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Friday Philosophy – The Science of Oracle June 11, 2010

Posted by mwidlake in Friday Philosophy, Meeting notes.
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The title to this blog is very misleading. It is not about scientifically understanding how Oracle technologies work or even about the technology itself.

It is actually about the fact that a lot of scientific organisations, both academic and commercial, work with Oracle technology in ways to do directly with the science {as opposed to using it for CRM, HR or tracking students and results, which they also do but I’m not interested in that}.

If you have worked in Academia or charitable scientific organisations it can be a little suprising that Oracle is used so much, as it is expensive and corporate – there is a tendency to be poor and anti-corporate in such environments. But the thing is, Oracle is able to handle large amounts of complex data, in many formats, in many ways, and most programming languages can easily access the data in the database. You can achieve a lot with just PL/SQL and Java of course.

Commercial scientific organisations, like large Pharmaceuticals, use it for the same reasons of course, but for them the cost is not such an issues {I can imagine IT managers in such organisations going “It damn well IS an issue!” but trust me, not in the same critical way}.

What is the point of this blog? Well, it’s about user communities. The scientific community have a tendency to push the Oracle database further than most Oracle users do. Take data volumes. I worked for many years for the UK-side of the Human Genome Project and part of what I did was create an Oracle database that scaled to 100TB. Even now that is pretty large but I was designing and implementing it back in 2004-2005. The data volumes CERN are going to have to handle for the Large Hadron Collider just dwarf that, and they only hold summarised data of summaries of the actual raw scientific data generated.

Another aspect is coping with very rapid change, for example systems to support lab processes. This is similar to your standard factory management system except that the level of change can be daunting. The process can change, well, weekly, as the science and techniques improve in the lab. Those scientist might even completely change what they are doing when some unexpected avenue opens up. I say “might”, seemed to happen every month.

In scientific organisations there tends to be more openness about what and how they do things. Academic and charitable scientific organisations tend to put less barriers in the way of exchanging knowledge than corporations do and so that encourages more exchange of information. When I was working in the area I was positively encouraged to go to conferences and present. Obviously this is not always true and scientific corporations, like Pharmaceuticals, have gained {rightly or wrongly} a reputation for being very reticent about sharing any knowledge at all. But often the individuals involved will share.

So, the scientific community push areas of the technology very hard, they tend to be an open bunch of people, cost is often critical and, the final thing I have not mentioned, is that they often speak a language only vaguely recognisable as English, due to the jargon. Sounds like a community to me.

The real reason I mention all this is that it looks like, after about 4 years of considering and discussing having a science SIG {Special Interest Group} in the UKOUG, I will finally be putting together an agenda for an initial meeting for such a thing. I wonder if it will be a success?

Northern Server Technology Day – Advert April 22, 2010

Posted by mwidlake in Meeting notes.

I’m a bit late doing this, but next week is the UKOUG Northern Server Technology Day.
As the title suggests, this is a day of technical presentations for Oracle users in the North of England. Of course, it is open to any UKOUG member (and anyone else, for a small fee), but the idea behind it is to provide a user group event for those who are not based in the South of England and so might struggle to the usual events. This year the day is being held in Leeds, which is where I was at college, so I am more than happy to return to my old stomping ground and support the day with a presentation on Database Statistics.

There are other, probably much better, presentations by David Kurtz, John Hallas, John Scott, Piet de Visser and David Phizacklea too. I’ve seen them all do their stuff before and it should be a cracking day. Check out the agenda via the link at the top of this post.

If you are an Oracle user who is based up in the North and have an interest in the meeting, I would urge you to make the extra effort to attend. It is a constant complaint that the UKOUG is biased towards having events in Reading, London and the Midlands and not a lot elsewhere, but to have events further afield there needs to be an active and interested audience to justify the event. The better the event is supported, the more likely it is to continue and prosper and potentially attract other UKOUG SIG meetings North.

Actually, on that note, I will also mention the Scotland 2010 conference meeting, a must for Oracle users in Scotland or those who would like to mix a technical conference with visiting Scotland {and I have to say, I do enjoy visiting Scotland}. Not sure yet if I can get there myself this yearūüė¶

Advert for the Management and Infrastructure SIG March 24, 2010

Posted by mwidlake in Management, Meeting notes.
Tags: , ,

I’m a bit late doing this (life is just too busy at the moment) but I want to mention the next Management and Infrastructure Special Interest Group meeting of the UKOUG next Week. Tuesday 30th, being held in Oracle’s London City office.

I get asked by people what exactly the MI SIG is? {Honest, I do, I got asked twice this month alone!}. Is it a management meeting or is it another one of the technical SIGs, like the UNIX, RDBMS and RAC/HA SIGs? I’ve struggled to come up with a single line to sum it up. Other than to say “Both”.

It might be easier to sum up the target audience. The MI SIG is for technical people who need to deal with Oracle as a component of a large IT environment. Most of the audience could knock up a PL/SQL script to create a new set of tablespaces each month, would be able to instal Oracle {if given a couple of days and the manuals to peek at} and could explain two-phase commit. Maybe.
But what they have to deal with in their working lives are things like using Grid Control to manage 500 instances, understand what options are there for providing disaster recovery {if not the exact commands to eg set up physical standby or active/passive RAC}, knowing enough about storage options to make a sensible decision on which is best for each type of Oracle system they have. So it is a technical SIG, but covering general principles and, well, Infrastructure.

And the Management? Well, when the SIG started this bit was really interesting to me. When you have a lot of IT going on, especially in large organisations, the people looking after Oracle are not the people looking after Networks, or Storage, or Backups or half a dozen other things. And you probably have a team of people doing all that Oracle stuff with/for you. So you have to hire staff and keep ’em happy and deal with teams who you have no power over but you need them to do stuff for you. And that Management part can be a lot harder than the technology, especially if you never planned on being a manager but just woke up one day with that monkey on your back.

So with the technical aspects of Large IT Infrastructure comes the management component too. The SIG is there for that audience.

I chair this SIG, so I am more than a little bit biased, but I think it is a good line-up of talks for this up-coming meeting. We have two talks on using OEM/Grid Control, one around using it for deploying clusters, one about how you go about integrating it with the likes of LDAP, Kerbros and using the Custom Metrics, ie plugging it into the wider infrastructure.

We also have a presentation on the latest/greatest Exadata2, from some Oracle friends.

To wrap up the technical talks I am going to try and explain some of the guiding principles for gathering statistics for you oracle databases. Not the details of DBMS_STATS command syntax, but why you need good stats, how you get them and the issues we all seem to end up facing with it.

Balancing the techical side is a talk on Birkman and understanding teams and people.

So, you can see it is a line-up matching the diversity of the SIG’s purpose.

As I said earlier, I initially was very interested in the management side of the SIG and I worried I would be pretty lonely in that opinion. For various reasons, those of us on the technical side tend not to have much time for those “soft skills” we associate with management theory. However, when I took over the SIG over a year ago, I asked the audience if they would want some talks on hiring staff, dealing with people, motivation… Over 60% of the audience said “YES!”. Quite loudly. About 30% said “OK, so long as we get technical stuff as well”. 6% said “over my dead body”.

I think the reason so many wanted the management side as well is, whether we like it or have an affinity for it or not, it is part of the job. And so we need to be able to do it. Personally, I quite like the human side of IT, but my wife tells me I am strange.

If your organisation has UKOUG membership it is free to come along to the SIG (one person per membership, excluding Bronze membership) Anyone can come along for ¬£80. You would be very welcome and I am sure you will learn new stuff. Don’t let the fact that we retire to a pub afterwards where the chair buys a round sway your decision to come along at all.

DBMS SIG March 10, 2010

Posted by mwidlake in internals, Meeting notes, performance.
Tags: , ,

I went to the DBMS SIG today {DBMS Special Interest Group meeting of the UK Oracle User Group}. Don’t worry, I am not going to run through the set of presentations and make comments on them – although I like reading such entries by others on their blogs, I generally like them due to the style of writing as opposed to getting information out of them. But there is the odd tidbit that can be worth disseminating to as wide an audience as possible and I like to do my bit.

Having said I won’t go through all the talks…:-). No, I just want to comment that all the talks had merit at this meeting and, quite rightly, the meeting was full. This is nice to see as last year SIG attendance fell across the board, due to the “economic climate”. Very daft, in my opinion, as I see SIGs as free training plus networking opportunities (sorry to use the “networking” word” plus different viewpoints, all of which are invaluable at any time and especially valuable when things are hard.

Go to SIGs (or whatever is available in your country) as it is always worth the day invested. Where else can you see half a dozen experts give opinions and also corner them and ask them more stuff as well?

Anyway, the tidbits. First, Jonathan Lewis demonstrated how he goes about solving issues with complex SQL statements. It was terribly feindish and extremly clever and needs incredible in-depth knowledge of the oracle RDBMS… He draws a pseudo Entity Relationship Diagram of the tables involved, adds in some figures on what filtering will achieve and what ratio of records will be involved in table joins and asks the question “what will probably happen” a couple of dozen times. Yes, I lied, it does not need vast knowledge. It needs a clear, simple approach to solving the problem. And an ERD. I love ERDs and rue their general demise. I use exactly the same method myself to investigate complex SQL performance issues {I think I could be accused of trying to ride on shirt-tails here, but honestly, the step I take if an Explain Plan does not help me is to ERD the statement and look at the indexes and ratios between tables to see how I , as a human, would solve the query. Chatting to a few other old lags, it is a relatively universal approach by those of us who have used ERDs}. If you are a member of the UKOUG I strongly recommend downloading the slides to Jonathan’s talk. If you are not a member, maybe Jonathan will present it again at another venue, or you could get him to come along and do a course on tuning. {Jonathan, if you get a gig as a result if this, I want a pint of Marston’s Pedigree, OK?}

{And thanks to Sean malloy for commenting to provide a link to a published version of Jonathan’s method – Jonathan did mention this, highlighting the fact that it is his first real foray into SQL*Server. However, the method is database agnostic. This is the article}

Second tidbit. Adrian Dodman and Owen Ireland (who both look remarkably like Hollywood hearthrobs in their pictures, but different as their in-the-flesh selves, though very decent chaps they are too.) did an excellent talk on VLDB physical standbys, a topic that has particular resonance for myself. They mentioned parallel_execution_message_size. This defaults to 2k, on 10g at least. It is a rubbish setting. No, let me not beat about the bush, it is an utterly rubbish setting. If you use parallel query, parallel recovery or parallel anything-at-all, check out this parameter and, due dilligence allowing, increase it. Try 8k as opposed to 2k and even 16k. The manual on it says the default of 2k/4k is fine. It ain’t. Increasing the value just takes some memory out of the shared pool and, these days, if you can’t afford a few extra KB out of your shared pool, you need to replace your server with something costing about twice as much as a top-end desktop PC. { Why am I so vigorous in my opinion on this parameter? Well, I had a situation a few months back of trying to migrate a database to a new geographic location for a client in Germany. We did a backup/recovery type operation to do this. Applying the redo logs was proving to be a performance issue so Oracle Corp suggested parallel redo log application. It ran a LOT slower than single thread, about 300% slower. However, increasing the parallel_execution_message_size from 2k to 8k made the parallel log application about 400% faster than single thread. ie a dozen times faster. I know from presentations by Christian Antognini and discussions with others that it is a key parameter to getting parallel query to perform well too.}

Last tidbit. Don’t drop the OUTLN user. Yes, I know, why would you? Just don’t, OK? Especially on Oracle 11. If you do, for whatever reason, DO NOT SHUT DOWN THE DATABASE. Call Oracle Support and pray. Thanks go to Peter Mahaffey for that one. Yes he did. It all went terribly wrong for him.

Dealing with Bind Issues December 1, 2009

Posted by mwidlake in Meeting notes, performance.
Tags: , ,

One of the presentations I have seen today was on handling bind values. I can’t say it was, for me, the best I have seen this week, I’ve done a lot of work on binds in the past so I had come across most of the material before. Should I have bothered?

Well, there was one little gem in there which struck me as very simple and potentially very effective.

Bind variables and histograms are not a good mix, as has been commented on many, many times. In essence, if your data in a column is skewed so that some values match very few records and others match a large number, when oracle sees a SQL statement with a bind value being compared to that column, it peeks at the first value being passed in with the bind and uses it to decide on the plan (this is pre 11G, by the way).
That plan is then used for every execution of that sql statement until it is thrown out the SGA. Which is jolly unfortunate if all the values subsequently passed in via the bind do not suit the plan. 

The solutions to this usually boil down to one of¬†three approaches; remove the histograms on the column in question so that all values are treated equally;stop it being a bind/prevent bind peeking; force the “bad” plan out of the SGA and hope the next parse gets a better plan.

All have their merits and drawbacks.

Well, in this presentation there was a fourth solution. Something like this:

if :status in (1,2,3) then
  select /*+ cardinality (t1 100000) */
  from table_1 t1
      , table_t t2
  where t1.status=:status
  select /*+ cardinality (t1 100) */
  from table_1 t1
      , table_t t2
  where t1.status=:status

I might be missing something blindingly obvious here (and this might be a common solution that has just passed me by), but it seems to me to be a simple and effective solution that could be used in many situations.

I also learnt that it is rare not to find at least one good thing out of any presentation, so long as you keep paying attention.

UKOUG So Far December 1, 2009

Posted by mwidlake in Meeting notes.

It is the start of the second day (actually, an hour in, have a small “one beer too many” issue to cope with so I missed the first session) and so far I’ve very much enjoyed the event.

I saw several good talks yesterday. highlights for me were; Graham Wood’s talk on ASH, Alex Gorbachev on ASM and Doug Burn’s talk on parallel processing. Doug’s talk fell foul of the curse of all talks, the carefully prepared and tested demo deciding not to play, but a few of us clustered around his laptop to see the final results after the event.

I really wanted to get to Randolf Geist’s talk but one of the “problems” with having been coming to the conference for so many years is meeting up with people you have not seen for ages, getting into a conversation and realising that the next set of sessions started 10 minutes ago.

Today my chairing duties start, with Luca Canli from CERN talking about compressing very large data sets, which is something that is highly pertinent to my current work.

Tomorrow I chair 4 sessions:
Larry Carpenter on DataGuard 11GR2. Larry is an old friend, he gave us some excellent support on Dataguard 5 or 6 years ago.
Piet de Visser¬†on Good Indexing. Piet is up against Jonathan Lewis and James Moorle and he has joked to me that it could be just him and me in the room, but I doubt that. I don’t want to discourage anyone from going to see JAmes and Jonathan (both give cracking presentations) but heck, come and see Piet:-)
I’m then chairing Christian Antogini, talking on parallel processing. I’ve never “Met” Christian, I’ve been in a couple of large discussions where he was also there, so I am looking forward to meeting him properly.
My final Chairing duty is right at the end of the last day, when only the die-hards¬†and those who’s train ticket is pre-booked late in the day remain:-)
I’ll be chairing Husnu¬†Sensoy who is talking about backing up enormous database, which many of you will know is a topic close to my heart. That should be a fine rounding off of the conference.

My aim today is to get to a few more sessions and get through the evening without drinking that one beer too many.

UKOUG Conference approaches. November 26, 2009

Posted by mwidlake in Meeting notes.

Well, it’s that time of year again. It’s dark by 4pm, weather is miserable and I’m already sick to the hind teeth with Christmas, thanks to the never ending¬†drive by the commercial sector to bully me into buying tatt and rubbish “to make christmas special”.

But there is another staple of the season of the end of November/start of December, which is to trek over to Birmingham for the annual UKOUG conference. Except of course that there are now several conferences run by the UK Oracle User Group, for different Oracle sectors and regions, but this is The Technical Conference. Back to three days and focusing on the database, application server/E-business suite and development. Just like the good-old-days before Larry bought up 300 companies and a big chunk of the software business services industry.

I’ve been lucky enough to go to a couple of Oracle Open Worlds (OOW) and mighty impressive the event is. But I prefer the UKOUG¬†annual conference. It’s not the huge (and, I feel, overwhelming) size of OOW, but still pretty big, I think 10 streams of presentations, workshops and panels this year, and has the added bonus of being more Real. The presentations are to a large part independent from Oracle Corp and even the Oracle Corp presentations tend to be a little less Corporate and a little more Real. People say “how it is” at a User Group.

Plus there is more a feeling of meeting friends and colleagues and like-minded practitioners of every-day living and learning with oracle.

For those new to the scene, it’s far more easy to get to grips with than OOW¬†and yet with Big Names doing top technical presentations, spread over a range of levels from introductory to the esoteric details of stuff most of us never need to know. Plus everything in-between.

Since 2003 I have presented every year except last year {when I decide to go play with elephants in Thailand instead}. I’m not presenting this year either and I would be lying if I said I was upset. I’m utterly gutted. But then I saw the spread of talent and interesting topics when I helped score the abstracts back in May and competition this year was fierce. I’ll be chairing a few sessions though and trying to meet up with people I know, and also people I don’t know but would like to.

If you see some small (5 foot sod all) chap with little glasses, short, brown hair and cream trousers, that is probably me. Come over and say “hi”. If you already know me and come over and say “hi” and I look like a rabbit caught in headlights, well you should know me by now and that I am utterly rubbish at recognising faces or remembering names, but that’s OK as I rarely bite and will be happy to apologise for my lack of social skills. If I’m anywhere near a bar, I’ll probably buy you a drink too, but then you have to buy me one. I’ll be under the table first though.

So, if you are also heading to Birmingham, see you there. If you are not, you are missing out on a fantastic Oracle event.


A Tale of Two Meetings – 11GR2 and MI SIG October 5, 2009

Posted by mwidlake in Meeting notes, Perceptions.
Tags: , ,

Last week I attended two Oracle events, each very different from the other.

The first was an Oracle Corp event, giving details of the new 11GR2 release and what it was introducing. It was in a nice hotel in London with maybe 250, 300 attendees and all quite swish.

The other was a UK Oracle User Group meeting, the last Management and Infrastructure SIG for 2009. 30 people in the Oracle City office and far more unassuming¬†{And note, as I chair the MI SIG, anything I say about the day is liable to bias…}.

Both events were useful to attend and I learnt things at both, but I also found the difference between the two quite interesting.

Oracle 11G Release 2

The official Oracle 11GR2 presentation was where you went for the definitive information on what Oracle Corp feel are the new features of 11G R2 that are of interest (though some of it was not R2-specific but general 11G).

Chris Baker started off by telling us “there has never been a better time” to move to the latest technology or a greater need to gain business advantage through using said latest technology. You know, it would be really nice, just once, to go to such a corporate event and not be given this same thread of pointless posturing? I know it is probably just me being old and grumpy and contrary, but after 20 years in the business I am sick to the hind teeth of Keynotes or Announcements that say the same empty “Raa-Raa” stuff as the previous 19 years –¬†the need “now” to get the best out of your technology has been the same need¬†since the first computers were sold to businesses, so give it a rest. Just tell us about the damned technology, we are smart enough to¬†make our own decision as to whether ¬†it is a big enough improvement to warrant the investment in time and effort to take on. If we are not smart enough to know this, we will probably not be in business too long.

Sorry, I had not realised how much the Corporate Fluff about¬†constantly claiming “Now is the time”, “Now¬†things are critical” gets to me these days. Anyway, after that there were some good¬†overviews of the latest¬†bits of technology and¬†following form them¬†some dedicated sessions¬†in two streams on specific areas, split between¬†semi-technical and management-oriented talks, which was nice.

There was plenty of talk about the Oracle Database Machine, which appears to be exadata version 2 and sits on top of Sun hardware, which is no surprise given the latest Oracle Acquisition. I have to say, it looks good, all the hardware components have taken a step up (so now 40Gb infiniband interconnect,¬†more powerful processors, even more memory),¬†plus a great chunk of memory as¬†Sun’s¬†“FlashFire”¬†technology to help cache data and thus help OLTP work. More importantly, you can get a 1/4 machine now, which will probably make it of interest to more sites with less money to splash out on a dedicated Oracle system. I’ll save further details for another post, as this is getting too long.

The other interesting thing about the new Oracle Database Machine was the¬†striking absence of the two letters ‘P’ and ‘H’.¬†HP was not mentioned once.¬†I cannot but wonder how those who bought into the original exadata on HP hardware feel about their investment, given that V2 seems only available on Sun kit. If you wanted the latest V2 featries such as the much-touted¬† two-level disc compression is Oracle porting that over to the older HP systems, are Oracle offering a mighty nice deal to upgrade to the Sun systems or are there some customers with the HP kit¬†currently sticking needles into a clay model of top Oracle personnel?

The other new feature I’ll mention is RAT – Real Application Testing. You can google for the details but, in¬† a nutshell, you can record the activity on the live database and¬†play it back¬†against an 11g¬†copy of the database. The target needs to be logically¬†identical to the¬†source {so same tables, data,¬†users etc} but you can alter initialisation parameters, physical implementation, patch set, OS, RAC…¬†RAT will tell you what will change.

For me as a tuning/architecture guy this is very, very interesting. I might want to see the impact of implementing a system-wide change but currently this would involve either only partial testing and releasing on a wing and a prayer or a¬†full regression test on¬†an expensive and invariably¬†over-utilised full test stack , which often does not exist. There was no dedicated talk on it though, it was mentioned in parts of more general “all the great new stuff” presentations.

Management and Infrastructure SIG

RAT leads me on to the MI SIG meeting. We had a talk on RAT by Chris Jones from Oracle, which made it clearer that there are two elements to Real Application testing. One is the Database Replay and the other is SQL Performance Analyzer,  SPA. Check out this oracle datasheet for details.

SPA captures the SQL from a source system but then simply replays the SELECT only statements, one by one, against a target database. The idea is that you can detect plan changes or performance variations in just the Select SQL. Obviously, if the SELECTS are against data created by other statements that are not replayed then the figures will be different, but I can see this being of use in regression testing and giving some level of assurance. SPA has another advantage in that it can be run against a 10g database, as opposed to RAT which can only be run against 11 (though captured from a terminal 10g or 9i system Рthat is a new trick).
There are no plans at all to backport RAT to 10, it just ain’t gonna happen guys.

The SIG also had an excellent presentation on GRID for large sites (that is, many oracle instances) and how to manage it all. The presentation was as a result of requests for a talk on this topic by people who come to this SIG and Oracle {in the form of Andrew Bulloch} were good enough to oblige.

The two Oracle Corp talks were balanced by technical talks by James Ball and Doug Burns, on flexible GRID architectures and using OEM/ASH/AWR respectively. These were User presentations, mentioning warts as well as Wins. Not that many Warts though, some issues with licence daftness was about it as the technology had been found to work and do it’s job well. Both talks were excellent.

The fifth talk was actually an open-forum discussion, on Hiring Staff, chaired by Gordon Brown {No, not THAT Gordon Brown, as Gordon points out}. Many people joined in and shared opinions on or methods used in getting new technical staff. I found it useful, as I think did many. These open sessions are not to everyone’s taste and they can go wrong, but Gordon kept it flowing and all went very well.


The difference between the two meetings was striking. Both had strong support from Oracle ¬†{which I really appreciate}. Both¬†included talks¬†about the latest technology. However, the smaller, less swish event gave more information and better access to ask questions and get honest answers. There was also almost no Fluff at the SIG, it was all information or discussion, no “Raa-Raa”. But then, the lunch was very nice and there were free drinks after the Corporate event {we shared rounds at a local pub after the SIG event¬†– maybe one round too much}.¬†

I guess I am saying that whilst I appreciate the Big Corporate event, I get a lot more out of the smaller, user group event. Less fluff, more info.¬†Thankfully, Oracle support both, so I am not complaining {except about the “there has never been a better time” bit, I really AM sick of thatūüė¶ ).

¬†So if you don’t support your local Oracle user group, I’d¬†suggest you consider doing so. And if, like so many sites seem to, you have membership but don’t go along to the smaller events, heck get down there! There is some of the best stuff at these SIG meetings.

Free Training (next Management and Infrastructure SIG) September 17, 2009

Posted by mwidlake in Meeting notes.

The next Management and Infrastructure SIG is coming up, 1st October in Oracle City office in London. The agenda and details can be found here.

I think the line up is a good balance of technical and management, which is what the SIG is all about – but then I am biased:-)
Real Application Testing, ASH/AWR, how to hire staff, Grid control for complex sites and flexible e-business suite architecture are all covered, plus the chance to ask questions of our Oracle Support representative (Along the lines of “how do I best escalate SRs”, not “what does bug number 2324567.1 on linux not happen on hp-ux”).

As some of you know, I currently chair the SIG {for those who do not know, a SIG is a Special Interest Group of the UK Oracle User Group}. The event is free to those with UKOUG membership {excluding bronze I think} and anyone can come along for £80.

Numbers for SIGs have been hit by the recession over the last 12 months – people’s travel budgets being slashed, pressure on staff/managers of staff that everyone always “looks busy”, reduced access to things that can be seen as a perk.

However, it strikes me as odd that SIGs don’t become more popular when things are tight. After all, they are in effect free (or cheap) training and opportunities to make or maintain contacts with people you can share experiences with. There are also domain experts around who love to talk about their chosen topic, so potentially free consultancy too.

If you have any interest in the topics covered, I’d encourage you to come along for some of this free stuff:-) Likewise, keep an eye on the other UKOUG SIG events, there is usually very good stuff at all of them.

June Management & Infrastructure meeting June 5, 2009

Posted by mwidlake in Meeting notes, Perceptions.
Tags: , ,
add a comment

Wednesday this week saw the first UKOUG Management & Infrastructure meeting special interest group meeting (MI SIG) of the year – postponed from April due to a clash with the G20 summit. You can see details of the meeting here where {if you are a member of the UKOUG} you can download some of the papers.

I feel the MI SIG has been struggling a little over the last few meetings – too many sales pitch presentations and numbers hit by travel woes (we just fell unlucky) and then the recession – but this meeting felt better. We had a good mix of strong presentations and numbers were up. The number of expected delegates has been very variable over the last 2 weeks, at one point we were full (50 people) but then some dropped out, others registered late. We ended up with 39.

At the last meeting I asked if people wanted more on the management side and the majority did, so I pitched a presentation about how to be a Manger in IT. It would have been relevant to management in other disciplines but IT does have some unusal aspects, one being that there is a much higher percentage of introvert and logical personality traits amongst IT people. Soft Skills and considerations of personality do tend to get short change in technology environments too.

Not only did I pitch a touchy-feely topic but I also went powerpoint-naked. I put up a half dozen intro slides and then turned off the projector and just talked. I was more than a tad anxious that this could have fallen flat and ended up as me spewing random drivel from the front, but the audience took up the topic and started chipping in. It snowballed and became a general discussion. I managed to keep it flowing and mentioned most of the things I wanted to include and also took a lot of input from the audience. Maybe one or two of the links I made to add my intended points were a bit tenuous but heck, it was the first time I’d done a free-form presentation like that for years and years.

Not only was the session a success {phew} but it seemed to set the pattern for the rest of day. We had had some good questions being asked of John Nangle during his opening presentation on Exadata (I’d really like to get my hands on one of those units) but after the free-form session everyone seemed to be talking to each other more and all presenters had questions and little discussions to deal with during their sessions. They all dealt with them well.

We rounded off the meeting with a drink in a local hostelry for those who were inclined and the discussions kept going. The general feeling was that it had been an excellent day with people being a lot more interactive than normal. I know other SIGs use “speed chatting” and other things to help encourage people to talk to other delegates. They have found that such things might not initially be popular {what! you want me to talk to strangers?} but always give the meetings a greater feeling of interaction and delegate feedback is that they are {sometimes reluctanatly} recognised as helpful.

I think I’ll try and have some sort of interactive or ice-breaking aspect at future meetings as it seems to really help the day be a success.


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