Oracle OpenWorld 2009 – Day 0

It has been an absolute fantastic and hectic first day of Oracle OpenWorld 2009. It feels like it has been far, far busier compared to the Sunday last year.

It was a bit of a mad dash from registering in Moscone West to the Hilton to catch the opening keynote of the Oracle Develop track by Tom Kyte. It looked like there were several thousand other people crammed into the Grand Ballroom B at 09:00am and Tom did not disappoint – I really enjoyed this talk titled:

“What are we still doing wrong?”

The music was blaring out as the ballroom filled up, and when Tom came on it sounded almost like ceremonial marching music being played. It was quite odd to see the close ups of Tom fill the two large screens at either end of the stage. Tom started off calling everyone “data processing professionals”. This presentation is a collection of interesting things Tom has seen over the past year, quite a lot of amusing content.

underestimating complexity

Even what on the surface seems like a sm re change, under the surface may have many, many ramifications. Hilarious picture of an error message complete with astonishingly bad spelling mistakes on Tom’s mobile phone,

Giving good advice that developers should look at the goal the business wants to achieve rather than having specs that specify a way of doing something.

Not knowing how to ask questions

Tom shows a few questions asked on ask Tom that basically do not give enough information for anyone to be able to troubleshoot the problem – he likes the analogy “My car won’t start -why?”.

Basically saying be very specific, but give details of the actual error.

we write/generate too much code

Very much of the opinion that more code = more bugs

lots of funny examples of writing a ton of code to accomplish what could have been done in very few lines. Classic was how to find make a negative number into the positive equivalent.

Dealing with failure

Example of t-mobile sidekick product completely wiped out by a server failure and no backups. What a terrible way of running something. Now talking about Ask Tom’s infrastructure and how he used to run the infrastructure himself, and that it was getting a bit dodgy – now hosted on

Errors happen – deal with it.

Do not catch unknown errors, need to raise them and log them.

quite a few times mentioned the when others then null – saying the logic of this escapes him. Saying the code before the when others then null seems to not matter whether it runs or not, in which case why not just remove it!

developers get into the mind set that users should never see an error as that would be embarrassing. But only catch errors that you can deal with, raise the errors and make sure you log them and become aware of them – no good just letting the users know.

security matters

discussion of why people not doing security, on quote was “besides it’s not as important as having pretty screens”

example of a funny site comparing computer security and star trek.

After Tom, I was back of to the Moscone and took in a couple of BI presentations. This was quite a change for me, normally I’d have gone to some of the RAC presentations. First one was on visualisation:

Lies, Damned Lies & Dashboards

Some interesting material around presentation and cognition – how we interpret what we see. They gave clear examples showing before and after, in particular the “using less ink” was pretty clear when they showed a graph with and without grids – the without was much clearer.


This was a really good 2 hour meeting. Now, I’m not sure how often you’d hear that phrase said, but I’m pretty new to BI, an I found this really interesting. There was a 20 minute bit from Oracle followed by 2 customers who had implemented OBIEE in their organisation, and I found it really fascinating to hear their experiences of an implementation. The event was rounded off with a good question and answer session.

Whenever oracle acquire a company they seek to replace (rewire) the BI software used within that company and use OBIEE within 90 days

Claims OBIEE is only solution for federated queries accros multiple apps.

Essbase is forward looking analytic engine

Customer Implementation from Black and Decker

claims they were in a train wreck, with cognos – 7 figures to upgrade cognos, dependent on IT for new reports. manual process to extract data, quite an insight into a business without control on it’s data

had end users choose which tool they would migrate to.

multiple apps into the DW delivering the BI content

because he had business users on board he could sell the depreciation of the cognos solution

he is claiming OBIEE is really slick

2 1/2 years of sales data from about 4000 stores

had end users do the data cleaning, that was one of the hardest things

keen on identifying Super Users within departments

Capital Power Corporation

EBS reporting insufficient

Risk and Trading system with almost no reporting

there seems to be a theme that everytime the business wanted a new report they had to call IT – business found this frustrating

no easy analytics on positions and risks – were using excel

did a vendor bake-off

separate presentation and BI server components

was a business project – not a geeky IT project – claims there was a shadow IS project to do their own evaluation

think about security can integrate to AD

For EBS project length 4-6 months developed a large number of custom dashboards. went into pilot mode and made lots of changes based on user feedbacks

claims complexity is very high, you need an expert when not using out-of-box dashboards.

Used Oracle Data Integrator to develop custom ETL to pull data from 5 different databases

designed custom star schema based DataWarehous 850GB 15 fact tables 75 dimensions have around 100+ different dashboards project length 15months

got the users to build the dashboards

dashboard creation/maintenance has been transitioned to end users

This is a business project not an IT project

Must be agile style approach – big bang does not work

get the architecture designed before engaging the business – not sure how that squares with the above.

poor performance will overshadow everything

Basically the messages coming over loud and clear:

Business can see the IT department as the problem – so get the business on board asap and try and ensure that the business are empowered to have full ownership of the end product so that they are self-sufficient.


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