a repeatable automated process we got a thumbs up.
  • When we had a process that was semi-automated, because full automation was impractical (because of additional constraints), we got a thumbs up.
  • When we had a manual process, we got a thumbs down, because maintaining consistency and preventing human error is really hard when using manual processes.

In a sentence I guess I could say, if you are using DevOps you pass. If you are not using DevOps you fail. 🙂

Now I am coming to this with a certain level of bias in favour of DevOps, and that bias may be skewing my interpretation of the situation somewhat, but that is how it felt to me.

As I said earlier, I was pleasantly surprised by this angle. It’s nice to see the auditors giving me some extra leverage, and it certainly feels like automation is a good way to keep the auditors happy! 🙂

Cheers

Tim…

PS. This is just one part of the whole auditing process.

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. 🙂