Monthly Archives: September 2008

Oracle Portal users meeting Thursday at 2 p.m.

I’ve booked an Unconference slot today, Thursday at 2 p.m. for a meeting of Oracle Portal users. I’m not going to be presenting anything, but with all the WebCenter and Beehive hype here, it might be useful to meet other Oracle Portal users and discuss where we go from here.

So if you’re in San Francisco, head over to Moscone West, 3rd floor and look for Overlook 3C.

Oracle OpenWorld, Wednesday

Wednesday morning I spent the morning in the ADF Methodology Group unconference session. Fellow Oracle ACE Director Chris Muir had convened the meeting and explained the rationale for the ADF Methodology group. We discussed several aspects of ADF methodology: Eric Marcoux spoke on ADF testing, Steve Muench discussed how to advocate ADF, I spoke on the role of the database in ADF, Robert Nocera presented some ADF standards, John Flack spoke on reporting options and Avrom Roy-Faderman made some interesting points about reusability. You can find our work on assorted blogs and gathered on the ADF Methodology page on the Oracle Wiki. If you are interested in ADF and want to join the discussion, you are encouraged to join the ADF Methodology Google Group.

In the afternoon, I went to Larrys keynote. The big announcement was Oracle  hardware products: The Exadata Storage Server and the HP Oracle Database Machine. It was billed as Oracle’s first hardware products, which is wrong on two counts: Oracle tried hardware before (“Raw Iron” about 6 years ago), and the hardware is actually by HP. But the Exadata server looks interesting – by adding CPUs and including Oracle Parallel Query software right next to the disks, the storage server can return data instead of just blocks. Oracle claims a speed-up of between 10 and 30 times in large, real-life data warehouse applications.

He did not announce that there will be an Oracle XE 11g, but that is persistently rumoured here.

Oracle OpenWorld, Tuesday

In the morning, I heard Robert Nocera from Vgo present on redeveloping Oracle Forms applications in ADF BC and ADF Faces. They have been doing this for years and used to convert stacked canvases in Forms to PanelGroups in ADF. However, with JDeveloper 11g, stacked canvases can be converted into ADF Task Flows pages and page fragments. This is actually a much more accurate representation of what the application needs – the only reason to be toggling canvases on and off in Forms is that it’s the only way offered by Forms. It was also interesting to hear that they are using Groovy expressions for validation – this is another new feature in 11g. Now all they need to go live is for JDeveloper 11g to actually be released…

I discussed their redeveloping approach with Robert afterwards and agree with him that the idea of (semi-) automatically “migrating” a Client/Server Forms application to a JEE architecture is not desirable. You will most likely end up some code that might technically be implemented in Java, but with a structure completely alien to Java programmers. 

In the afternoon, I heard the Thomas Kurians Keynote. He presented Oracle Data Integrator, which increases throughput by turning ETL into ELT (ie. the transformation step actually happens in the target database). He talked about BI Publisher, which has an improved web client to allow you to build reports without designing them in MS Word. 

He then presented Oracle UCM, which pretty much looks like it did last year. New points was the integration of scanning solutions and that UCM is now integrated with Secure Enterprise Search. WebCenter also looks like it did last year – only now it’s integrated with the new Oracle Beehive product. The whirlwind demo used features from all three products, but exactly which product does what was not clear. 

The day was wrapped up with one of the yearly conference highlights – the Oracle ACE dinner. This year, I had some interesting discussions with Peter Koletzke  and Chris Ostrowski 

Oracle OpenWorld, Monday

In the morning, I saw fellow ACE Director Eric Marcoux present an overview of all Oracle Portal Products – an ambitions undertaking, given that Oracle has four portals and Eric also covered Universal Content Management. With such a wide topic, it is probably unavoidable that some errors creep in – for example, I noticed that he erroneously claimed that Oracle Portal does not support JSR-168 and WSRP, which since 10.1.4 it does. But while I feel he showed Oracle Portal in too negative a light, there can be no doubt that Oracle WebCenter is the strategic product.

In the Unconference, I heard Bex Huff (another ACE Director) present on Enterprise 2.0. His sobering observation was that most Enterprise 2.0 initiatives fail (at least initially), and the failures are more likely to be cultural than technical. But that’s supposedly OK, because nobody know how to build an Enterprise 2.0, so you’ll have to accept some failures along the way.

In the Middleware General Session, Thomas Kurian once more announced the imminent release of JDeveloper 11g. One interesting focus area of JDev11g is Application Lifecycle Management, which includes integration with all kinds of third-party tools for version control, build, bug tracking etc.

Oracle is into process modeling (again – remember Oracle Designer?) with both Business Process Analysis and Business Process Management. While I understand where BPEL fits in, the distribution of work between BPA and BPM is unclear. But Oracle claims round-trip engineering between BPA/BPM and BPEL, so you can supposedly let an analyst draw a flowchart and give it to the BPEL developer, at least as a starting point.

With JRockit (a Java VM that doesn’t freeze every once in a while to do garbage collection) and Oracle Coherence (middle-tier long-term object cache), it seems that Oracle has now purchased the technology for some very high throughput middleware architectures. The performance metrics they presented on fairly modest hardware were impressive.

In the Database General Session, Andy Mendelsohn went through all the reasons people should move to 11g – for example you can now use compression on everything, sometimes even getting a performance benefit, because you need to read fewer blocks from disk. There was also the fact that you can now read and write files as fast to/from the database as from a file system – amazing! And there’s a graphical Explain plan in Grid Control (coming to DB Manager), data modeling and E-R diagrams in SQL Developer (another point were we’re getting what we had in Designer…), and a wizard in Application Express that you can feed a Forms XML file and let it build an ApEx application with similar functionality.

It has also become much easier to upgrade. If you have the luxury of a separate environment, you can record your actual workload and play it back on the upgraded environment to see how it performs. And for those (most people), who do upgrade-in-place, you can set the wonderful parameter OPTIMIZER_FEATURES_ENABLE to your current version. This means that your 11g database will use the same execution plans as the old one would. You can then set OPTIMIZER_CAPTURE_SQL_PLAN_BASELINE to capture how your SQL is being executed. Once you have a baseline, you can then keep the plans from the baseline, but let the Oracle optimizer store all the alternatives it comes up with. A DBA can then review the suggested new plans and decide whether to implement them. Cool.

Oracle OpenWorld, Sunday

Sunday at OracleWorld was filled by the Oracle ACE Director briefing. Unfortunately most of the information given out is embargoed until the relevant Oracle VIP makes the official announcement during the week. Stay tuned…But we did have some of the usual interesting discussions about Oracle pricing, especially in the light of Oracle having just posted record profits.

On one hand, we heard Mark Townsend, VP of Product Management for the Database say that Oracle will increasingly be placing the most useful (“differentiating”) new features of the database in extra-price options. And Vince Casarez, another VP of Product Management, stoutly defended the extravagant pricing of Oracle WebCenter.

On the other hand, Senior Director of Product Management for Application Development Tools Duncan Mills mused about the possibility of making Oracle ADF license-free for deployment on non-oracle application servers. I sure hope this comes to pass – it would be an important step forward for the general adoption of Oracle ADF, which is an under-utilized gem in the Oracle product stack. If more Java projects used good frameworks like Oracle ADF instead of building their own, we would see fewer spectacular project failures.

Oracle OpenWorld presentation

I’ll be in San Francisco next week for Oracle OpenWorld. I’m giving a presentation entitled “Choose Your Weapon: An Overview of Oracle Development Tools” (S300478) on Thursday September 25th at 9 am – feel free to drop by for an overview of the current Oracle development tool.

If you can’t make it to OpenWorld, have a look at my Oracle Tools page for a quick summary.