Tuesday, 11 December 2007

UKOUG 2007 Conference - the Lessons.

Finally, I can offload some of my UKOUG stuff.

The UK Oracle User Group... go say hi to them...First the Budget-justification (management is reading - sometimes). Like every year, I can justify visiting UKOUG as a training cost. I have learned more in four days UKOUG then I would have on just about any (Oracle) course and have saved my employer some money at that.

By taking the time to see other “users”, I have picked up some interesting new notions and ideas. Not to mention how a particular colleague has found a way to save a large, high-profile project some significant money. Money that a Large vendOR or some partner-reseller would gladly have pocketed.

In other words: information that would probably not have been spelled out clearly in a “commercial” course.

The hint is in Lesson 1:

Sometimes the best way of doing something is to … Not do it at all.

(going back, I think to Dave Ensor, possibly further).

Enough messages to management now, on with the real stuff.

CERN: Testing the limits.

The CERN guys were impressive. As with the CERN-physics, They are going places with the software were some of us may follow in a few years time. Others may never have to go that far, but we can all benefit from their experience.

What sets them apart is not only their pioneering and their IT-skills. They also have the urge, the liberty (and the duty?) to share their knowledge freely.

They had some interesting experiences with RAC, Clustering, Scaling, en software distribution. They notably had some gentle criticism on the deployment-process of the software. See the presentation on RPM-ing Oracle that was particularly in my line of reasoning.

An RPM or similar distribution, paired with a re-vamped OFA would make our favORite software much more manageable (Those who saw my rant presentation this year know why).

The input from CERN can be very valuable to many organizations (commercial and others) out there. They fact that they can present this at the conference is another demonstration of the useful role that UKOUG has in knowledge transfer.

CERN employees can be quite open and can share their experience more easily then commercial users with competitors listening. They can also more easily and openly criticize the vendor then commercial consultants are able to. Most “independent partners” both large and small, will always remain

“diplomatic” towards the dominant party, as they need the business and revenue that is benignly handed down to them (and can be taken away on bad-behavior).

Meanwhile, CERN is a highly visible, and hopefully “independent” user of the product. It is possibly one of the very few large customers to which oracle might sometimes listen.

Lesson 2: Criticism is Good.

Events like this, allow for some constructive criticism towards the vendor.
Criticism that would otherwise mostly get lost in the “commercial” spin processes. It is my own belief that this criticism can make the product more competitive. And ultimately, both the vendor and the user-community will benefit.

Other presentations: Many Good ones…

I cannot resist mentioning how Michael Doherty confirmed my opinion:

Keeping a system “Up” is never Simple (as we would like it to be simple…)

We can keep trying though.

Lesson 3: Simplicity is Always better!

There are many more memorable presentations I want to mention, but they will have to wait until the next installment. The good topics range from “disater recovery”, use of streams (aka logical standby), all the way to various RAC-internals and ASM. And of course the inevitable topics on optimization and CBO (which I keep attending, because of course we have been bitten by CBO, again).

Hm, tempted to insert a semi-funny CBO lessons here:

4a) CBO is never wrong, but your design/code/sys-statistics/seg-statistics/data/hints/outlines can be very Very VERY wrong…

But there is hope: According to Jonathan Lewis, commenting on the unpredictable behavior of CBO, notably on upgrades, and on the feeble attempts by mere mortals to use hints or otherwise control the beast:

4b) “Sometimes, you Can get lucky.”

Before pressing the publish-button, I specifically wanted to insert two “Thank You” items.

First a “Thank You” to Dough Burns for reviving OFA.

The old, rather boring workhorse of OFA was conceived by Cary Millsap and put to Good use in Oracle versions 6, 7 and 8. It even became part of the official oracle distribution. Dough has now made it his mission to re-educate the world about how sensible good OFA practices are.

It doesn’t seem to matter that Oracle still has OFA in as part of their manuals, and even as part of their default installations. This standards still seems to get both ignored and abused by many. Visit Dough for more.

And have a read of the presentation by Robyn Sands. Same problem, different angle. Interesting. As I have hinted in my own presentation, OFA can also do with a bit of good attention. Maybe we should make some suggestions to Oracle.

Finally, a humble “Thank You” to those who sat out my own disastrous presentation. I’m sure they had fun seeing me sweat when the equipment didnt work as expected. Plan A failed. Plan B failed.. Improvise!

As a final lesson, here is a more detailed account of what (nearly) went wrong. But I basically had to do the first 10 minutes without slides.

The ICC technician saved the day. He deserves a medal.

I think everybody picked up the last lessons there:

Do not go head-first with the latest + greatest versions. Or if you do: Test Properly, Test again, and be very, very prepared.

And to survive disasters: Prepare (have backups and standbys), prepare (have more copies), prepare (document), and prepare further (test)…