You Don’t Need Oracle’s Cloud (Yet)

I was just in Budapest for the Oracle Partner Community Forum last week. They showed us a a preview of what Oracle has been up to with their Oracle Process Cloud Service and Oracle Integration Cloud Service since OpenWorld, and it’s looking good.

Right now, there doesn’t seem to be any reason to buy into Oracle’s cloud at the Platform-as-a-Service level. After all, their only semi-available services are a database in the cloud and a WebLogic application server in the cloud. At the usual Oracle price tag, you need to be willing to pay a lot above market rate for the privilege of running your application in Oracle’s cloud.

But once the new services announced at OpenWorld (Process Cloud Service, Integration Cloud Service and Document Cloud Service) become generally available, Oracle has a much more compelling story.

 

Breathing: You’re Doing it Wrong

“Breathe, Joe, breathe.”

I’ve noticed some clear body language in the IT people arround me when they have to wait for something. They might be waiting for their code to compile, for the result of a code test, for a database result or a million other things. And what happens is that people impatiently tense up and start to breathe quicker and shallower. You should breathe slower instead.

There is a lot of science that shows that good breathing has myriad health benefits and a lot of people who will help you breathe better. Most people don’t breathe properly, but if you work in IT, you’ll have many opportunities to practice good breathing. Every time you wait for something, concentrate on your breath and breathe deeply.

Maybe some day we’ll all be wearing self-trackers that will gently notify us when our breathing becomes shallow and ineffective. In the meantime, use any computer-generated delay in your day as an opportunity for a good drink of oxygen. Delays are good for your health if you use them wisely.

Little Big Data

I just hear someone from IBM talk about how they are analyzing posts on their internal social network to gauge the attitude of the employees. With some claiming IBM is about to axe 112,000 jobs, I think I can guess the result.

Automated sentiment analysis is an interesting area, and Oracle is doing something similar with their Oracle Social Engagement and Monitoring service.  But what struck me about the interview was that the engineer said “this is Big Data.” When asked, he admitted that he was analyzing only about 3 millions posts.

Sorry, IBM, 3 million records is not “Big Data” – most organizations generate more records every day.

But the misuse is telling – everybody is slapping the “Big Data” buzzword on everything they do. There are very few true Big Data projects out there, and fewer still that produce business value. Are you considering a Big Data project? The odds are 20:1 against it producing any business value.

Let There Be Light

Visiting some friends this weekend, I took my bike. This being Denmark in winter, it was of course pitch black as I was driving along a bike path around 5.30pm.

But where I was, there was light. Ahead of me, I could see light posts glowing softly, but the two right ahead of me were shining at full power. As I travelled, lights kept turning to full power ahead of me, and back to an energy-saving soft glow behind me.

This is technology that fits – unobtrusive, intelligent, and helpful. And what makes this possible is cheap sensors and computing power. Whatever you are doing, think of how you could improve it if computing power, memory, networking and sensors were free. Because that’s where we are going.

For more on intelligent lighting in Copenhagen, read http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/09/business/energy-environment/copenhagen-lighting-the-way-to-greener-more-efficient-cities.html

Don’t Upgrade to IOS 8.1.3

If you have Apple mobile devices and are considering upgrading to the latest version of iOS (8.1.3), don’t. If you have upgraded, quickly downgrade back to 8.1.2 before Apple makes that impossible.

The reason is that this version closes one of the loopholes that was used to “jailbreak” these devices, and there is one very good reason to jailbreak at least your iPad: To install the f.lux app.

Research has shown that reading on backlit screens like an iPad in the evening is very bad for your sleep, because the light from the screen has the bluish-white color of daylight. Exposing your eyes to this kind of light in the evening confuses the body and lowers the quality of your sleep. The f.lux app compensates for that by changing the color temperature to a reddish evening light when the sun sets.

Unfortunately, Apple doesn’t allow apps to control the screen the way f.lux needs, so you will have to jailbreak your device to install f.lux. I strongly recommend you do so if you have an iPad.

Hotel California Software

“You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave” – Hotel California by The Eagles

That feeling is what many organizations are experiencing once they have jumped onto a cloud service. It can be hard enough to changing a major on-premise system – just think of the huge costs and time expenditures of Oracle-to-SAP and SAP-to-Oracle stories occasionally in the news. But once your data live in the cloud, it can be almost impossible to get them out.

Before you sign up to a cloud service, make sure to run a trial period and test that you can make a complete data export. Open the file and check that everything you put into the system is actually in your data export, together with all the necessary information about which records are linked to which. If your prospective vendor does not offer a complete data dump that you can automatically pull at will, look for another vendor.

If you do sign up to a cloud service, establish an automatic procedure to retrieve all of your data regularly. This is the only way to be sure that you have your data if your cloud provider goes under, or if all of their servers are impounded because they happened to be running in the same datacenter as a suspected terrorist.

Make sure you can actually leave.

You’re Cleverer Than You Think

I often train experienced developers in new tools, and I’ve found that most underestimate what they can do – their actual skill level is higher than their own perceived skill level.

Skill development

This is different from new developers, who tend to overestimate their skills.

The reason this happens to most experienced people is the “loss of control” feeling overcomes the feeling of accomplishment. If you are very skilled with one tool, you are acutely aware that you are not an expert in the new tool – yet you feel that you should be. Cut yourself some slack – you are cleverer than you think.

(The graphic is from my newsletter “Technology That Fits” – for a regular dose of fresh IT thinking every week or two, sign up here)

Hardware is Cheap, Developers are Expensive

When advising customers on ADF projects, I often find development environments where many or all developers are working against the same database. That introduces a hard dependency between different parts of the project – if one developer deploys a defective PL/SQL package to the database, nobody else can run the application.

This approach made sense back when hardware was expensive and databases had to be managed by high priests in glass-walled, climate-controlled rooms. Today, you can buy a development machine with a quad-core i7, 16GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD disk for $1,200. This machine can easily run an enterprise-class database, application server and IDE. Additionally, virtualization software allows you to build, distribute, and reset environments easily.

It doesn’t make sense to have expensive developers work on old hardware. As soon as they have lost a day due to an inflexible development environment, you have lost more than the cost of a proper development laptop.

Don’t waste expensive developer time because you’re too cheap to buy proper hardware.

Giving Your Users What They Don’t Want

I’m leading a workshop in a fancy business building in Lisbon this week, and they have a very interesting elevator system. There are no buttons inside the elevator, but instead a touchscreen outside, where you indicate which floor you want to go to. IMG_2926

And it’s an unmitigated User Experience disaster. I have a master in operations research from way back, and I recognize that fitting people into elevators is an instance of the bin packing problem (literally ;-). With information about everyone’s destination, you can produce an optimal allocation of people to elevators.

But look at the screen above. If I’m on the seventh floor, where do you think I want to go? In 95% of the cases to the ground floor. How do I get there? By pressing the small triangle at the bottom and scolling down to find the ground floor.

This is why engineers should never be allowed to design user interfaces.

Technology Tunnel Vision

I have a favorite presentation that I have been giving at user group conferences for many years. In this, I compare different development tools so IT managers and developers can make an informed decision.

It’s always had a hard time getting onto the official Oracle OpenWorld agenda, because it is about several tools. OpenWorld Conference slots are allocated by track, and each track manager has too few. Therefore, they will only take presentations specifically about their product.

Unfortunately, I’m seeing the same tunnel vision spreading to user groups who should know better. The IT community is fragmenting into separate silos of knowledge with few people with enough knowledge to compare tools.

Technology Tunnel Vision

I just received another rejection letter for my tool comparison from a user group, so I’m happy to point out that the UKOUG Tech 14 conference did not suffer from this, and gave my APEX vs ADF comparison a slot on the APEX track.

Are you one of those who only know one tool? Make a resolution to learn something new in 2015.