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OOW2011 B.P. (Before Presentation)

This year's OOW was definitely a game of two halves for me ... before and after my presentation ... so here is the first part.

I remember bemoaning the fact that the availability of Twitter would kill conference blogging and whining about those who couldn't be bothered to produce blog posts at conference so, sure enough, the disease infected me too and I ended up tweeting like a hyperactive child (@orcldoug) and producing one pathetic attempt at a blog post. I did try to start blog posts, but it's difficult and pretty rude during presentations and time outside of presentations is severely limited because of all the time spent catching up with people and ... erm ... polishing my slides. I suppose I could blog mid-conversation but I don't see that working!

One advantage of blogging now that I'm back home is that it's given me longer to reflect on the usual exciting but hectic week-and-a-bit and I can do it when I wake up at 3:30 because of this stupid jetlag that doesn't seem to want to go away completely. It's a bit of a long post, though!

Friday morning was spent finding our way to the new location for the second day of the ACE Directors Briefing. (Lesson Learned - Jonathan Lewis is not expert at everything!) There were always going to be less sessions of interest but Wim Coekaerts presentation was probably the highlight of the two days for me. He's an interesting guy to listen to and is really down to earth and when he mentioned the likelihood that DTrace in Oracle Enterprise Linux would be announced during the next week, I sensed the interest peak in a small but handsome and intelligent ;-) minority of the attendees. As the briefings were Twitter-tastic, I knew it would be moments before something appeared but James Morle was careful about what he wrote! It's fair to say that it's very early days for DTrace but from a personal perspective I was presenting on DTrace and excited by the possibilities 4 or 5 years ago and it's been disappointing that I haven't been able to use it as much as I'd like in the Linux-dominated commerical world. If the other development areas in Oracle are as committed, one day we should be able to get even more information about what the RDBMS code is doing. Wim talks about it more in his blog post and make sure you read Adam Leventhal's post for a different perspective. I also noticed in my Inbox this week that DTrace discussion is moving.

The afternoon was largely dedicated to Randolf Geist and I catching up with Maria Colgan over coffee. Maria is Product Manager in the Optimiser Development Group and Randolf and I wanted to take the opportunity to discuss how 11g Incremental Statistics were working out for us (summary - ok, but with a few creases) and I had a few questions about SQL Plan Management (SPM) for my upcoming presentation. Maria was interested in my experiences of SPM too as the last time I'd seen her at the Hotsos Symposium I was embarking on a project to use SPM on a complex Data Warehouse and I've noticed the Oracle development people snatch any opportunity to get some customer feedback. The idea was that I would show her my slides too because she wasn't going to be able to make my presentation but there was, erm, a slight problem with that plan so I agreed to drop by the demogrounds on Monday and do it then ;-) Maria's good fun and having Randolf there capped it off for me as he's a very smart guy so I got to pick two brains at once!

By the time we were done with that, we just about had time to head back to the briefing and a couple of quick beers by the pool at the Oracle Fitness Centre before we were whisked off to San Francisco on a couple of buses to check in at the hotel. The hotel computers were playing up so the check-in queue was absurd and we simply had to adjourn to the hotel bar while it cleared ;-)

I woke up early in a minor panic about my rather sparse presentation slides, but didn't let that get in the way of picking up my ACE D goodies from reception including snacks for the boys and a T-shirt that I might actually wear in polite company from time to time! Well done, OTN people ;-)

Most of the day was spent working on slides but later on I met up with a guy I know from Scotland and a colleague of his from London who were attending for the first time. As well as just enjoying their company, I love hanging out with first-time attendees because it brings back some of the sense of awe and excitement of my first visit. Don't worry, it still does it for me, but there's nothing like the first time!

In fact, I enjoyed it so much I almost made myself late for what has become the event of the week - Graham Wood's party! It's changed a bit though. It now takes two mini-bus loads and, added to those who made their own way there, Graham and Joan deserve medals for laying this on! There was one welcome innovation - Tacos in the front yard - and one less so - the Doug Burns Memorial Ashtray (Graham's words, not mine) was now being shared amongst several smokers. This has to stop!

I was determined to attend Tim Quinlan's SQL Plan Management presentation early on Sunday morning to see how he was presenting the same subject. I'm glad I did because it was enjoyable, good to hear someone elses Real World(TM) experiences and helped me to decide how to put my own presentation together. His presentation was full of syntax and how to do stuff so I decided to go in a different direction and aim for a very high level user experience story highlighting a couple of main points. But that means his presentation was very complimentary to mine for anyone looking to use SPM. I can't find his slides online but I'll drop him a note to see if they're available.

From then on it was just more slide work (yes, I know, it's getting dull - imagine what it's like for me) before meeting up with Lisa Dobson and others with the intention of going to the opening Keynote. I emphasise to all first timers that they should attend at least one keynote but that it might be one of the last they attend ;-) The production and excitement can't be faulted but, once you're about 45 minutes in, most people's interest starts to waver a little and then you realise that you can watch them online. Knowing that most of the people Lisa knows wouldn't attend, I offered to go along with her but, erm, Chevys being Chevys, things didn't go to plan and a group of us found ourselves walking to the annual ACE Dinner. This event has now grown to around 200 people, so it was some feat to manage to organise an event like that and an opporunity for me to finally bump into friends like Jacco. I need new glasses badly and have trouble seeing people at distance, but I just need to listen out for the Dutch table! LOL

I believe this may have been the first night that I finished in the bar at the W hotel with the Pythian crowd. I believe so, anyway ;-)

The main presentation I planned to attend on Monday was Juan Loaiza talking about the "Future of Oracle Exadata: Developments for OLTP, Warehousing, and Consolidation". The two main pieces I picked up here was Juan's comment that by being able to control the whole stack, it's easier for Oracle to implement further optimisations over time and the section on Exadata Smart Flash Logging. Another benefit of delaying my blog post is that Greg Rahn has conveniently blogged about this while I'm typing ;-) I suppose I was also pleased to hear yet another Oracle person talking about the effort that has had to go into maturing the platform over the past year or so. Indeed.

Other than that, the rest of my day was spent worrying about my presentation, being rained on and catching the occasional drink with friends to break the tedium of looking at my laptop screen.

Feeling that my slides were almost finished on the morning of presentation day ;-) I realised that it would all be over soon and there was probably little I could do to improve it at this stage so I decided to chill out (a little bit) and check out a few more presentations.

First was "CERN Achieves Oracle Database Scalability and Performance by Building on NetApp" with my friend Eric Grancher from CERN and the Netapp guy. It was a very polished theatre style presentation and not the sort of thing Eric normally goes in for so I thought he did extremely well for a geek ;-) People should pick up on this though - CERN is almost definitely demanding better performance over higher volumes of data across more sites than you could dream of and all on the back of Direct NFS which makes things much easier for them and delivers the performance they're looking for. If it works for them, then it should work for you.

My next presentation was "Real-World Performance: How Oracle Does It" which was primarily a presentation by Greg Rahn about Real Time SQL Monitoring which is one of my great loves these days. Greg's a very polished presenter so even though I didn't exactly learn much about SQL Mon, I think I probably learnt a few things about how I can present it better next time and thank goodness for the zoom facility to help old guys like Marco Gralike and I ;-)

After a brief visit to Mogens office in Chevys, I had to decide whether to attend "AWR Performance Data Mining" with Yuri Velinaknov or not. I'm a big fan of AWR and had recently met Yuri because he works for Pythian in Australia (i.e. We were camped out in the W bar together) but it was immediately before my presentation and I hardly ever attend any presentations immediately before or after my own because I'm too stressed out. In the end I decided I would pop in for half of it and check out the slides more later but I stupidly sat at the front so I felt embarassed when I left at half-time. Sorry, Yuri - I should have thought it through better! Yuri talked about how you can mine AWR for more detailed or more focussed information than just sticking with the standard AWR report and there's sure to be stuff I can pick up from his slides later.

The moment had arrived that I'd been dreading on the one hand (I was still really unhappy with my content) but had been excited about on the other (once done I could kick back and enjoy the rest of the conference properly!).

In the end I think it went pretty well. Although the content definitely wasn't what I hoped it would be (Because hope doesn't exactly produce slides) I think I was just in a good presentation mode that day, it felt like fun and I think people picked up a few high level points. The feedback I got was certainly very good from some people I have tons of respect for and I don't think they were just being polite. Without glasses on it's very difficult for me to recognise anyone beyond the first few rows these days, but I detected Graham Wood lurking at the back of the room which is always a bit unnerving! He dropped me a mail later to question who might have said 'Use narrow scope solutions to fix narrow scope problems' which I'm sure I first heard personally during a Jonathan Lewis presentation but it would be no surprise if I've remembered that incorrectly! It's still an important message, regardless, and Graham gave me another useful tip for when I next give the presentation at UKOUG in December. I won't post the slides yet, even though they're available on the Openworld website (although what they did to the fonts is beyond me) because I'm hoping they'll have improved by then ;-)

The relief was wrapped up nicely by catching up with more friends including a young man setting out on an adventure and just sticking my feet up as I became progressively more tired and happy ;-)

Disclosure - I attended the ACE Directors briefing and Openworld 2011 courtesy of
the Oracle ACE Director program, which covered my travel and accommodation expenses, gave me an actually-much-cooler-than-I-was-expecting T-shirt and took me out for a very nice dinner. Cuddly Toy incidentals and sizeable bar bills were on Pythian, Miracle or me in most cases.