OOW: Is It Worth It?

This is a little later than most Oracle OpenWorld 2012 write-ups as this year I extended what has become my annual trip to San Francisco and spent another 2 weeks in the US.

The vast majority of the “Oracle geeks” I know in the UK have never been to OpenWorld and therefore from time to time, generally as the event is approaching, I get asked: Is it worth it?

If you want the one word answer: Yes. If you want the justification then please read on…

I feel the most important point for those in the UK, regardless of how into the technology you are, is: It’s in San Francisco!

This might sound like I think the other aspects of attending are not as important, but that is not what I’m attempting to convey. The point is that if you are a hardcore Oracle geek then what better location than San Francisco to learn more about the software you spend so much of your life working/playing with. At the other end of the scale, if you’re not really interested in the technical detail of the software, but need to be aware of what is going on with one of the major players in the IT world then what better location to do so than San Francisco… OK, I’ve not travelled very widely in the US, but of the places I’ve visited San Francisco is definitely holding the top spot. I just really like the vibe of the city and don’t recall meeting anyone that doesn’t enjoy the location element of OpenWorld.

OK, so the next justification for those that need more incentive: It’s a great networking opportunity. It must be the highest concentration of Oracle geeks any point in the year. The people who wrote the Oracle related books you really like will probably be there and they’ll possibly be presenting. The people who write the blogs you read, and eagerly await, will probably be there and are possibly presenting at OpenWorld or one of the other events that are on at the same time in nearby locations (more on which below).

The Bloggers’ Meetup is a must for those that blog themselves or those who follow many blogs and want to meet the people that write them. Thanks to Pythian and OTN for putting this event on.

The finally point: It is a fantastic environment to learn more about Oracle and associated technologies.

There is so much going on… I remember planning my first OpenWorld and picking something to attend for literally every slot in the schedule. I was keen to make the most of the conference and despite reading and hearing the advice of others to not try to do too much, I did. There are often two or more sessions in the same slot that I want to attend and what made this even more frustrating in my first year were the “marketing trap” sessions. The ones that sound great, but as I recall saying at the time, “I don’t come here to listen to someone give me an overview of functionality or recite the data sheets.” I want the “war stories”, internals and undocumented stuff. I understand that attendees vary in both their existing knowledge and what they came to OpenWorld to gain, so I can understand why these sessions exist, but bear the following in mind:

  1. Use the Schedule planner to select your sessions in advance and do your research on the presenters
  2. People’s view of what constitues a “Deep Dive” varies
  3. Look for sessions from people’s who you know you like listening to from previous presentation or who write blogs you enjoy
  4. Do the best you can to ensure the level of prior knowledge or level of detail in the presentation is appropriate to you
  5. Accept the fact that you’re not going to be able to attend every session you would like to be at due to scheduling conflicts
  6. The User Group Sunday technical sessions are a must, so make sure you arrive in time

Other Parts of OpenWorld

There are parts of OpenWorld that I haven’t really found time for, but would probably be of great value to some. There’s the 2 large halls of exibitions with a fairly diverse range of exhitors. If you’re considering a vendor, or already use one, then these could present you with a good opportunity to speak directly with employees of that company. Within the same halls, and some other locations, you’ll find the Oracle Demo Grounds. I’ve never actually attended a demo session, but if you want to know more about a particular Oracle product or features then this is going to be a good place to do so. It will give you a chance to speak with the Oracle employees that are directly involved in the product/feature you are interested in.

You get access to both of the above with a $125 (2012) “Discover” pass, which is a huge saving over the full conference pass.

The “Side Events” for 2012 – That really does not do them justice!

Enkitec Sessions @ Jillian’s – Enkitec has focused heavily on Exadata expertise and therefore if you want to know about Exadata then listening to the likes of Andy Colvin, Kerry Osbourne, Tanel Poder and Tim Fox is a very good idea. The atmosphere was very informal with a focus on live demos and hacking sessions. Beer was provided as was finger food. One point worth noting is that the staff at Jillian’s were telling people that they were closed, so you needed to explicitly state that you were there to visit Enkitec. Don’t let this put you off. Once inside it was a very friendly place.

illumos and ZFS Days – This might not be for everyone as it focuses on system administration rather than Oracle Database server, but some of the presenters at the event are likely to be names you have come across over the years, particularly if you have a Solaris background. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to spend as much time as I would have liked here, but I believe everything was recorded, so I hope to catch up over the coming weeks. Check out the following links if you want to see the available videos illumos Day and ZFS Day.

Oaktable World – I was lucky enough to find out about Oracle Closed World for my 2nd trip to OpenWorld. This is definitely a place to visit if you want to get into the technical details. It was very disappointing that “Closed World” did not happen at OpenWorld 2011, but these things take time and money to arrange. Thankfully it was back with a vengence this year thanks to the hard work of Kyle Hailey (who looked to be very busy making sure everything went smoothly) and sponsorship from Delphix and Pythian. The event was renamed to OakTable World this year and the line up can be found here. Most of the sessions were recorded. At the moment only a selection are available on the site and Tanel’s is available here. Hopefully more will be edited and made available in due course.

Closing Note

If you do attend Oracle OpenWorld next year then Twitter is definitely your friend. It is a great way of finding out what is going, where the people you know are and what the news coming out of the sessions you couldn’t attend is.

Hope to see you there! @martinpaulnash

OOW: So Much To Do

Just a quick blog post to say that I’m out in San Francisco for the 4th year running to attend Oracle OpenWorld, and as much as I can fit in of the other events that happen at the same time!

There’s so much going on it can be pretty tricky to work out where the best place to be at any given time is. The User Group Sunday sessions are always a highlight so I’m looking forward to a busy day tomorrow.

I’ll be tweeting things that grab my attention more than blogging, so if that interests you then follow me there @martinpaulnash – I’d like a shorter Twitter handle, but every one I think of is already taken by someone that never tweets, and in some cases follows no-one!

If you can’t be at OpenWorld yourself then some of the content will be broadcast on YouTube so look out for that. As far as I know none of the techie sessions at OpenWorld will be streamed live, but if your interest extends beyond the Oracle Database Server then you may want to check out illumos Day and ZFS Day.

There may also be broadcasts from OakTable World. I didn’t see any details yet, but I’m pretty sure Tanel has used GotoMeeting during his “hacking sessions” in the past years.

OpenWorld 2010 T-Shirt Giveaway

A while ago I tweeted that I’d give away the T-shirts from Oracle OpenWorld 2010 that I didn’t want… Well, here they are.

Front and back of each, and backpack too. I think there’s at least one person out there that is interested, so I’ll give it a week for people to express an interest and then get them posted out.

All size “large”, but there is a bit of variation…

*Please excuse the picture quality, but I’m an iPhone 3G user so suffer with a poor camera… And I was in a rush 🙂

Please either comment on the post, contact me via Twitter or use the contact form on my company website.

OOW10: All Over

The last post covered Sunday and Monday of OpenWorld 2010, which leaves this one needing to cover Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday…


Dan Morgan – Developer Coding Strategies for Very Large Databases: Dan Morgan clearly has experience of working with very large databases and his suggestions included: consider the use of individual tablespaces for partitions so that old partitions that will no longer be updated can have the corresponding tablespace made read-only; use of INSTANCE_ID as part of the partition key in RAC environments; at 11.2 take advantage of the release of index storage when an index is made UNUSABLE. The final suggestion I noted down was to avoid the existance of NULL values by using “nonsense values”. This seems to fly in the face of the fact that the use of nonsense values can cause the optimizer problems in estimating cardinality in the absence of histograms. Maybe I have misunderstood the suggestion, but I’d definitely use caution with this.

Richard Foote – Oracle Indexes: Q & A Session: As anticipated this was an excellent session. The key points I noted during the session were: the use of ROWIDs has benefits, but this comes at a price as you can’t then move rows without the associated overhead of updating wherever you store the ROWIDs; for INDEX SKIP SCAN to be useful the leading column must be low cardinality; if you’re not sure about index (A,B) or (B,A) then put the lowest cardinality column first as this creates improved opportunity for INDEX SKIP SCAN and allows for better compression; deletes from indexes are lazy deletes, it just marks the row as deleted, but does not clear the data; heavy DML on a compressed index should be avoided. My final note reads “Separate tablespaces for indexes and data is a myth and always has been. The use of an index is a serial operation and there will be lots of table blocks read for each index block. There is no parallelisation opportunity during the scenario.”

Kevin Closson – Do-It-Yourself Exadata-like Performance: This was an interesting session. The key points I noted where: for DIY Exadata you would need 39 Nehalem EP cores just to match the Exadata offload processing (filter and projection); compression is not a performance feature, it’s a capacity feature; the first and last columns are easy to access, but aside from the last field you pay more for accessing a column later in the column order.

During Kevin’s session I spotted this tweet that reflects the view of many that are primarily interested attending sessions where they will gain technical knowledge.

Cary Millsap – Thinking Clearly about Performance: There’s not much to say about this. Cary is an excellent speaker and a PDF copy of the paper is available from the Method R website. Even thought I’d read the paper before, twice, I thought it was worthwhile attending the session.

After Cary’s presentation I headed over to Thirsty Bear for Oracle Closed World, getting there just in time to catch Kyle Hailey‘s presentation. Clearly very knowledgeable and experienced, Kyle gave an excellent demonstration of the advantages of visualising data, compared to text output.

Maria Colgan – Oracle’s Optimizer: Top Tips for Getting Optimal SQL Execution All the Time: An interesting presentation where the following were covered: check cardinality estimates using SQL Monitor;causes of incorrect statistics; usage of extended statistics. This is definitely a session worth viewing on Oracle OpenWorld On Demand.


Chen Shapira – Everything DBAs should know about TCP/IP: Having followed Chen’s blog (now at Pythian) for a while I felt confident that her presentations would be worth attending. This session did not disappoint and as the turn out was pretty low (often a problem for Unconference sessions) there was plenty of opportunity to ask questions and discuss the material. Chen started by stating, “You need to find the keywords to use when talking to be people in different teams.” I couldn’t agree more with this and this is a factor in me spending a reasonable amount of my “play” time doing “non-DBA” activities. Other points that arose during the presentation are: SQLNET.EXPIRE_TIME and tcp_keepalive_time can be used to keep communication going between client and server in order to stop the firewall killing connections that appear idle. EXPIRE_TIME is not set by default; do a quick calculation before you do anything! If this approach had been followed in the example given then it would have been clear before contracts were signed that the network was not capable of supporting the traffic generated by the database used in a Data Guard configuration across the Atlantic; discussion of how setting ARRAYSIZE/setFetchSize() can make a big impact if lots of data is being selected; use tnsping rather than ping as it is the correct protocol if you want to assess SQL*Net performance; explanation of “advertised window” and the effect of errors on window size. Another presentation that is definitely worth downloading, but unfortunately because it was Unconference rather than OpenWorld it will not be available via OpenWorld on Demand. Discussion after the session revealed the following network related blog recommendationeds:

nmap – blog post from Frits Hoogland

Wireshark – blog post (first of a 7 part series) from Charles Hooper

SQL*Net encryption – blog post from Larent Schneider

Christian Antognini – Join Techniques: Even though the presentation was based on a chapter from Christian’s book, which I had already read (and can’t recommend strongly enough), it was a session that was definitely worth attending. As the full presentation with audio should be available via Oracle OpenWorld on Demand I won’t try to cover the technical details of the session here.

Oracle Closed World – The final day of Oracle Closed World saw some great presentation from Kevin Closson, Chen Shapira and Jeff Needham. Kevin offered to talk about whatever the audience wanted to ask and covered both NUMA and SMT, as well as the odd question about guns! Chen gave a really good presentation on NoSQL. I think some people believed she was trying to encourage it’s use, but to me it appeared to be a great overview of what NoSQL is all about. Jeff talked about the use of Windows and Direct NFS.

Bloggers Meetup – I think good time was had by all and it provided a great opportunity to meet fellow bloggers. Chet Justice aka ORACLENERD has already provided good coverage of the event so I won’t replicate his work here… I came surprisingly close to winning some kind of HP network storage device, but missed out by a few signatures. If I’d have know it would be so close I would have got a few more! All good fun and good to meet people that I’ve only every interacted with electronically before.

Party – Free food, free beer and lots of trouble finding the different groups of people I was trying to hook up with due to a big delay with SMS delivery…


Jean-Pierre Dijcks – Best Practices for Managing Parallel Execution in Concurrent Environments: Had no prior knowledge of Jean-Pierre and as friends went off to different sessions I had a moment or two of doubt, questioning if I was going to regret my choice. It turned out to be the opposite. Both the information and the delivery were really good. The presentation covered use of Services, Resource Manager and the new parallelisation parameters that have come in for 11.2. If my memory serves me well then at least a year ago I’d caught an Exadata talk by Joel Goodman where he touched on the advances in Resource Manager that were on the way. From reports in the field I don’t think there is a particularly great view of Resource Manager and one reason for this is traceability of the decisions it takes. I think it was Dan Morgan that raised this during the presentation and from the response it appears that Jean-Pierre, an Oracle employee, is aware that it would be wise to address this.

Jože Senegačnik – Query Transformation: Possibly the session I’m most glad I attended. The presentation style was great; the content interesting and technical. I didn’t take too many notes as I didn’t want to miss anything. Jože gave a very clear explanation of what both ANTI and SEMI joins are; explained that the optimizer will consider all transformations that are available to it; explained Join Factorization including that Oracle have filed a patent for it; covered that join elimination requires foreign-key constraints. One thing that really jumped out at me was hearing that join elimination is not currently supported for multi-colum primary-key foreign-key constraints and I’ll blog about why this stood out to me very soon. The last slide of the presentation provided a list of references, which is always nice to see, so I’ll definitely be downloading that for further reading.

Saroj Dash – Oracle Exadata: Myths, Discoveries, and Best Practices: I didn’t really get a great deal from this presentation apart from the following: “The architecture of databases changes at 10g because of ASM.”; it is no longer possible to by the Storage Servers on their own and therefore the only option is to buy the Database Machine; don’t use EHCC (Exadata Hybrid Columnar Compression) with tables that will have updates; cost of ownership is reduced due to not having to pay for Oracle Database Server licenses for the CPUs that are on the Storage Cells. Resource Manager allows for better meeting of SLAs. I got the impression that there was some misinformation provided in the presentation that was picked up on my some members of the audience. There was certainly plenty of Q & A after.

Arup Nanda – Analyzing Application Performance in Oracle RAC: Arup is a great presenter and covered how to monitor and trace database sessions very clearly. Anyone that feels they don’t already have a good grasp of how to do this would gain a lot from catching this session via OpenWorld on Demand.

Mark Farnham – Physical Ordering of Data: Is It Ever Useful?: This was a very interesting subject and one that I felt I already knew the answer to from information I’d picked up from others. However, this was a worthwhile session as Mark talked through his testing in order to come up with not just an answer to the question, but numbers that clearly demonstrate that physical ordering can be important. By this point in the conference my brain was not working at full speed, so I’ll be watching this on reply too!

It’s a Wrap – That was all for another year. As I sat drinking beer, eating tacos and listing to the band play in the beautiful San Francisco sunshine, I felt pretty certain that I’ll make the effort to get over again next year…

OOW10: The Story So Far

One good thing about jet lag is that I’ve been waking up by at least 5 am, which has meant I have plenty of time catch up with what needs catching up on… Well, apart from sleep.

Here’s a quick summary of the first 2 days of presentations/sessions:


Exadata SIG: Although I have never worked on Exadata it is something I’m keen to learn more about, and in the ideal world I’ll find an opportunity to get hands-on experience. The SIG session was very welcoming and the discussions interesting. Of most interest to me was talk of the possibility of getting the Exadata storage cell VMs, that some have seen used by Oracle employees, out in the wider community. Personally I would see this as an excellent way for Oracle to improve the chance of organisations adopting Exadata. After all, before taking on a new proposition like Exadata it would be sensible to do everything possible to ensure staff are appropriately skilled. Most organisations aren’t going to be able to afford to have play Exadata environments, so VMs would be a great solution… If you are interested in Exadata then I suggest joining the group on LinkedIn.

Richard Foote – Oracle Indexing Tips, Tricks and Traps: An excellent and informative presentation. There’s no point me trying to reproduce the highlights as I believe Richard will be making the presentation available on his blog. In the meantime you could spend hours learning about indexing from the material already available in the Presentations & Demos section of this site (some of which was covered in the presentation).

Rich Niemiec – Tuning Oracle at The Block Level – Beginners Go Away: Personally I find Rich’s presentations inspiring, but be warned he moves through slides at a fast pace. Rich said the presentation will be available on his company’s website and I guess it will end up here. Right now it looks like there is a previous version of the presentation, from 2006, available as well as a host of other interesting looking ones.

Craig Shallahamer – Resolving Buffer Busy Waits: It seemed to take Craig a little while to get going, but when he did I found him to be an excellent presenter with the ability to keep interest by giving the components of Oracle Database Server personalities. This session certainly helped me better understand the internals of buffer cache management. There were some fantastic quotations including: “Every block wants to be in the buffer cache… That’s where the party is!” Presentation here.

Anthony Noriega – Oracle Automatic Storage Management Load Balancing: By this point I was pretty worn out and maybe I had the wrong expectation regarding this presentation, but I didn’t see it through to the end. It wasn’t that the content was not interesting, it was, but it was almost all stuff I was already aware of. In fact the only think I picked up was that ASM_POWER_LIMIT has a range of 0 – 1024 from 11.2, which I’ve just tried to validate and the official documentation shows 0 – 11 (local copy of 11.2 docs as I can’t hit tahiti.oracle.com right now) … If I’d not already spent so much time on ASM I would have got more from the session, so I’m sure there will be others that have a different view.

After the conference sessions were over I met up with friends and enjoyed the free food and beer. I spend most of the duration of the keynote presentation discussing Oracle security, so can’t really comment too much on Exalogic.


Kamran Agayev – RMAN 11g New Features with practical demonstrations: This was my first Unconference session and really summed up what Unconference has to offer. There were less than 10 people in the room and we had the please of an excellent overview of the 11g new features, with live demos. Highlights for me were the demo of the Data Recovery Advisor and introduction of the ability to restore a database with only a backup and auxiliary instance as detailed here. If you have any desire to know more about RMAN and how to get the most out of it then I’d strongly recommend you follow Kamran’s blog.

Craig Shallahamer – Optimizing Internal Serialization Control: Another interesting session. The presentation is available from Craig’s OraPub website, but the one thing you don’t get when you’re not actually at the presentation you miss out of the way Craig talks about the Oracle memory structures. My favourite from this session was, “Gimme, gimme, gimme” (server process trying to acquire a latch).

At this point I went over to Oracle Closed World and could Arup Nanda and Tanel Poder both give presentations. If you’re reading this blog and you don’t know these guys then you need to get over to their blogs and spend some time reading their material. There are plenty of good presenter in the world of Oracle, but these two are right up there and do an excellent job of sharing their knowledge.

Rich Niemiec – Exadata for Beginners: I didn’t take any notes during this presentation other than writing down the following quotation: “Wanna teach your kids something of value, teach them Oracle!” I have to agree when I was starting my career in IT about 6 years ago I had no idea what Oracle would be today. The presentation is probably best described as a whistle-stop tour of what Exadata is and how it is evolving.

The OTN Night party provided the required refreshments and an unexpected opportunity to meet Jeremy Schneider of Ardent Performance Computing. The conversation ran on after the OTN Night and we onto a bar to catch up with with Karl Arao, who had presented earlier at Closed World.

Well, I started this writing this post first thing this morning and there has now been another whole day of sessions that I’ll write about soon.

As I final note, I did my first Oracle related presentation today (at Closed World) 🙂

OOW10: Too Much To Do It All

One of the problems I have when attending any conference is knowing which sessions I most want to be at. I’ve spent a few hours using Schedule Builder over the past few weeks to build a plan of how I’ll spend my time at OpenWorld. There were a few conflicts, but I’ve managed to decide on my priorities, which was easier now I don’t have to consider what my manager would want or what would be most applicable to my current employer. I decide on my priorities now, so I can focus on the subjects I’m most interested in.

From my experience so far I feel the Schedule Builder is much improved over last year. I don’t even remember what it was that I didn’t like about it, but it just feels better 🙂 (very scientific!)

… Anyway, the point is that just when you’ve got a schedule arrange for OpenWorld, you realise that Unconference is not to be missed, then you see a tweet drawing to your attention to Oracle Enterpise Linux sessions that you’ve overlooked, then you see another tweet mentioning Oracle Closed World

There just simply isn’t enough time available to attend everything I would like to be at. I’m going to have to miss some things that scream “simply unmissable!”

I’m just going to have to go with the flow and accept the fact that I might not end up in some of the sessions that I originally planned to be in, but as long as I’m enjoying the session I’m in then it’s all good…

OOW10: The Build Up

This is the first in a series of posts I’ll do about Oracle OpenWorld 2010. The focus of the posts will not always be technical, so if you’re only really interested in the technical stuff then posts with the title prefix of “OOW10” might not be of any interest… Including this one 🙂

I first attended OpenWorld last year, when I was lucky enough to work for a company/manager that saw the benefit of encouraging the geeks in the team. I loved the experience of OpenWorld and came back to the UK with even more enthusiasm for getting to know the technical detail of Oracle Database 11.2 and how I could apply it.

Since then I’ve left the world of permanent employment and set up my own company. There is no specific training/conference budget to speak of, so I was looking for ways to keep costs down. I was aware of the blogger program for OpenWorld from people I’d met last year and was hopeful that I’d be accepted so that I could attend again.

For reasons that I’ve not been able to establish it took much longer for my application for to be accepted than for some others I know, which gave me about a month of thinking that I’d have to miss out this year… Then it came! The confirmation email arrived on 10th August and that kicked off a flurry of activity booking flights and arranging accommodation.

As we get closer and closer to the event the activity on Twitter (hash tag #oow10) and on blogs is really starting to pick up. One of the must attend events of OpenWorld for bloggers is the “Bloggers Meetup“. Last year I had to leave early as in order to catch up with friends that just happened to be in San Francisco as a stop over during their relocation from the UK to New Zealand! This year I should be able to be there the entire evening.

For me one of the highlights of last year was to pick up on the fact that Unconference was something to pay attention to. People go to Oracle OpenWorld for many reasons and it’s not going to be what everyone is looking for, but last year I attended sessions with Jonathan Lewis, Richard Foote and Cary Millsap that were extremely worthwhile.

I look forward to meeting old friends and making new ones. If you’re reading this and attending OpenWorld then get in contact and we’ll meet up… The count down beings 🙂