Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Single Technology Stack. Is it the Answer?

Today with the continued consolidation of technology by a small number of vendors has changed the way we see software and technology. I have been talking to various people over the past few weeks about Oracle and how it now controls the entire technology stack…..or will once (and if) the purchase of Sun is completed. The questions are always the same…..Are people concerned about Oracle controlling everything from hardware to applications? Will innovation be limited as a result? What will happen to 3rd party vendors who are on the outside looking in? How will this impact the customer experience? All of these are valid questions and are concerns we should all be thinking about.

So let me try to take on some of these questions from my perspective. The first is how concerned we should be by a single vendor controlling a technology stack. First off, I don’t think this is something new…..have you ever looked at IBM? They have been working on providing a single stack of technology and tools that can all be bought from them. Seems like it was a problem in the past, but now people are getting concerned because the company following a similar model is Oracle. Oracle can now provide customers with a support model that covers you from the operating system to your applications. This seems like a great opportunity to simplify our lives by now looking to one vendor for full support, whereas before each would blame the other until the actual cause of the issue is found. I don’t see the concept of a complete technology stack from a vendor being bad for an organization.

On the question of innovation; will innovation be limited by consolidation? Again, I don’t think so. Oracle has always been an innovative company. Consider how much the Oracle database has changed over the years; Oracle 6 and Oracle 11g are basically the same database, but it is like calling a Ford Model T and a Toyota Prius the same….after all they are both cars. The newer car and the newer databases include innovations that many can see and some that one cannot. The internals of the database continues to strengthen and Oracle has improved the product through internal improvements and by acquiring complimentary products to support the ultimate vision for the database. I don’t seeing Oracle being less of an innovator, but more so to keep their technology stack as a leading option when considering an organization’s technical direction.

Finally, how will this affect 3rd party vendors and their tools? I would be concerned for some vendors who today compete against the products in the Oracle stack. Oracle will have an advantage to be able to provide solutions with Oracle that would previously had required an additional investment with another vendor. I have seen recently a large telecommunications company that decided to convert all of their data warehouse into a pure Oracle solution. This requires the replacement of their ETL and BI tools. Are these tools better than what they are replacing? Probably not, but the benefit of having the single support structure and the leverage to focus on one technology has made this a choice that many are considering.

So should you fear the “Single-Stack”? I don’t think you should; Oracle has been able to fill in the voids in their offerings through careful acquisitions and as such provide us with solutions that we can be sure will work and a direction which will reduce the overall cost of working with Oracle. At this point, I would say that we embrace consolidation but keep a careful eye on our vendors making sure they continue to innovate and provide solutions that help organization be more successful.

Friday, August 14, 2009

The Best You Can Be; Can Be the Best You Are With

I always look to Friday as a day that should be something more than work. It is a day I usually reflect and look back at how the week was good and how I could have made it better. This week I realized something about team and being a teammate. I know I have gone on in the past about team work and my hockey team, but today I realized something about work that sparked today’s blog entry.

I work for Thoughtcorp, we are a reasonably sized solutions company based in Toronto. These guys have been around a long time and at one point were a competitor of mine, so this type of business is nothing new to me. What I realized this week is that this is a team with great talent (which I already knew) but what I didn’t get this week was the energy this team had and the focus it puts into doing business. I realized that some of the old companies I worked for had lost it and I too missed the signs that it had happened. The concept of a team in those organization was lost. We lost the ability to motivate each other, we got into a rut. Those companies may not even realize they have lost the internal challenge to be great, but I see it now. It is critical for an organization to survive it needs to be its best. the motivation I found this week made me realize that work again is like hockey and golf

How do we get better at any sport? We learn from and play against people who are more skilled than us. Taking up the challenge and not shirking away from it is how we can harness the motivation to be better or at least better than our competitors. In a team environment it becomes a way of making the entire team better….if you don’t constantly challenge yourself to be as good as those around you you will never be great.

The user community is the same way in an Oracle sort of way. I look at how my career has been impacted by the user community. Would I have authored a book? Become President of the IOUG? Helped to create two companies? Created solutions that matter? Maybe but I feel that my taking the chance to take an active role in the IOUG has made it all happen in some way. It was the motivation of meeting the people in the community and learning what was possible. The people in this community are leaders and by using them as examples and mentors the value to an individual and organization it limitless. We need to use this motivation to make us better individuals. It seems so clear and easy but you need to see it and realize the value to all those around you. Then you become the motivator for others. Make it a great weekend!

Monday, August 10, 2009

The IOUG Board Update

I just returned from the annual Summer IOUG Board meeting. As the President I help to facilitate the meeting and I hope in some ways motivate us to think creatively to provide strategic direction to to a group membership of close to 25,000 total members. So what are we up to?

The meeting was one where we discussed the strategic direction of the group and how to provide the most value to our members. We focus on our individual and corporate members and how we can ensure that the dues they pay provide value. We looked at how to deliver education that can meet today’s changing technical and economic environments. So to this end we came up with ideas to provide more focused or “Boot Camp”-type training. So when we look to our offering we would focus on helping people navigate certain topics. Topics focused on the database, security, business intelligence, middleware, Fusion among others. We talk about ways that we might be able to deliver it. So whether it be by virtual channels or in person, we look at the best options.  So I expect that you will see how we focus the message and the web site and our value to ensure that you can get specific defined value from your membership.

As part of what we talked about was some survey results that we previously discussed which focused on the value that the IOUG provide to our members. One of the findings was the networking that our group provides. So are looking at ways to improve and encourage better and more effective interactions. So we look to social networking and to how we can get more people involved. Let me know some of your ideas if you have any…..

And 2009-10 IOUG season will be putting a focus on Business Intelligence as we work to educate the Oracle and BI communities about the solution stack that Oracle offers. We are working with regional partners to start BI user communities in various cities including Chicago and COLLABORATE will host a deep drive into the subject at our event in Las Vegas, April 2010. And we are looking at other events that will put more focus on the subject matter that matters so much.

Finally I just want to mention a friend who I met through this crazy world. Michael Abbey, who was my inspiration and motivation to get involved in the user group. This past weekend Michael went to Ethiopia to take on an Oracle project. What an adventure and all because of the relationships he created through the user group. Michael is a great DBA and I expect will leaving a lasting impact on his work over there. If you want to follow Michael’s Adventure check out his blog (Abbey Seein’ Ya). The entire IOUG is waiting to hear your stories.

So we are back at it now and putting our plan together and will start to get it out to you. But the is an exciting and vibrant time and we are working towards making it even better for all of us.

So soon you will start hearing about what we will be doing and how the IOUG will be evolving.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Making sure to renew your IOUG Membership

We often say that membership has its privileges and being an IOUG is one of those items. The concept of being a member of a user group is one that is appreciated by many and foreign to others. The value that we get has already been discussed (take a look at this entry), but of course we understand that the content that can be found via the IOUG is very valuable and often available only via our website. This includes whitepapers, presentations, webcasts and podcasts. The network that you can build is second to none, so are you ready to join or renew?

We often think that the low membership price for joining the IOUG is an easy amount for any individual or organization can afford, but with these times we are experiencing it is important to include your IOUG membership as an important part of your spending. The budgeting cycle for many companies is starting during the “dog-days” of summer. So it imperative to get your dollars ready for your renewal to make sure you have the dollars you need when your renewal comes up.

So like everything that is important to you, you need to plan. So remember when your budget comes up you should include make sure you budget for your membership. The cost of your membership can be saved by one tip or one contact who can save you enough time or money to be able to justify your membership for years to come.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Wizards and Templates

It seems that we look at application development at something that is specific and that we are the first company that wants to build this application. The idea is that our business is so different than others that there can’t be anything out there that satisfies my business needs. Of course the truth in 2009 is different than the realities of the 90’s.

The ability to quickly create and deploy solutions is paramount today, as a result of the concept that we are not as different than we think, companies like Oracle provide out-of-the-box capabilities and quick start services and objects that can be leveraged to provide significant functionality that address many of our needs. So if you are implementing BI for your financial, telecom, or almost any other industry, Oracle provide a number of pre-packaged BI components such as financial analysis, marketing support and many others. It is from this point that an organization can ensure that they buy the basics and then build the competitive advantage pieces.

The same goes for WebCenter. Webcenter comes with a number of services that enable the deployment of Portal technology in a fast and effective manner. So if you need a portal application that supports, email, social networking, document services, discussions, wikis and more. So the question we ask today is why build. Why not customize?

The choice of Oracle technology is one that comes with a significant price tag, but the value that you can get from the products that will reduce costs and shorten implementation times. We all need to dig a little deeper and learn from the past to save money in the future.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Oracle 11g Release 2 is Coming

Being part of the user group like the IOUG does have it's privileges. One of the things we get to do is take part in the Oracle database Beta program. As most people know; Oracle has been feverishly working to complete the latest release of the database (Oracle 11g Release 2). The user group was able to help Oracle test this release of the database, by suggesting customers who wanted to take part in the Beta testing. This is truly a value to the individual, their organization and Oracle. Together they work to bring a solid product to general release.

So what is most compelling about the upcoming release of the database? Of course I can't answer the specifics of that until Oracle releases the product some time in the near future, but what I can say is that this is the release of the 11g database that people should find to provide the stability and performance. The old joke goes how can you tell if someone is a Junior or Senior DBA? The answer goes that when the first version of the software arrives the Junior DBA wants to install it straight to production and the Senior DBA throws out the CD and waits for Release 2. Sadly the reality of this joke has some truth in it as organization often wait until the second release before installing the latest product. So here we are with Oracle 11g Release 2, and based on what I have seen I would suggest that as the information about this release is disseminated you should start to consider the adoption of the this release. It will increase performance, increase features and increase the return on your database investment by doing things better and smarter.

It is time to put on your Oracle Database 11g radar and start collecting the information that will help you decide if the time is right for you to enter into the 11g universe and start to using it to help your business be better and more effective