Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Insync10 – Oracle User Conference, Melbourne – 16,17 August 2010

Every once in a while it is good to take some time off to dive into the offering and strategy of your major vendors. Insync10 was such an occasion organised by the Oracle user groups (OAUG, AUSOUG and Quest). Oracle has taken over many companies in the recent years and their marketing spin is much around their complete offering, ranging from storage, servers, database, middleware to business applications. And in the context of the applications, the breadth of their applications.

Oracle's Exadata product is an interesting development in our industry. Though targeted at the high end of the market and already introduced 2 years ago, the question that popped up in my mind was whether it will trigger a larger series of shrink wrapped utilities such as this database in a box. It is not the first time Oracle has tried this but technology and the market might have changed.

According to Oracle the future of Business Intelligence is to run it on top of the operational database. Oracle is of course the only one who is well positioned to provide such technology. The concept is intriguing and could open doors for mid-sized organisations to implement BI without the need of expensive ETL and additional infrastructure.

A related message was to bring the business process to the data, meaning that you should centralise your data into as much as possible a single database and have the applications feed of this central database. A message I can relate to in light of my vision that information should flow.

Another concept that was strongly promoted was the middleware. I walk every day around with a diagram depicting the ERP in the centre and series of other applications as satellites around it. Oracle drew this with the middleware in the centre as a sort of enterprise bus linking it all together. I don’t know what I must think of that yet and I wonder whether it really matters. The Oracle E-Business Suite (EBS) comes with a series of API's implemented with PL/SQL. Before I will look further into the middleware of Oracle, I first want to see those API's implemented through webservices as a standard component of the EBS so my Java guys can use them without the need of a middleman. For me another task to put on the list and to find out if these webservices are standard provided with release 12 of the EBS (probably you must buy them).

Most interesting for me was Oracle’s Application Testing Suite and specifically the Real User Experience Insight (part of the Oracle Enterprise Manager according to the website but part of the Testing Suite according to the presentation) which is a sniffer that logs all activities that the user performs including the page load time. When users raise issues you can actually track back the actual series of steps the user performed and see what their experience was. Those steps can then be copied into the testing tool to use as a script for functional testing or for load testing. It was mentioned that the Real User Experience Insight tool could be used with other systems as well. For the Oracle applications there are accelerators (Oracle speak for adaptor) but I suspect that for non-Oracle applications you will have some problems analysing the tracked data. (see presentation)

One of the major reasons for me to attend the conference was to see if I could obtain some more insights in the road to release 12 of the EBS and what lies behind R12. Luckily we had already engaged some good consultants earlier so it turned out that I was aware of most of the tips. In my role it is good that some of those are brought again to the fore because I easily forget all this. But it is time to start with our upgrade project. (see presentation)

I found also that our practices are pretty much up to scratch such as those for change management, patching and management of our customisations. Oracle provides more automated tools that we could consider, provided that the price is right. It turned out that also other larger organizations not always chose to buy more supporting tools from Oracle and leave things manual or semi-automated. (see presentation)

And finally about virtualisation. I complained about Oracle’s strategy around virtualisation earlier. Oracle only supports virtualisation with their own technology. Once this message was made clear to me by Oracle, I did not bother to dive further into their virtualisation offer. However a presentation at Insync10 made the situation much clearer. Oracle’s virtualisation technology seems to work very well, but …. they seem to have only one or a handful customers globally that have implemented it. But because the reference was so good, it might be worthwhile to look into it.

Unfortunately you cannot attend always all sessions you are interested in so the rest will need to be taken from the published slides.

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