Wednesday, 14 September 2016

My OOW16 - Same Old, Same Old or A Favourite Recipe?

As the world's most skilled procrastinator I have been in San Francisco for 28 hours and still not written my 'what am I up to' post.

So I looked at last year's pre event post and if I simply updated the session names it would work, although I don't get the post event holiday to Hawaii I had last year (why not? I ask myself).

Is Oracle Open World stale, and is it just a series of repeats, or is it something to look forward to? 

It certainly comes round too quickly, especially this year it is only 11 months since the last one!

So I have analysed the components of my experience and determined that each element falls into a number of buckets:

  • "Its just the way Oracle do it" - stuck with it then 
  • "I've always done it that way" - something I should look at changing
  •  "the way I like to handle it" - more of a tradition, that I enjoy, and look forward to.

OTN generously fund my trip to Oracle Open World as part of my ACE Director credentials; my travel and my overly inflated hotel room during the conference. Hotels in San Francisco, at the OOW preferential rate are in most cases double what you would pay this week. They are guaranteed full occupancy so basically can charge what they like, criminal. 

OTN ask in return that I attend briefings in HQ the Thursday & Friday before. This is not a chore, and if I had to chose between the briefings and OOW itself, I would chose the briefings. If I could only chose one session, it would be Thomas Kurian's. He answers questions, he is honest and his passion for the technology shines through. I like the way he treats us as experts and doesn't give us the marketing spin. 

I am very proud that several years ago I suggested to the User Experience (UX) team in development that ACEs would be interested in what they do, and they in turn created an offshoot from the ACE program to teach those interested more about what they do. Over the years that program has grown to a wider audience but the training takes place on the Wednesday before at HQ. So I used to travel over on the Tuesday, however I have found that if I travel Monday I can arrange any meetings I need with Development for the Tuesday before the last minute rush kicks in for them.

One of the traditions is to have dinner on the Tuesday with Misha Vaughan from the UX team, a chance to catch up with my thoughts on their direction, customer feedback and simply as friends. We have a traditional restaurant as well, a Thai restaurant I have actually just left. 

So that is the week before OOW covered:

  •  Monday travel
  • Tuesday Dev meetings
  • Wednesday UX  
  • Thursday, Friday ACE Director briefings. 
We stay in the Sofitel near Oracle HQ and my next tradition is the night I arrive having their French Onion Soup, it tastes divine. Their service is slow but worth it. 

Hang on, Ive just remembered, I think it is a tradition, or perhaps a habit but there will also be Chi Gung with Kent Thursday and Friday early.

Friday evening we pack up and move out to the city. This year I can online check in and use my phone as a digital key, Im excited, not by the technology but by the idea I can bypass check in when I arrive. Another tradition I have, and not just for OOW, is that whenever I plan to stay 5 or more nights in one place, and this includes my home; I buy flowers. In San Francisco that is normally at a stall by the Cable Car terminal.

One of my favourite traditions, probably second, is my Open World Triathlon; well cycle, run & swim. There are organised cycle rides on Saturday but I like to do my own at my own pace as I am so unfit. This year Fiona Martin my UKOUG 'partner in crime' and I are tackling the challenge. Fiona is much fitter than me but did her first half marathon last weekend and recovering from that, so hopefully will not put me under pressure. We are doing the 'gentle pedal, lunch with wine and ferry home' cycle option. Aiming to arrive back at the hotel before the Partner Reception which marks our start to the main festivities event.

Sunday morning OTN have a run across the Golden Gate Bridge and providing we completed our cycle across on Saturday we will join in. My 'traditional' approach is to arrive early and start walking, and the runners will catch me up. 

Sunday is user group day which punctuates this triathlon nicely. It is also my absolutely top tradition is the EMEA DBA quick fire talks, where we give speakers just 5 minutes to tell us something about the database. It has been confined to release 12 but this year we are taking a 2hour walk through database history with their favourite features. I have 22 DBAs speaking and it will be a hoot. If you haven't signed up then do so now. Session IDs UGF2630 & 2632

Then I am in a joint session with Lonneke Dikmans from eProseed, where we will share our approach and achievements so far with our first commercial PaaS application. It is all about Immunisation but I promise you there are no needles to be squeamish about. Come along and see how you can use PaaS to build out from Cloud Apps. UGF2706

It is sad but this session clashes with a new initiative an OTN WIT panel. I was asked to take part in the panel but had to turn it down. I would encourage you to attend but actually I want you to come to our session (at least I am honest).

Then Sunday evening it is the ACE social, a chance to catch up with friends.

Back to the Triathlon, Monday starts with the last element, the swim. This is normally not much more than a dunk as the water is not warm. however I normally try to swim at least 50 metres. This is after all my dominate discipline of the 3 (and it still isn't pretty). This year I have to swim even faster as my first meeting of the day is very early and I will need to hotfoot it and hope no one notices the 'eau de bay' fragrance as there won't be time for anything more than a beach side shower.

Lunchtime Monday there is a User Group appreciation lunch for UG leaders and then in the  afternoon Lonneke and I team up again to demo PaaS in the UX expo. This is on a booth so you never know which way the conversation will go or who your audience is. Last year we had analysts which added another level to the nerves.

Tuesday is my quieter day although my dance card is already full of meetings, and in the evening there is the traditional SOA community event. However our leader, our Papa Smurf is not actually here this year and will be missed. I will also try and make some of the Oak Table World sessions over at the Children's Museum, and stop by the OTN lounge to support my sponsors.

Wednesday I have analyst sessions first thing and at lunchtime I have another session to deliver, a shared customer presentation with England Rugby, the RFU. Their story is about their implementation of not only HCM & Financials Cloud but also best practice and how this is transforming their business. If you like Sport and Rugby is the fastest growing sport in the US then this is a great customer case study even if you are not interested in Cloud. It will be a great session and I even plan on wearing a rugby shirt. It is also a combined Finance and HCM implementation and we will share the challenges and considerations that presented. Digital Transformation in Sport [CON2721]

Wednesday evening is the party. I like the fact it is somewhere new, not sure if I will be disappointed we don't have Billy Joel or excited we have Gwen Stefani and Sting instead.

Thursday as the event winds down I have another series of meetings. 

It is also my tradition that I stay the night of the last day, by then I have been living on adrenalin for over a week, and need to come down before i strap myself into an aircraft seat for 12 hours. I am buzzing and would be crawling up walls. Instead I will have a quiet dinner with those friends still in town, breakfast with the Dutch contingent and then send off many emails to get follow up tasks kicked off and find a little shopping time for me (although Brexit has made shopping in the US a lot less attractive financially) and fly home that evening much more relaxed.

I always arrive at OOW with too much luggage, spilt equally between the many hats I need; ACE, Certus, User group leader, UX advocate, etc, etc and the x Pat shopping supplies; tea, chocolate, marmite etc. I tell myself I will have almost empty cases to take home and then I go shopping.

I love Oracle Open World and yes many things could be improved; the rush of last minute invitations, some of the booking process, the mobile app (which was only launched today) but overall it works.

Most of my tasks are the same as last year, and the year before but it defiantly a much loved recipe I will continue to use. If you see me, say hallo, an please come to my sessions, if only for my wonderful english accent.

Friday, 9 September 2016

An ACE Tale of Teach, Motivate, Mentor & Achieve

I am often asked, “How long does it take to be an ACE?” and I’m sorry but the answer has to be “It depends”; it depends how far along the journey you are already are, and even then it depends on how big an impact you make.

But this isn’t a race, it is about being recognised for an on going community commitment. Even when you are awarded an ACE title we are all self reviewed each year. You have to maintain the commitment to keep the title.

I also often say that one of the roles of an ACE Director is to motivate and encourage the local community wherever we have the privilege to present.

Anyway, I want to tell you the story one such person on his own journey, and how that has been shaped by the people he has met.

Alexis Lopez is an ACE Associate based in Colombia. His skill set includes ADF & Java and he is an independent helping many partners and organizations within Colombia.

My first visit to Colombia was 2011, and it was great to be back again this year.

I had the pleasure of meeting Alexis on this years OTN Tour of North Latin America as he spoke in Panama, Guatemala and of course Colombia. I envy the user groups in Latin America, they have no problem attracting young professionals and I am always asking why they got involved?

Alexis comes from the city of Cali, and I knew that the Colombian User Group ASUOC is really active in Cali and my good friend Robin Castro Gil  who was once the President came from there, so I asked Alexis if he knew him.

Alexis laughed and told me that Robin was one of his lecturers when he was at university. Robin taught Project Management which was a module on Alexis’ computer degree at ICESI in 2005. Robin is now a professor at ICESI and currently completing his PhD in Montreal.

Robin (on right) at ASUOC 2011
When Alexis realised that Robin actually ran the user group he started to attend virtually from 2006 when he finished university and started working. The user group provided information on the many diverse technologies available within Oracle but what really hooked Alexis was the community interaction. He started to specialise in Oracle and went to work for an Oratech, an Oracle Partner as a developer.

Around 2010 Alexis met Mauricio Naranjo who at the time was the only local ACE Director and also specialized in SOA & Middleware. Mauricio blogged, spoke, was an author of a book and if you know Mauricio he is so passionate about what he does and this rubbed off on Alexis. Mauricio took Alexis under his wing and encouraged him to get involved more, to share his knowledge.

Mauricio & Alexis

This mentoring worked and Alexis started his own journey, after attending JavaOne LAD in December 2012 and watching the interaction and solidarity of the Brazilian community, he decided to create CLOJUG a Java User Group in Cali.

2016 has been an amazing year for Alexis, it has seen him gain ACE Associate, the first step on the ACE journey. He was also presented at Open World Latin America in Brazil earlier this year with a Duke Choice Award for Open Source Collaboration for this region. This was a joint award to Alexis and Cesar Hernandez another upcoming star and Java Champion from Guatemala. There is even a picture of this being awarded in the current OTN Latin America presentation video that Pablo Ciccarello, the community shares at each conference.

Alexis is a star of his community on the rise and will be encouraging others to join him at Java One this year with his presentation:  Worldwide JUG Collaboration: Think Global, Act Local [UGF7868].

There is nothing better for a teacher, than the success of former students, I know both Robin and Mauricio are proud of Alexis and all he has achieved at what is still the start of his community journey.

Alexis also got me to ride a horse, but that is another story 

So even if you have yet to start your journey, or want a little direction, reach out to your local ACE members and we will take the time to encourage you.

And keep an eye out for Alexis; he is going places!

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

What is your favourite Database Feature? Come Hear Ours at Oracle Open World

It is that time again, the run up to Oracle Open World and as is now tradition the EMEA Oracle User Groups are bringing you another two hours of ACE DBAs short talks.

The past two years they have had just a few minutes to share with you new features. This year we are shaking it up a little and they are sharing their favourite features, regardless of when it appeared. 

For me (and I'm not a DBA or even technical anymore), my favourite feature was the reason I moved to Oracle, or at least that is the myth I have created. I used to be an Ingres Programmer and Oracle had an 'ALTER' clause which they didn't!

So please join us for 2 hours of great fun. 

Currently the sessions are listed as OGF2630 & 2632 but we hope to have them merged in the next few days. Please sign up so we know what to expect.

Sunday 1 - 3pm Moscone South - 102

They are against the Clock and we will cut them off if they overrun. 

The running order is based on when the feature was introduced so it is a bit like a time-lapse video of the database history. It will be fun, don't miss it.

David Kurtz Instrumentation
Sten Vesterli DBMS_RANDOM
Bjoern Rost services
Christian Antognini Parallel Processing
Franck Pachot Transportable Tablespaces
Alex Nuijten Analytic Functions
Osama Mustafa  RAC
Kamran Aghayev Clusterware
Tim Hall Data Pump (expdp / impdp)
Carl Dudley The recyclebin
Maris Elsins Tracing by DBMS_MONITOR

Oren Nakdimon Edition-Based Redefinition
Peter Scott The LISTAGG analytic function and some novel ways to use it!
Brendan Tierney Predictive Queries in Oracle 12c
Oded Raz Data Redaction Hacking, Privilege Analysis, SQL/CL
Philip Brown 12c Privilege Analysis
Lucas Jellema SQL Pattern recognition
OEM 13c Database Consolidation Advisor
Kim Berg Hansen JSON_TABLE and other JSON query methods
Gurcan Orhan connecting ODI to cloud services
Frits Hoogland The dire need of database administration automation
Martin Widlake Corrections to all prior topics

Monday, 22 August 2016

Need Your Help Again

This is my third UKOUG Partner Awards whilst working at Certus and in that time I have had the privilege to work with some amazing customers. I know Certus deserve your vote in the UKOUG Partner Awards, especially in the  Cloud Applications category.

I could just ask you to vote for us. Vote Gold and if you want to just do that then thank you so much. But if you want to know why, read the nominations or read on in this post

Last year when I asked for your vote we were planning our Oracle Open World where our customer JT were going to speak about their implementation and what it had meant for them. They are a fantastic reference but in the cloud world you can't have just one, each customer needs to be happy, and we want much, more than that.

This year England Rugby (the RFU) are going to tell their story at OOW, and from a project perspective this is a combined FInance and HCM, again with a lot of firsts. They will also be sharing this story at UKOUG Apps 2016

The Office of National Statistics the first Government Department to adopt Cloud HCM & Financials are our customer and they are great at sharing their journey.

We have added Finance to HCM in the beta testing we do for Oracle development. There is a small group of partners who test these 6 monthly releases and Certus have been doing this for a long time; they recognise our expertise.

Certus decided about 18 months ago to increase their contribution to UKOUG through sponsorship of Oracle Scene and I hope you have found our regular advertorials an interesting read. We have deliberately approached it as a kind of newsletter rather than direct advertising, and I think you will agree it shows just how busy we are.

I say increase, as well as supporting me on my role as UKOUG Board Member Advocate, Tim Warner is joint lead in the HCM SIG and Richard Atkins is deputy of the HCM Cloud SIG. For a small company that is a really big investment. 

Another category we are shortlisted for are Training, and we continue to deliver training to not only our own people, customers but on behalf of Oracle and other partners. Chances are if you have Cloud HCM and Certus didn't implement it, someone in the project team was taught by us; ask them

Cloud has opened up opportunities for smaller SME customers and Certus has excelled here, as well as JT and RFU, we have a major charity and several financial services in our list of customers. And at Certus we don't walk away when the customer goes live, we have an ongoing offering that ensures customers continue to get new value from cloud. In fact this offering is so popular we also have cloud customers who originally had a different implementation partner.

Last year we won a number of awards for our work in proving the PaaS4SaaS offering from Oracle. This is an emerging technology as the portfolio grows and grows and we are currently beta testing the Application Builder Cloud Service against HCM, and currently working on our own application extension around immunisation.

Working for Certus is fun, I love it, and the people here deserve your vote.

Please vote for Certus.

Thank you

Monday, 15 August 2016

OTNTourLA - The Long Trek Home

After an amazing day sightseeing the area around Pereira, it was a very late night but my first flight wasn't until almost midday.

I met up with Tim for breakfast and then made my way to the airport. There isn't really a waiting area airside, just two boarding areas, so you have to wait till your flight is the next one to be called. The area landside was very busy with whole families seeing individuals off, and it was warm, very warm.

Luckily I didn't have to wait too long, just long enough to use up my last local money on sweets for the office. I joined the queue for security only to have one of my bags stopped. There was no English spoken but they seemed to think I had scissors. I did, a small pair, with blades 3cm long and round ended. These scissors have been around the world with me in my knitting bag, which I took up to help with travel stress. UK hand luggage rules which are based on global guidelines, say they are OK up to 6cm. I know other countries can have other rules, but they went through security in Bogota, the Colombia capital on the way in. I wasn't happy.

My flight was delayed about 20 minutes, which meant I had just under an hour to make my international connection in Bogota. I only asked once for instructions so that unlike the way in, I knew what I had to do.

The queues were phenomenal and I did ask once if I was in the right place and an Avianca person helpfully told me to run. The queue for passports was enormous and everyone was drought, and I even saw locals telling queue jumpers (and there was many) exactly how they felt. My blood pressure was rising but I got to the gate after they had starting boarding but I did get it.

Arrival at Miami was less fraught, or so I thought. I had chosen to spend a night in an airport hotel as the only option was again a quick connection and I just knew it was impossible in Miami. They have automated immigration in Miami and although I though I was OK, the picture tells a different story.

Eventually I got through, collected my luggage and waited, and waited for a hotel shuttle. After a quick meal I decided to have an early night.

The hotel did breakfast to order, but I was in no hurry so I waited 30 minutes behind one woman, who then ordered 7, yes SEVEN breakfasts. Finally it was my turn, and I asked for poached eggs, only to be told that despite the sign saying"'Eggs - anyway"  they only did fried or omelets!! 

I intended to spend the day getting ready for work, finishing bogs, writing things up etc, but the internet was not really good enough, so I just wrote my complaint letter instead!!

Anyway, British Airways gave me a much appreciated upgrade to Premium Economy and after a straight forward flight and a not too busy passport control I was back in London.

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Sunday, 14 August 2016

OTNTourLA - Final Sight Seeing

Alexis' wife Clara, sat next to me at dinner Thursday evening and was telling what a beautiful wider area Pereira was part off, and how I should explore it. Then Pablo who had done so during the day showed me some photos and I was determined to do something on the Friday, as I was not speaking.

Alexis asked me if I wanted to go with him to explore, and that Deiby was going to come too. Most other speakers were leaving directly so it was a small but fun group of us.

Deiby, Alexis and I

First we went to Cocora Valley to go horseback riding through the most amazing scenery. I am not a brave person but I wanted to do this despite knowing I would probably pull out once I got to meet a horse. However there was a sign showing a local leading a horse for small children, so I got Alexis to ask if someone would lead me? Once they stopped laughing the horse people agreed and we set off on our little tour, Deiby, just his second time on a horse, nervous but determined, Alexis who it turns out is quite the master horseman, and me, being led by a very amused local.

After leading us along the road for a few hundred yards we started on the track proper, through the most amazing scenery. The wax palm tree is the national tree of Colombia and each one stands about 45m high; Amazing and so beautiful.

After a while I was able to release my death grip of the saddle a little and start to enjoy the gentle pace, until that is we started on a steep hill down towards a river. I have to say anti natal breathing classes were quite useful at this point. Crossing the river was simple it was actually a concrete path under just a few inches of water. Then we came to a stop and my guide offered to take a picture of the three of us but as he let go of the lead my horse wanted to move and I was almost hysterical. Then we turned around and came back again.

I had my go pro filming time lapsed attached to the saddle and although you can't see me you can see some of the lovely scenery. Once we got back to the stables and I had elegantly (not) dismounted from the horse, I gave the guide what was probably his best tip ever. 

Then we had lunch nearby, a wonderful outdoor area. We were so lucky with the weather, in the hours drive to the valley it had rained heavily and yet cleared just in time for us  to arrive.

Then we drove to Solento which we had driven through on the way, a beautiful town much like Antigua in Guatemala, very colourful and a magnet for visitors both foreign and Colombian. In fact Alexi and his wife were staying here for the weekend.

Like Antigua there was a cross on a hill overlooking the town, and like the Mexico pyramid, there was almost 250 steps, but these were all equal and not too steep so with my trusty Nordic stick, not too much bother. Again well worth it for the views. We then did a little shopping for gifts in the Main Street, stopping for peeled mango strips with lime juice, a wonderful combination I shall be trying again. I also tried chontaduro with honey and sugar; which was nice but not my favourite.

Coffee was next in a lovely little shop. This is the coffee region of Colombia and even a philistine like me has to admit it was very good. We walked back through the main square to where we had parked the car; parking is an art in Latin America with skills I certainly don't process, to get cars into the smallest of gaps. I then realised I had lost my camera with the only proof that I had sat on a horse available, but luckily Alexis sprinted back to the coffee shop who had my camera and all was OK again.

We then drove the hour plus back to Pereira to collect Clara who had had to work all day from her hotel room, and set off in the other direction for another must see attraction of hot springs. This sounded very appealing after bordering and step climbing,

The road (viaduct helicoidal) to the springs was quite new and included a loop that appears from the mountain and has the most enormous drop. Luckily it was dark and I couldn't see it. I would have had my eyes closed anyway.

 Santa Rosa de Cabal is the town before the springs, which is famous for its chorizo or sausage. No lie, we must have seen 40 roadside cafes serving chorizo. Men with flags would wave you into their establishment and we did stop at one only to leave when we saw no one eating there, only to stop a few hundred metres later at one with a queue. It was lovely and another local thing to try. Did you know the they hold the Guinness record for 1917 metre chorizo

Then we arrived at the hot springs (Termales), a series of pools, first filled with a thermal waterfall and the last from a more normal cold waterfall. It was just what my body ordered and then with a rum drink I was in heaven. This was the most amazing way to finish the day.

Clara drove home, Alexis had found an ACE beer he couldn't turn down and when we got to Santa Rosa de Cabal Google maps sent us down the steepest hill ever, where we all thought we were going to get stuck and we could certainly hear the number plate scrapping the ground. I felt so sorry for Clara, but Alexis talked her through it and I switched between silent prayers for help and relief I wasn't driving. After that we got to the main road and it was quite straight forward all the way back to Pereira.

Another late night but Saturday was only for travelling; the long trek home.

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OTNTourLA - Last Stop Colombia

Colombia User Group

Sleep is a wonderful thing and in a much better frame of mind, we managed to get a taxi to the university for the event kick off. Once we arrived I was very impressed with the facilities, which included sports halls, pool, stadium etc. of almost Olympic quality.

The university appeared to be set in a bamboo forest which is very prevalent locally, in fact we also saw a toll booth the next day made from bamboo and most of our hotel was decorated that way.

There was a large auditorium and another hall. There were just two streams, one with translation and the other in Spanish. I had two sessions, first my upgrade presentation and like in Mexico as there was a high number of students so I changed the emphasis of the talk as to how to approach the going 'there' from 'here' part of IT projects using Fusion as an example. There were a couple of EBS customers in the room so later in the day I privately took questions from them, although I had to find someone else to answer the 'EBS doesn't run well on 2 node RAC' questions!

Tim and I were the only people who did the whole tour but Deiby and Alexis had done a few other countries and Frank Munz and Trond Enstad joined us from the Southern tour.

After a wonderful lunch served in a Bambi structure in the grounds I was back on again with my PaaS44SaaS. There was actually more middleware included in the agenda than I would normally expect, and there were great sessions on Weblogic, ADF and SOA. Mauricio Naranjo is an ACE Alumni who I have met previously in Latin America and on the ACE circuit and he is the mentor of Alexis Lopez that I met earlier in the tour in Panama where he was speaking. More about Alexis and Mauricio in a later blog.

At the end of the day the students had some entertainment for us, break dancing, hip hop, cheer leading, it was very impressive in an outdoor courtyard with brick floor rather than a traditional gym.

In the evening there was a dinner in a restaurant arranged by the user group, traditional food and drink, which went on later than I would normally like but I didn't have a session Friday so didn't mind too much.

I spent a lot of time speaking to Trond Enstad someone I have seen around but not really spoke to. I found him real I interesting and a master of many languages. Norwegian by birth he now lives in Spain and gave his seasons in Spanish.

Friday was just 4 sessions followed by workshops and I had a clear day so I took the opportunity to do some sight seeing with Alexis and Deiby. Leaving Tm behind to work on his videos, blogs and website.

I wish I had arrived in Pereira in a better mood, but the conference made up for it. I had lots of conversations with partners, end users and many students. People who are genuinely interested in what we do; a great conference to finish with.

And I also learnt how to spell Colombia correctly.

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