Category Archives: Oracle Tool Watch

How’s Oracle’s performance, both on financial and strategic parameters?

My answer on Quora to “How is Oracle’s financial and strategic performance?”

Answer by Sten Vesterli:

Stable.

Financially, they have hit pretty close to their targets and their stock has been steady around 40 for the last year. Oracle has been working hard to increase the share of revenue from cloud services, including bundling on-premise deals with a lot of “cloud credits” they can count as cloud revenue. Since they haven’t had significant cloud business until recently, everybody is waiting to see if customers will renew.

Strategically, they are using their massive cash hoard and strong cash flow from existing customers to increase their cloud offerings, both by rolling out new services and by buying cloud providers like NetSuite. In vendor comparisons, Oracle’s cloud offerings are currently way behind the market leaders. But they have a strong commitment and strong financial resources, so they might eventually become a significant cloud player.

How’s Oracle’s performance, both on financial and strategic parameters?

Inconvenient Cloud Truth

Oracle has just announced that they are discontinuing the main benefit of participating in the Oracle ACE program at the highest level: The annual briefing at Oracle HQ before the OpenWorld conference. Together with previous cuts in travel funding, this leaves the program as little more than a logo to put on your website.

Before cloud, Oracle was a big player in on-premise enterprise software. They made very good software, so it made sense to cover the cost of flying independent experts to Oracle HQ for briefings on the latest software. Having armed the experts with the latest knowledge and software, it also made sense for Oracle to pay their travel costs as they went out into the world and advocated it.

Today, Oracle is struggling to pivot towards being a cloud vendor. The independent experts are saying straight up that most of their cloud services aren’t very good yet, so Oracle is not getting any return on its investment in the ACE Directors.

I’ve been happy working with Oracle in my ten years as an Oracle ACE Director, and sincerely hope they become successful in the cloud. Once they are, it will make sense for them to restore funding for the ACE Director program. But right now, the cuts make sense.

You Urgently Need a Cloud Exit Strategy

Moving your software to a cloud vendor has always been an act of faith. You believe the vendor will honor their promises, fulfil the SLA and stay in business.

That’s why many are choosing the big names like Amazon, Microsoft and Google.

Gartner MQ IaaS Aug 2016
Gartner MQ IaaS Aug 2016

Oracle wants to extend its brand into Cloud computing as well, but they are not even on Gartner’s radar, and with their recent decision to double the cost of running Oracle on Amazon, they are not endearing themselves to customers.

No matter which cloud vendor you choose, make sure that you establish an exit strategy in advance. You need to be able to keep your systems running even if your cloud vendor suddenly folds. That means that you need to establish a procedure to continually transfer data from your cloud to a third part (or back to yourself). Don’t get stuck in the cloud.

Is Cloud a Priority at Oracle?

This is the Oracle Cloud:

screen-shot-2016-11-10-at-08-57-29

What do you think happens when you click on “Account Details”? This:

screen-shot-2016-11-10-at-08-55-15

This experience and many others make me wonder if Cloud is truly a priority at Oracle. There is obviously no automated availability testing taking place, and some of my other Oracle Cloud experience has not left me terribly impressed.

This is the company that brought us the gold standard in relational databases, for crying out loud! You can do better, Oracle. Please, please start trying.

Oracle Cloud: Credit Where It’s Due

I’ve had interesting discussions with people inside and outside Oracle after sharing my experience with some of the Cloud trial services.

In the interest of fairness, I want to state that the DB Schema Service seems to be the outlier in poor customer service. Since my last Cloud post, Oracle has improved the service slightly. Instead of terminating it completely without warning, they now send me a mail at 7 pm that my service will disappear in less than a day, and then another one at 3 am saying that it’s now gone. So the inattentive developer will still leave the office at 5 pm happy to be running an Oracle Cloud service, and arrive the next morning to find it gone.

Other Oracle Cloud services are better – for my currently running Application Builder Cloud Service trial, I just got a reasonable warning that it will expire in 9 days.

Why I Won’t be Going into the Oracle Cloud Yet

After some persuasion, one of my customers was ready to experiment with the Oracle cloud. So I signed him up for a trial Database Schema Cloud service and built him a little APEX application to show how fast and easy it was to get rid of some spreadsheet-based business processes.

no_cloudThis morning, my customer called me to say that the service didn’t work. Indeed it didn’t. I had  neglected to put the expiry date into my calendar, and when your 30 days are up, Oracle will wipe out your instance. There is no warning email and your instance is gone without any possibility of restoring it.

So the demo was gone, and with it that potential Cloud customer.

My fellow ACE Director Tim Hall said recently on his blog:

Having used Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and Oracle Public Cloud for quite some time I have to say that Oracle Public Cloud lags far behind the other two in user experience.

I fully concur with that opinion. Additionally, when your process for trials is to wipe them out without warning, you are making it really hard for even your most enthusiastic supporters to recommend you.

Oracle still has a lot of work to do on their cloud services.

The Future of PL/SQL

A question that comes up very often when I advise individuals and organizations about how to use Oracle technology is “What is the future of PL/SQL?”.

The answer is that PL/SQL is not growing, but not going away either. Because it is used in the Oracle database, and the Oracle database is a fixture of enterprise systems world-wide, it will outlive you. High-performance batch processing has to happen close to the data, so PL/SQL will continue to rule in this area. But everything else we are doing in PL/SQL can be implemented in other layers, other tools, and other programming languages.

That’s why it has a yellow horizontal arrow on oratoolwatch.com and has had for a while.

The Market for PL/SQL Programmers

The value of a skill depends on the relationship between the number of people with the skill and the number of jobs requiring that skill. For PL/SQL, the amount of work is constant, but the number of people with PL/SQL skills is declining.

The Future of PLSQL

Right now, PL/SQL is not a highly paid skill, as the following yearly salary data (U.S.) from indeed.com shows.

PLSQL salary

However, PL/SQL programmers are leaving the profession – they become managers, change to a different technology, or retire – and new people are not joining (yet). When was the last time you saw a young PL/SQL programmer?

By 2020, the salary of PL/SQL programmers will have gone up as the scarcity sets in. By 2024, PL/SQL programming will have become a highly-paid specialty (like COBOL is today), and the salary increase will tempt new developers into the field.

What Does That Mean for Managers?

If you are an IT manager, you are likely to have enough PL/SQL programmers today. But it will become increasingly difficult to replace them. In poker terms, you have the choice of either calling or going all-in with PL/SQL.

If you call (stay in the game without raising), you should consider PL/SQL a specialized technology allowed in two places:

  • In existing applications already based on PL/SQL
  • In new applications for batch processing of database data

If you go all-in, you should use PL/SQL wherever feasible in order to maintain and expand the PL/SQL  competency of your team. PL/SQL can do integration, call web services, write files, and you can build user interfaces with PL/SQL and tools like Application Express (APEX).

What Does That Mean for Developers?

If you are an individual developer, this means:

  • If you don’t know PL/SQL, don’t bother learning it (yet)
  • If you do know PL/SQL, you don’t have to learn something else. But look for an organization that’s all-in on PLSQL.

 

Edit 2016-08-05: Please also read Steven Feuerstein’s response to this post.

 

July Critical Patch Upgrade

Oracle has released the July 2016 Critical Patch Upgrade, and there is some scary stuff there. Oracle has moved to the new CVSS 3.0 rating, which is the only reason they don’t score any perfect 10s (absolute worst). But there is still 19 occurrences of the scary 9.8 score: Remotely exploitable without authentication and with low attack complexity.

Among the products with these critical bugs:

  • WebLogic
  • GlassFish
  • Hyperion
  • Oracle Retail
  • Oracle Health Sciences

Patch now!

What is the Future of Oracle SOA?

I spend much of my time advising people on Oracle software, and someone just asked me on Quora.com about the future of Oracle SOA.

I told him that the future of Oracle SOA is bright, but within a much bleaker future for SOA in general.

SOA in general has over-promised and under-delivered to such an extent that it now considered legacy and poor practice. While a few organizations have gotten SOA right, most haven’t and have little to show for their multi-million dollar SOA projects.

For the people who still belive in a Service-Oriented Architecture (mainly public sector and large, slow-moving organizations), the Oracle SOA product is a very strong offering. As is to be expected of a product from the largest enterprise software vendor in the world, the Oracle SOA suite contains everything you need and carries a corresponding price tag.

Is Oracle SOA right for you? Send me a mail and let’s discuss it.