AUSOUG Melbourne…

I had one day to myself in Melbourne before the conference started, so I asked the hotel concierge what I needed to see. I followed his itinerary almost to the letter and got to see a fair bit, which was cool.

Melbourne feels very different to the other cities I’ve been to in Australia. The other cities feel very functional, but the central business district of Melbourne feels more like a city designed for socializing in. It has a very central European feel to me. Not at all what I expected.

Anyway, back to the conference. The work I did on my talk really paid off. The change to the first half really made a difference. Sometimes the demos actually obscure the message, rather than enforcing it. Removing them from the first half of the talk gave it a lot more punch and made it feel like I was staying on message, rather than demoing for the sake of it.

I’m a bit annoyed I didn’t see this before the Perth event, but that’s life. A big thank you to Connor McDonald and Chris Muir for there input on that. A few well placed words from people with their experience can really help a newbie like me big-time.

So a big thanks to all involved in the event. It was really cool to come back and hook up with everyone again. Also a big thank you to the people who came to my sessions. You never know what the future brings, but I hope I get to come back again.

I fly home today. I’m leaving quite late, so I’ve got to fill the day. I always find it hard to do that the day of the flight. I spend the whole day worrying about missing the flight rather than enjoying myself. I’ll probably end up spending most of the day in the airport being really bored before spending 21 hours on a plane. πŸ™‚

See you on the other side…



Refocussing my presentation…

The plane journey from Perth to Melbourne turned out to be very productive. I’ve made some substantial changes to my presentation. The content is the same, but as I suggested in my previous post, I’ve de-emphasized some bits and emphasized others.

I guess my presenting style is based very much on the way I write articles on my website. I’m not a fan of reading overly “wordy” articles. Instead I want a cut & paste example that gives me a feel for the feature/issue. I can then play around with that to get more familiar with the technology.

Well that works fine for a lot of database and development presentations, but not all of them.

This particular presentation has two distinct halves. The first half really doesn’t lend itself to demos and the copyΒ & paste mentality and the second half does. It’s still early days for me as far as presenting is concerned, and this presentation has reminded me of that again. Fortunately there are a few old hands around that give some pretty good advice.

So what I have now delivers the message I want to deliver, but I think does it in a much more sensible way. I’m a bit annoyed I didn’t see this before I presented in Perth, because it didn’t take much time to repackage, but that’s life. Sometimes, when you are too close to something you can’t see the wood for the trees.

So in a few minutes I’m off to get a plane to Canberra to do a presentation to a local user group. I’m not totally sure yet how much time I have to present, so that one will be a bit more “seat of the pants”. πŸ™‚

I’ll be back in Melbourne tomorrow where I will hopefully get to see a bit of the city before the next AUSOUG event starts.




The Perth event is now done and dusted.

The day before the conference, Chris Muir took Lucas Jellema and myself on a little tour of the city. I slept OK the night before so I felt pretty good. That night I didn’t sleep at all. Not one minute. By the morning I felt OK so I went to the conference as planned. About 30 minutes into the first talk it was game over. I went back to the hotel and slept for about 3 hours.

When I got back I spent the rest of the day in Lucas’ session about “SOA for Database Professionals”. Lucas is a great speaker, which is even more impressive when you consider it’s not his first language. I shall try and catch the bits I missed at the Melbourne event.

The next day I spent the morning at Connor McDonald’s SQL sessions. I guess everyone knows by now Connor is a great presenter. Not surprisingly, he won the Best Speaker prize for this event. Shock Horror! πŸ™‚

I had the afternoon session on day 2. I’d presented several elements of this session before, but never as a single block all together. The session was about 1 hour 45 minutes. It went OK, but I wasn’t really happy with it. A few of the demos towards the end failed. I’ve been playing with them since and it seems to be an issue with browser authentication in Firefox and Safari, rather than a fundamental technology issue. It seems that often, once you authenticate through the browser (to XML DB or EPG), subsequent authentications to different users ignore the new credentials and continue to try and authenticate with the old details. Just about the only way to make it consistent is to reboot between demos, which isn’t going to happen. Authentication via WebDAV or FTP works as expected. I’ve got a couple of ideas I’m gonna work on tonight for workarounds.

Anyway, once the talk was over I got a bit of feedback from some of the guys and I thinkΒ  I’m gonna revise a couple of bits of the talk for Melbourne. Emphasize a couple of bits and deemphasize others etc. Hopefully that will give it a little more punch.

This morning was … interesting. I got up early and started to do a bit of work. After a few hours I checked my flight details, even though I was sure my flight was at 17:10. Turns out that was my arrival time at Melbourne. My departure time from Perth was actually 10:50. My first reaction was I had missed my flight. Fortunately I had been up since 04:00, so even though I had been working for ages I was still in time for my flight. As I’ve said before, travel is never easy for me. πŸ™‚

I did some frantic packing, threw my rucksack over my back, at which point my laptop flew across the room and landed on the floor. Seems I forgot to zip the pocket. Fortunately MacBooks are pretty solid so there doesn’t seem to be any damage.

Time to get on another plane and change time zone again…



Traveling is never easy… for me…

This morning I’m traveling to Perth, Australia for the start of the AUSOUG Conference Series. The thought of 19 hours in a plane is not exactly thrilling, especially after the turbulence during my last flight, but I can manage that sort of stress, just about.

In an attempt to be efficient I completed the online check-in and all looked good. Then the taxi was 20 minutes late (stress +1). I got to the airport and dropped of my bag and went to security, where I was turned away because of a duplicate seat allocation (stress +1). I went back to the check-in desk, where they found no such problem, but printed new tickets for me. I got through security the second time, then was told the plane was delayed by about 30 minutes, which has now become 40 minutes and counting. So I’ve got about 9 hours until I know if I will make my connection (stress +lots).

This international travel is a pain in the <insert word of your choice>!



Update: The seat was double booked, despite what the check-in desk said. Luckily there were spaces on the plane. I guess it makes sense to board early because it seems like the person sitting down is the person in control.

I made it on to the second leg OK. I was between a couple, so I got to snag an aisle seat which was lucky.

So I’m here in Perth…

Thursday OpenWorld Sessions…


  • Kevin Closson cancelled his session, which was a bummer, but life goes on.
  • Oracle Optimizer Roundtable: Some members of the optimizer team answered the audience questions.
  • Real-World Database Performance Roundtable: Members of this group answered questions from the audience on a variety of performance related subjects.

The roundtable sessions were pretty cool, but it feels a little like groundhog day sometimes. I think I could summarize much of the advice as follows:

  1. Design your database properly.
  2. Write good SQL. This is usually pretty easy if you have a good design.
  3. Use default settings and functionality, unless you hit an issue that forces you not to. Even then, don’t assume you can not use the defaults for other projects. Work on an exception basis, not a one-size-fits all approach.
  4. Newer versions of the database probably have features to eliminate or offset the problems seen in previous versions. If possible upgrade and make sure you understand the new features so you can apply them.

I don’t know about you, but this list has been true for as long as I’ve worked in Oracle. Unless you are working on systems requiring extreme performance or of extreme size, modern Oracle versions make life incredibly easy. It would be cool if people actually started taking the advice given by these guys every year…



Wednesday OpenWorld Sessions…

Wednesday was a slash and burn day for me. I woke up and decided I couldn’t cope with any more sessions so I ditched the lot. Some of the RAC ones looked really cool, but I just couldn’t drag myself out of the seat to go to them. Instead I went to the OTN lounge to chill out and chat to people. Lots of cool people, talking about technical and non-technical issues.

I ended up tagging along with some of the guys to a couple of discussion type unconference sessions, but generally it was a downtime day.

The “big” keynote kinda passed me by. There was nothing there that held much interest for me, either because I already knew about it, or just didn’t care. The Arnold thing was a little surreal, but celebrities will do anything for cash, so I shouldn’t be surprised.

In the evening I went to Treasure Island with some of the guys. I ticked a couple of boxes (Seen Aerosmith and Roger Daltry), then came home.

I feel a little guilty about being so apathetic about the day when others would give there right arm to be here, but OpenWorld started nearly a week ago for me, because of the ACE Directors meeting, so I was feeling really burnt out.



Queuing and Decoupling for Performance…

Some of the data warehousing and Exadata presentations have talked about queuing requests to improve performance. They have suggested that using Resource Manager to throttle the number of active requests results in better performance/throughput compared to letting multiple requests all run simultaneously. The Terabyte Hour session yesterday showed an example of this and sure enough, when they limited the heavy requests to batches of 3, the overall throughput of requests improved.

This kinda links to something I keep banging on about in my PL/SQL presentations, which is decoupling. Don’t do it, queue it…

In any system you have a variety of business functions that have differing importance and differing required turnaround time. It’s good if you can identify this up front so you can consider decoupling some business functions. That way, functions that MUST happen instantly are fired on the spot, while those that can accommodate some lag time are queued for later processing. The acceptable lag for each of these business functions may vary.

Why do I care? Two reasons really:

  • Why hog resources processing low priority tasks when they could be used for high priority tasks? You don’t run your backups and stats collection during peak hours. Why would you waste cycles on low priority business functions when the user experience is poor due to lack of resources.
  • Decoupling allows you to take small transactions and batch them up, allowing you to take advantage of performance features available in both SQL and PL/SQL.

Queuing and decoupling are by no means new concepts, but they seem to have been lost in the mix. It’s interesting to see them being brought back onto the agenda, even with the sort of horsepower provided by Exadata.



Todays (Tuesday) Oracle WaterWorld Sessions…

It was raining quite hard this morning. Fortunately I brought my “Fujitsu Siemens” umbrella from 2 years ago. Debra Lilley was quick to point out the company name change… πŸ™‚

Today was another day heavily based around the Unconference in Moscone West. Four of the six presentations I went to today were at the unconference. Here’s what I saw today:

  • What’s New in Eleven … Dot Two (that Oracle won’t be talking about) by Daniel Morgan: A quick romp through some of the stuff that is new or updated in the latest release that’s not sexy enough for the marketeers to focus on.
  • Oracle Indexes: Q & A Discussion by Richard Foote: Richard was hoping we could all spend the hour discussing David Bowie, but the audience wanted to know about indexes. The session kinda turned into the Richard and Jonathan roadshow. Fortunately they agreed on most points. πŸ™‚
  • Under The Hood of Oracle Clusterware with live demo Part I & II by Alex Gorbachev: This was a 2 hour unconference session where Alex explained the architecture of Oracle Clusterware, then proceeded to demonstrate a whole bunch of stuff including scenarios causing node eviction.
  • Current Trends in Real-World Database Performance by Andrew Holdsworth: I try to get to the sessions by the Real World Performance Group each year, just to make sure there’s not something new I’ve missed. It gives me a warm fuzzy feeling. πŸ™‚
  • The Terabyte Hour with the Real-World Performance Group by Andrew Holdsworth: This session involved a live ETL process loading 1 Terabyte of data in flat files into a Exadata V1 Database Machine running 11gR2. Once the data was in they gathered stats, did a bunch of transformations and issued a bunch of heavy SQL statements at it to show the performance. Very impressive to get all this one in 50 minutes. Nearly all the processing was CPU bound, so it would be interesting to see the same demo on the V2 machines. Even better to do the Pepsi Challenge and have then side by side doing it…

I’ve just noticed I’m about 90 minutes late for the blogger get together. I better get moving…



The downside side of Oracle OpenWorld 2009

Despite all the geek fun, there is a downside to OOW. I for one will be visiting the doctor when I get back to the UK to ask for some Prozac. Why? I’m depressed due to multi-angle-envy. What?

  • I’ve seen some excellent presenters whose technique is so slick it makes me sick. I’m not talking about fancy slides. I’m talking about how they engage the audience. Makes me feel like a rank amateur.
  • The amount of technical knowledge some of these guys have is crazy. Now I know they are focused on very specific areas, but even so. It really brings you down to earth with a bump.
  • I really, really, really want some of the kit being used by people out there. I want to run queries on multi-terabytes of data without indexes and still expect a result back within a couple of minutes. I need an Exadata V2 in my spare bedroom, along with a reinforced floor.
  • There are so many products and features that look amazing and I know I won’t have the time, equipment or brain capacity to try them.

Sometimes OOW can really bum you out…



OpenWorld Events – Monday…

I intended to go to some regular sessions, but changed tack and spent the day in Moscone West at the Unconference instead.

  • Chalk & Talk: The Core Performance Fundamentals Of Oracle Data Warehousing (Greg Rahn, Database Performance Engineer, Real-World Performance Group @ Oracle): I’m not a DW guy and I don’t work with Exadata kit, so this was pretty interesting for me. It’s pretty wild what this Exadata stuff can do. I’ll be going to the Terabyte session tomorrow where they will be doing a bunch of live demos.
  • Fundamentals of Performance (Oracle ACE Director Cary Millsap): I’ve seen Cary speak a few times and each time I really enjoy it. His presentation style is effortless and his explanations are so clear. He’s one of those people that raises the bar.
  • Oracle Exadata Storage Server FAQ Review and Q&A with Kevin Closson (Performance Architect, Oracle): Read Kevin’s blog and you will know he is passionate about storage and hardware. Watching him present on Exadata was like watching a freakishly eloquent child with a new toy. You come away desperate for Santa to bring you one at Christmas.
  • Visualization Session – Make your charts more effective for troubleshooting and presenting (Oracle ACE Chen Shapira): Chen took a specific use case and showed a variety of graphing methods that could be used to represent the data. It’s interesting to see how your perception of the data changes depending on the method used, and how some can distract from your message.

Alex did a video interview with me, Chris and Jacco. It’s very embarrassing and he promised to edit it, which he didn’t. You can see it here.

I’m off to the OTN night now.