March 21, 2007  7:44 AM

SAP changing its tune on SaaS?



Posted by: Beth Pariseau
Oracle applications

An article published in Enterprise Systems at the end of 2006 predicted five major trends for enterprise IT in 2007, and the first one was Software as a Service (Saas). The article notes: “Joining pioneers Salesforce.com, NetSuite, and others, Oracle Corp., Business Objects SA, Informatica Corp. […] announced new SaaS offerings or expanded existing on-demand services.” SAP AG, Oracle’s arch rival in the enterprise apps space, wasn’t mentioned in this section.

According to IT blogger Nicholas Carr at Rough Type, that’s because SAP has for the most part dismissed rather than embraced SaaS as a model. He links to a CNET interview conducted last April in which SAP CEO Henning Kagermann deems on-demand a limited technology: “You can do this on-demand for certain areas and certain functions, but not for everything.”

SAP now seems to be singing a different tune. Kagermann recently touted the advantages of its suite of SaaS applications, codenamed A1S and yet to be released, as “game-changing” and “the better model.” This switcheroo, says Carr, is “spurred no doubt by his firm’s recent earnings shortfalls.”

Blogger Vinnie Mirchandani is more skeptical: “Read it closer, Nick. He means better model for SAP.” In other words, SAP’s latest claims about SaaS are just PR?

Matt Danielsson offers another take on where SAP stands on SaaS. “It seems SAP has made a 180 degree turn, going from ‘Bah!’ to ‘Wow!’ in just a year,” he says. But “it’s hard to predict the future when all you have is powerpoint slides and grandiose presentations. A1S might blow us away, or it could be another underwhelming experience a la CRM On Demand.” Only time will tell . . .

-Elisa Gabbert,
Assistant Editor

March 20, 2007  10:09 AM

This is why to test your backups!



Posted by: Clinek
Oracle database administration

Attention DBAs: listen carefully to this tale of woe

At the Alaska Dept. of Revenue recently, a “technician” committed not one, but two, serious errors: first, he mistakenly deleted over 600,000 customer records (which were scanned paper applications from state residents); second, he reformatted the backup drive!

 I’ll wait for the gasps and nausea to subside among you DBAs reading this.

But wait, it gets better. The department had a third line of defense: the data was also on tape. Lo and behold — you guessed it — the backup tapes were unreadable. Did I mention that the data was worth $38 billion (not million, billion)? The phrase “criminally incompetent” comes to mind. 

Believe it or not, there was a happy ending to this sad story. The “old school” backup was still available — 300 boxes containing the original paper applications. These were re-scanned and the database was reconstructed. It took 70 people six weeks to do this, to the tune of $200,000 in overtime.

The morals of the story are obvious:  1) have a backup and recovery plan that includes worst-case scenarios, 2) test your backups regularly and 3) check the references of “technicians” that you hire!

Cheers, Tim


March 19, 2007  10:56 PM

What do you know from storage management?



Posted by: Derek Kuhr
Managing an Oracle shop, Oracle database administration

Getting the most out of database storage management means keeping up with the myriad data storage tools, techniques and concepts that continually pop up in the IT marketplace.
 
It’s especially important for DBAs to keep up with best storage management practices because, according to the Independent Oracle Users Group, they’re the ones handling much of that workload these days. More and more, says IOUG president Ari Kaplan, the roles of storage manager and DBA are converging and this trend will have a significant impact on the future or both careers.
 
In this new SearchOracle.com podcast interview, I talked to Kaplan to find out about the forces at play which are driving a huge increase in database storage requirements, the converging roles of DBA and storage manager, and about the Oracle and non-Oracle tools that are available to help DBAs manage storage more efficiently. Kaplan also previews next month’s Collaborate ’07 conference — one of the biggest Oracle user conferences of the year — where you can bet that database storage management will be a hot topic.
 
If you’re interested in learning more about database storage management, then this is the podcast for you. Download it today then let us know what you thought about it.

 – Mark Brunelli, News Editor


March 14, 2007  9:36 AM

Oracle experts to the rescue, or how to ask for help and get it



Posted by: Beth Pariseau
Oracle careers and certifications, Oracle database administration, Oracle development

Shay Shmeltzer, who works with JDeveloper, devotes significant time every day to answering questions on the OTN discussion forums. He recently wrote a blog post called “10 Commandments for the OTN Forum Member” which lists ways to improve your chances of getting a solid answer to your question, as well as ways to become a positive member of an Oracle community.

Our Ask the Experts section on SearchOracle.com isn’t exactly a forum, but many of these rules still apply. You’re more likely to receive a response to your question, and a detailed one that will solve your specific problem, if you follow these guidelines of Shay’s:

  • Give details about versions and technologies. What version of Oracle are you using? What’s your operating system?
  • Give detailed error messages. It’s especially helpful if you copy the stack trace into your email.
  • Search before you post. More often than not, the problem you’re having has already been addressed somewhere on the Web — on our site or one of the many Oracle forums out there. You’ll save yourself and our experts a lot of time if you try Google first.

Here are a few more tips to remember when posing a question to our of our experts:

  • Post in the correct category. If you ask a migration question in the SQL category, it might never be addressed.
  • Don’t post a question to an archived category. The experts for our “archived” categories are no longer taking questions, but you can still search their content.
  • Try our learning guides too. You’ll find hundreds of expert responses organized by category in our learning guides, so try those to get instant answers to your questions. Our “Fast guide to solving common Oracle errors” is especially popular.

Thanks,
Elisa


March 13, 2007  11:28 AM

Database administration one of the fastest-growing jobs



Posted by: Clinek
Oracle careers and certifications, Oracle database administration

Forbes reported a few days ago that database administration is one of the fastest-growing jobs in the United States. DBAs came in at #12, and are projected to go from 104,000 in 2004 to 144,000 in 2014, an increase of 38.20%.  

It should come as no shock that of the top 30 fastest-growing jobs, 17 are health care-related. (Number one is home health aides.) However, it was somewhat surprising that “network systems and data communications analysts” came in at #2, given automation and outsourcing. The latter reason likely accounts for the conspicuous absence of developers on the list. (Although they probably appear on India’s list!)

Forbes lists the current starting pay for DBAs as $43,605, which seems low. One hopes that as demand increases, salaries will follow. Still, DBAs have a long way to go to get to the best-paying tech job: SAP functional consultants (boo! hiss!), who earn an average of $163,000.

Database administration as a career has been on various “hot lists” for some time now, but blogger Venkat Devraj says that the real problem is the lack of quality DBAs:

“Sure there are lots of bodies around the planet, but there just aren’t enough qualified professionals to meet the growing requirements. People that not only can handle part of the job load, but those that can also communicate well with their users and peers. People that not only know the mechanics behind a task, but also what needs to be done and when to a database to meet user requirements and business growth. If these job growth statistics aren’t a clarion call for leveraging automation, I don’t know what is!”

This reminds me of the heated debate at an IOUG show a few years ago (Are DBAs really needed anymore?), in which automation was alternately seen as inevitable and irrelevant, or the cause of the demise of the DBA. Venkat clearly comes down on the former side:

News flash: database administration isn’t rocket science… and btw, even rocket science leverages automation in more ways than one can imagine… Wake up guys and smell the coffee. IT automation is happening in a big way. The companies that don’t embrace it will be relegated to the dark ages.

One thing is clear: if demand for DBAs continues to increase and supply can’t keep up, automation will play a larger and larger role in database and system administration.

Cheers, Tim


March 9, 2007  8:52 AM

Your Oracle wish list



Posted by: Derek Kuhr
Oracle database administration, Oracle development

At one time or another, most of you have probably checked out the Ask Tom Web site. Like our own Ask the Expert feature, Tom Kyte’s Ask Tom site is a go-to when you’re stumped by an Oracle problem, like resolving an error or writing a complex SQL query. All the old questions are archived, and frequently, answers continue to be updated years after the questions were originally asked.

For example, in September 2005, an Ask Tom user, Alex, asked Tom the following:

I was wondering if there are some things you don’t like about Oracle? I personally wish more things came set up out of the box such as autotrace, intermedia text, scott schema etc. Any thoughts on this?

Tom named some gripes (he called for better error messages, for instance) and then wrote, “I’ll publish this to see what others add.”

Many, many Oracle users have added to the list since then. Some of the problems have already been resolved — one of the first to comment requested better cross-platform data file compatibility. 10gR2 now allows cross-platform full database transports with the same endianness.

The most recent complaint was added just a few days ago. Tim Kessler requested a polling option in SQL*Plus to continually execute a SQL statement for a given interval for monitoring functions.

What about you? What’s on your Oracle wish list? What bug slows you down? What one feature would make your life as an Oracle DBA easier?

-Elisa, Assistant Editor


March 7, 2007  6:51 PM

Oracle’s open source aspirations



Posted by: Derek Kuhr
Oracle development

Oracle made some open source headlines this week at the EclipseCon Eclipse Foundation conference, announcing that it had open sourced Oracle TopLink, the database giant’s Java persistence framework. Oracle also announced that it had risen to the level of board member of Eclipse – an open source community formed to create and innovate an open source development platform – and said they’re also proposing that TopLink make up the foundation of a new project aimed at providing a comprehensive, open source persistence platform.  

Now I’m no expert on open source projects. In fact, I’m not much of an expert on anything, save for Star Trek and Ring Dings. But I think it’s clear that there is some significance here — especially if you think about what Oracle’s ongoing support for an open source development framework could one day mean for Microsoft’s .Net platform.  

Oracle seems to have endless resources at its fingertips.  If the company continues to support Eclipse, and if open source in general continues to grow its appeal to enterprises, it’s not hard to imagine Eclipse one day coming up with a viable alternative to .Net. At the very least they should at least be able to come up with something that’s steals at least some of that market share from Redmond.

Could an open source development project steal customers from Microsoft? Is Oracle’s growing support of open source going to make a difference in the long run? Let’s hear what you think.

 – Mark Brunelli, News Editor


March 5, 2007  9:21 PM

Who’s next?



Posted by: Clinek
Managing an Oracle shop, Oracle applications

If you’re keeping track, the purchase of Hyperion is the 24th acquisition by Oracle in the company’s three-year buying binge.

Rumors and predictions of a BI-related acquisition by Oracle have been rampant for months but the name most often mentioned was Cognos. The popular Oracle BI blogger Mark Rittman agreed that the Hyperion deal was unexpected:

Whilst many of us were caught by surprise by the move (including most people within Oracle, I suspect) the business logic does in fact look pretty compelling, and I think this is a hugely positive move by Oracle.

The acquisition is also likely to put other BI vendors at risk and may set off a domino effect on the market as other large vendors seek to compete, according to Ray Wang at Forrester Research:

IBM may buy Cognos, HP might end up buying Business Objects or Business Objects may buy another competitor. There will be a lot of pressure on these vendors to react to this acquisition.

What will Oracle’s arch-rival SAP do? Many observers think that the Hyperion purchase is a way for Oracle to get access to CFOs, many of which use SAP BI software. With the addition of Hyperion’s 1,900-person sales force — not to mention its 12,000 customers worldwide — you would think that SAP might be a little worried. However, if you believe comments from spokesperson Matt Carrington, SAP doesn’t have a care in the world:

Oracle’s strategy, limited by its inability to grow on its own, has resorted to attempting to acquire customers. This latest acquisition only further muddies Oracle’s already cluttered application landscape.

SAP has made the “Project Confusion” argument before, which certainly has it merits, but Oracle has seemingly no problem pressing forward with its strategy. Rittman notes:

What this is really about is Oracle vs. SAP — all Oracle does now, strategically, is framed in it’s desire to be the number one enterprise software vendor, which means being the number one ERP vendor, as all else flows from that. Oracle now is an ERP vendor with a nice sideline in databases and development tools, not the other way around, and they’ll happily live with a more heterogeneous tools and technology environment if it means they can get closer to that goal.

A SearchOracle.com member who wrote me yesterday insinuates that it’s all just an ego trip for Larry Ellison: “build me an empire seems to be the present game.”


March 1, 2007  1:43 PM

Will the Oracle-Hyperion deal hurt SAP?



Posted by: Derek Kuhr
Oracle applications

The Web is abuzz with different takes on Oracle’s plan to acquire Santa Clara, Calif.-based business intelligence (BI) software provider Hyperion Solutions Corp. for $3.3 billion. But the two lines of thought on the topic that intrigue me the most have to do with (1) Oracle’s desire to get closer to the chief financial officers (CFOs) of some very large firms and (2) Oracle’s desire to steal customers away from its chief rival, enterprise resource planning (ERP) giant SAP AG.
 
In a conference call this morning, Oracle president Charles Phillips said the deal for Hyperion, which among other things makes BI software that aggregates financial data into handy dashboards, will make Oracle the leader in the corporate performance management (CPM) market and prop up its growing BI business. He also said the Hyperion deal will give Oracle critical analytical applications including a new enterprise planning system, a powerful financial consolidation product, a strong OLAP engine and a large field sales organization.
 
According to blogger Larry Dignan, the biggest takeaway from today’s Oracle-Hyperion conference call relates to Hyperion’s 1,900 strong sales force. Hyperion serves the financial analytics space, therefore that sales organization has a lot of experience dealing directly with CFOs. And CFOs ultimately make the buying decisions for their companies. During the call, Phillips indicated that Oracle may be able to build on that relationship and upsell those CFOs on other Oracle applications.
 
What’s more, many of those CFOs work for companies that use SAP products. Building a good relationship with them — and then upselling them on Oracle’s SAP alternatives — could eventually Oracle chip away at SAP’s customer base. (Incidentally, shares of SAP fell considerably today on word of the  Oracle-Hyperion deal, according to published reports.)
 
Additionally, says Forrester Research analyst Ray Wang, the acquisiton could set off a string of acquisitions in the BI space as larger vendors like IBM, SAP and HP seek to compete with Oracle’s new BI prowess. That means specialty BI vendors like Cognos and Business Objects need to watch their backs.
 
It remains to be seen whether Oracle’s plan will be successful. Will they find that back door to SAP’s installed customer base? Will SAP react by acquiring a BI vendor of its own? How happy will these CFO’s be dealing with Oracle now instead of Hyperion. These are all things we at SearchOracle.com will be keeping an eye on — and things we want to hear your opinion about. So post your comments here. And stay tuned for a news analysis piece on what the Oracle-Hyperion deal means for Oracle’s Project Fusion initiative. Also, be sure to take our Oracle-Hyperion reader reaction survey. We’ll likely highlight the survey results in upcoming Oracle-Hyperion coverage.

– Mark Brunelli, News Editor


February 28, 2007  3:25 PM

Does anybody really like SQL? Part 2



Posted by: Derek Kuhr
Oracle database administration, Oracle development

Following up on a post from last week, our resident SQL guru Rudy Limeback provides some more thoughts on the matter of what’s so bad (or so good) about SQL:

Yes, I SQL, primarily because knowledge of this ubiquitous language allows me to be immediately productive in working with so many different database systems.

Imagine if each time you wanted to obtain information from a different database system, you had to learn a completely different language.

Korean
Tamil
English
Arabic
Chinese

Instead, all that is necessary is to learn the small, inconsequential differences between one database system’s implementation of SQL and the next.

MySQL  
T-SQL  
UDB SQL  
PostgreSQL  
PL/SQL

This is due in no small part to the effort of many people and vendors to define the SQL standard. That so few database systems faithfully support all aspects of the standard is no serious knock against the advantages of having a standard language.

Further, SQL is drop dead simple. There are only a few basic clauses:

SELECT
FROM
WHERE
GROUP BY
HAVING
ORDER BY

As well, you’ll need some simple concepts like INNER and OUTER JOINs, UNIONs, and subqueries. With these basic tools, you can solve even the most
complex data retrieval problems.

That said, it’s a lot like chess. You can learn the basic moves in half an hour, but you need to invest the necessary time to improve your skills. Practice, practice, practice.

It looks like we’re making some progress toward debunking the “SQL sucks” myth!

-Elisa Gabbert


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