OTN Yathra 2014 : It’s a Wrap

The OTN Yathra 2014 tour is over and I’m back home now. Here are all the blog posts from the tour.

Although I come from the second biggest city in the UK, Birmingham has a very slow pace in comparison to other UK cities. Friends had told me how busy India was, so I was quite nervous about this trip and how I would cope with it. My initial fears were confirmed during my first taxi ride from Amritsar airport to Jalandhar. Getting ill on the first morning of the tour wasn’t a good omen either. Once the kind folks at the Lovely Professional University sorted me out with some medical attention, things started to get better and I started to believe I might make it to the end of the tour alive. 🙂

As the tour progressed I got into my stride and really started to enjoy the whole process. As I’ve said many times, I’m not a fan of travelling, but I like being at different places. The travelling part of this tour was very strenuous, which was my own fault for choosing to do all 7 events, but that was easily outweighed by getting the opportunity to connect with the attendees and speakers in all the cities.

Here come the much deserved thank you messages:

  • Thanks to everyone from All India Oracle Users Group (AIOUG) involved in the organisation of this tour. Aman, SaiSatyendra and Murali did a great job of making the logistics as simple as possible.
  • Thank you to Oracle Corporation for the use of their offices and to all the Universities that let us visit them.
  • A big thank you goes out to Oracle Technology Network (OTN) and the Oracle ACE Program, without whom this tour would not have happened.
  • Thank you to my fellow speakers. I’m not sure I would have stayed sane on my journey from Jalandhar to Noida without the company of Raj Mattamal. 🙂 Raj, Debra and Hans were welcome distractions from the hours spent in airports, planes and taxis. Thanks everyone for putting up with me. Thanks to all the other speakers that dotted in and out for specific events. It was fun to hook up with you all.
  • Finally, thank you to all the attendees for coming and supporting this event! Without you being there, the events would not happen, so if you want to see more of these events in future, please join AIOUG and get your friends to join too. 🙂

My lasting memories of India will be:

  • Crazy traffic.
  • Fantastic food.
  • Very friendly people.

Until next time…



OTN Yathra 2014 : Chennai

Yesterday’s flight from Bangalore to Chennai was very short. It felt like less than an hour to me. Hans Forbrich wasn’t coming to this event, so it looked like Debra Lilley and I would be on our own for this journey, but we bumped into Kuassi Mensah at the airport. 🙂

The hotel was very nice, but doing in-room check in freaks me out. I know the hotels think it is something special, but I would rather check in at the front desk and go to my room on my own. There is something about having other people in my room that reminds me I am only one in a very long procession of people to use that space. Gives me the creeps…

Today’s Chennai event was held at the Loyola-ICAM College of Engineering and Technology (LICET), not far from our hotel. The keynotes from the University staff focussed on development of knowledge, rather than focussing just on facts or what skills you need to get a job. One of the slides read,

“Data becomes information when it is organised. Information becomes knowledge when it is placed in actionable context. Without context there is little value.”

I am always concerned when people or institutions focus totally on what is job-worthy as I think it develops blinkered individuals. Applied research can only be a part of the whole picture, not the total focus. It seems LICET has the same point of view as me. At the end of the keynote I felt really inspired and quite excited about the day ahead. 🙂

As part of the engineering course, the LICET students have access to a stripped back car, which has all the internal systems on display, allowing the students to see both the individual systems and how they fit into the big picture. I was asked if I wanted to drive this car, so I can now say I’ve driven in India. 🙂

I had a few minor issues with my laptop, but despite that my sessions got very positive feedback. As always, I spent a lot of time answering questions between my sessions and at the end of my last session as well.

Thanks to everyone at LICET and all the attendees for coming to the event. It really made for a great last event of the tour!

I fly home early tomorrow morning, so that I can get back in time for work on Monday. I’ll write a wrap-up post when I get home. 🙂



OTN Yathra 2014 : Bangalore

Yesterday’s flight to Bangalore was pretty quick, about 80 minutes if I remember correctly. We landed and were picked up by a car from the hotel. We were told the traffic would be terrible in Bangalore, but it wasn’t too bad. Debra managed to keep her eyes open for much of the journey. There were also a lot fewer car horns in comparison to Hyderabad. 🙂

The Marriott in Bangalore is very swish indeed and of course it has a buffet for dinner! 🙂 I slept OK, but felt quite tired this morning. I think the events of the week are starting to get to me…

At the conference today, my sessions were at 15:00 and 17:00, so after the introductory session, I went to the speaker room, which was open to the attendees so we could chat in small groups. I played with APEX, between chatting to attendees and listening to Debra speaking to attendees about Fusion Apps.

After my first session I watched Supriya Ananth do a session on Pattern Matching in 12c, which was very interesting. I think I’m starting to understand it, but it’s going to take a lot of practice. Then it was back to me for the final session of the day. The group were asking lots of questions, which I love, but it did make me overrun by 20 minutes and there were still more questions to answer at the end. 🙂

Thanks to everyone at the Oracle office for another great day and thanks to everyone who came along to the talks, especially those that put me on the spot with some really good questions. It would have been nice if there was more time to just sit and chat about Oracle, but sadly, that was not to be.

So that was my penultimate event. Tomorrow I fly to Chennai for the last event on Saturday…



OTN Yathra 2014 : Hyderabad

I literally got no sleep last night before the Hyderabad event today. My hotel room overlooked what looked like the busiest road in the world and Indian drivers have a love affair with their car horns. Every time I was about to nod off, a different tone of horn would wake me. 🙂

So this morning, with a breakfast of coffee in me, we headed off to the huge Oracle campus in Hyderabad! The event was split into a technical track and an apps track. Not surprisingly, I spent the day in the technical track.

After introducing ourselves, we started with the first session by Satyendra Kumar talking about 12c New Features, which focussed mainly on the CDB/PDB functionality. As I’ve said previously, it’s interesting to see how different people approach this topic. We all have a slightly different angle on the same subject. The next session was by Chaitanya Koratamaddi, who talked about APEX. I’m trying to get my APEX mojo back so I’m happy to listen to as much as possible about APEX. 🙂

I avoided lunch as I didn’t want to have an afternoon slump. What with missing a nights sleep, I would probably have fallen into a coma if I had eaten anything. After a coffee lunch it was my first session, which was on PL/SQL performance. That was followed up by Hans Forbrich talking about Oracle Linux, a subject dear to my heart. 🙂 After that came Satyendra Kumar speaking about performance tuning in 12c, then lastly me speaking about Analytic Functions.

As usual I got chatting to people at the end and made us late. 🙂 Thanks to everyone for making this run smoothly. Thank you to all the attendees, who asked lots of great questions and helped make the event a success!

So that is 5 out of 7 cities done! I’m going to go down to hit the buffet hard, then pray for sleep tonight, before tomorrow’s flight to Bangalore.



PS. I got back to my room to find my freshly washed clothes waiting for me. Happy days!

OTN Yathra 2014 : Pune

The Pune event took place in the local Oracle office, which is a very impressive building.

I did three sessions at this event. I was in the first slot with a virtualization presentation, then spent most of the next session talking to some of the attendees. After lunch I had a session on PL/SQL performance, then watched two APEX sessions by Raj Mattamal. After that it was my final session for the day, which was on analytic functions. I spent a long time talking to some of the attendees after my last session, which made us quite late leaving. 🙂

It was a really enjoyable event, with some great interaction with the audience!

From there is was straight back to the hotel to eat far too much food. I have a feeling I will not be able to fit into the plane for the flight home at this rate. Being a vegetarian in India is brilliant! 🙂

Tomorrow we fly to Hyderabad for the next event…



OTN Yathra 2014 : Mumbai

The Mumbai event took place in the local Oracle office and was attended by a straight technical crowd, which is much easier to present to than a mixed audience. 🙂

In addition to my own talks, I got to see some others too.

  • PS (Sai) Janakiram‘s session on Oracle VirtualBox was interesting. In addition to a general introduction to virtualisation, he did a live demo of VirtualBox, which seemed to capture the attention of the crowd. He also logged into HP’s Cloud service to show how many of the lessons learned from using VirtualBox apply equally well to using a large cloud provider’s service.
  • Aman Sharma‘s session on Oracle 12c Pluggable Databases, was pretty cool. I’ve written articles on the subject, but never presented on it, so it’s always good to see how people approach it. I’m glad he emphasised how the concept of CDB/PDB is fairly simple on the surface, but the impact on your average DBA is massive, which is very much my own feeling.
  • Vijay Sehgal’s session on SQL Tuning Basic was a good introduction to the subject. I find myself continually drawn to these types of sessions, hoping someone will show me “the magic button” that makes it all simpler. 🙂 Not surprisingly, that didn’t happen, but once again it was good to see how someone approaches presenting the subject matter. I’ve only presented this type of material at internal sessions at work.

I had a lot of interaction with the attendees and speakers outside of the sessions, which is actually my favourite bit. 🙂

Thanks to everyone at the Oracle office in Mumbai for making us welcome and thanks to all the attendees for coming to the event. It was a very vocal audience, which makes for really fun sessions.

We left the Oracle office and drove straight to Pune, ready for the next event…



OTN Yathra 2014 : Noida

I woke up today feeling a little dodgy and for a moment I thought it would be a repeat of my morning in Jalandhar. Fortunately, once we got moving and I drank some really sweet tea, everything was OK.

Today’s event was based at the Sharda University in Noida. We were introduced to the crowd, presented with some flowers and lit a ceremonial lamp to mark the start of the event.

I attended Aman Sharma’s presentation on Oracle Certification and the ACE Program. The students are very job-focused, so they were interested in certification and also what opportunities were available in the community.

My first session was quite tough. The audience was a mix of external delegates who were Oracle users, students who had some Oracle knowledge and some students who had little-to-no Oracle knowledge. That’s quite a tough audience to tackle with a PL/SQL presentation. I tried to simplify things for the non-Oracle people, but it still scared a few off. In trying to simply the content, I probably undersold it to the people who knew Oracle, so it wasn’t the best of starts for me.

Based on the response from the first session, I switched the second to a talk about virtualization, which was more general, so not so challenging for the non-Oracle people in the audience. That definitely seemed to go down better.

Outside of the sessions, I spent a lot of time chatting with the students and external delegates, answering questions on a number of topics related to Oracle, so it was really good fun.

My thanks go out to everyone at Sharda University for making us so welcome. I hope everyone who attended was happy with the event.

Tomorrow we fly to Mumbai.



OTN Yathra 2014 : Jalandhar

Day one did not start well. I woke up and couldn’t stop throwing up. I got to the Lovely Professional University, thinking it would stop, but it didn’t. The people at the University were really helpful and took me to the University doctor, who gave me an injection to stop the nausea. A few minutes later, things calmed down, just in time for my first session…

As soon as I hit the stage I felt fine and the session went well. Adrenalin is a wonderful thing! After the session I started to flag a little, but I was taken to get some food, which picked me up. India is a great place for a vegetarian. I was a little nervous about eating after the events of the morning, but the food was great and I felt much better after it.

In the afternoon I had two back-to-back sessions, which I got through without any incidents. After that, we spoke to a number of University staff members, including the Chancellor of the University, about the event and what we thought we achieved. I’d like to say a big thank you to everyone at the University for helping the event run smoothly and the much needed medical treatment!

From there it was off to get some food before our journey to Noida. Once again, the food was great. Thanks also to Aman Sharma for organising everything and for our presents. 🙂

After the food we got in our cab for the drive to Noida. We were told it would take 6-7 hours. By my estimate, it took about 10 hours. This included a couple of suspected tire problems and several breaks for the driver, who was falling asleep at the wheel. Towards the end of the journey, Raj Mattamal fell asleep, but I felt duty bound to stay awake, as I was having to stop the driver hitting curbs, launching headlong into barriers and missing our turnoffs. We eventually got to the hotel in Noida at about 03:30. By the time I had checked in and got to my room it was 04:00.

I was meant to be up this morning at 06:00 for a trip to the Taj Mahal, but after the events of the previous day I figured it would not be a great idea. Instead I slept until 14:00 and I’ve woken up feeling a little disorientated, but generally OK.

I’m going to try and do as little as possible today and hopefully be back to normal tomorrow for the next event. Fingers crossed!



OTN Yathra 2014 : The Journey Begins

It’s been a really tough lead up to this tour. I’ve already blogged about the panic over my visa and flights. Since that post my flights were cancelled, switched to some different flights, then switched back again. I only got the final confirmation on the Thursday night before leaving on the Sunday.

What with that and me stressing out about some stuff going on at work at the moment, I felt like cancelling so I could lock myself in my house for 2 weeks and not speak to anyone. I’m in definite need of a holiday!

Today started off with a last-minute shop for a new suitcase. I had forgotten mine was broken, so I rushed out and bought the first thing I saw. I got home, packed, then got a banging headache. I had a couple of hours before my taxi, so I went to bed to try and sleep it off.

The first flight was from Birmingham to Dubai at 20:30. Nothing too eventful there. I finally got to see “Gravity”, which was nice to look at, but not totally awe-inspiring like the trailers would have you believe. Unfortunately, no sleep during this flight.

After a 2 hour wait at Dubai, it was on to a 2 hour, plus change, flight to Delhi. I did a little bit of head-flopping during this flight, but nothing I would consider sleep.

It was my first time at Delhi airport, which feels spacious, bright and really clean. One of my flight combinations would have had me sitting there for 16 hours. I wouldn’t have fancied that, but spending a couple of hours there was fine. India does the “first port of entry” thing, so I had to get my bags, go through customs and check in for the internal flight. After a two hour wait at Delhi, it was a 1 hour flight to Amritsar. During the flight I asked the young man next to me about our destination. As we left the flight he was mobbed by admirers wanting photos with him. I said, “It seems you are really famous”, to which he replied, “I play cricket for India”. It turns out it was Harbhajan Singh. 🙂

It was a 2+ hour cab ride from Amritsar airport to Jalandhar. This was my first experience of driving in India. OMG! Lanes are irrelevant. The direction of the road is irrelevant. We were literally driving along a dual carriage way with cars and motorbikes coming towards us in our lane. All those photos you see of crazy things on the streets around the world are every day occurrences here. Multiple people on a single motorbike, including people holding children in bags etc. Few of the cars or lorries had working rear lights, so driving in the dark was an experience. Somehow, I managed to get to the hotel in one piece, but I think we did get hit by someone. The driver got out to check the back of the car, then carried on…

So that was about 16+ hours in transit after a full day in the UK. I’ve really got to learn how to sleep on these flights. The overnight things are killers…



OTN Yathra 2014

I’ve been a little quiet on the blog lately, mostly because I’ve been spending my time freaking out about the arrangements for the OTN Yathra 2014 tour of India. I had to apply for a visa, which in itself was not too bad, but I spent quite a long time without a passport, thanks to the courier not bothering to attempt a delivery. All that time I didn’t know if my visa application had been successful, so I wasn’t sure if I would have to submit it again. By the time that arrived, it was so late that booking the flights became interesting… At one point I wrote to Debra Lilley and said words to the effect of, I think this is just not meant to be!

Well tonight (Tuesday evening) I got my flights confirmed for my trip that I start on Sunday. 🙂

This is proving to be quite an expensive trip.

  • Visa: $130.00 – About £110 for the visa itself, and about £20 for the courier service.
  • Vaccinations: £250 – I feel like a human pincushion now. I had a bunch of boosters that were due, as well as stuff specifically for India.
  • Malaria Pills: £80 – We are in low risk areas (cities), but we are doing a couple of journeys between cities by bus, which travel through high-risk areas (countryside), so they advised me not to take any chances. I could have got the cheaper pills for about £8, but I decided to go for the ones with less side affects. I don’t see the point in travelling all that way to stand on a stage and feel like crap because of the anti-malaria pills. At least these should minimise the chances of that. If so, that’s worth a few extra quid.

For those that think this Oracle ACE thing is a free ride, you don’t get any of this money back!

I’ve still got stuff to get, like insect repellent. My pastey white skin seems to be very appetising to insects and I am not a stranger to infections when I do get bitten. Fingers crossed I can avoid the worst of it…

Getting to this point has been a bit of a trial. 🙂 Thanks to everyone who has helped. Murali put together a great pack to help the speakers plan the trip and Lillian and Vikki from the Oracle ACE Program have done a great job pushing through my last minute travel bookings!

Normally I’m doing the thanks when the events are over. 🙂

Let’s hope everything from now on goes a little smoother than it has up until now!