AYTS: A visit to Oracle HQ

Since 3 years, Oracle Belgium organises for their partners a technical contest. They call it:
Are You The Smartest ?” (AYTS).

The objective is to motivate the consultants-of-those-partners to learn new features / tools in the Oracle product portfolio by means of a contest. Oracle presales consultants give a series of technical presentations on new technologies. Every session (except the first one) starts with an online exam about the previous session. The consultants of every partner with the best results on those exams can win a trip to the States.

This year, a group of 10 “Oracle Smartest” had the chance to make this trip to the US. I was one of them …

The official part of that trip is a visit to the Oracle Headquarters. We stayed at a hotel in San Francisco. Early in the morning, an Oracle chauffeur in an Oracle limousine picked us up for a 30 minutes ride to Redwood where the famous HQ buildings are located.
We were welcomed by a small breakfast-buffet, in order to survive the next four hours when three different presenters gave an explanation on specific topics.

In a first presentation, Mark Drake, the Senior Product Manager for XML Technologies, gave a brief overview on XML DB. With the Oracle solution, you have the possibility to treat relational data in an XML way or approach XML documents via SQL. In addition, from release 10gR2 on, Oracle implemented as the first vendor XQuery facilities in the database. The most important thing that I remember from this session is this quote by Mark: “We are 5 years ahead on our competitors; and they will need 3 years to notice it.

The second presenter was Scott Howley, Senior Director and Product Manager. He gave an Overview on Oracle Fusion Middleware.
15 Years ago, as an Oracle developer, you could only use Oracle Developer (Forms and Reports) to get data in and out of your database. Ever since, Oracle never stopped his efforts on developing numerous technologies that reside between the application and the database. Nowadays they branded this entire family of Oracle’s middleware products as “Oracle Fusion Middleware”, their answer on the SOA claims by the market.
In one hour, Scott tried to explain, in a very enthusiastic way, each component, too much to list here. Multiple times Scott emphasized that central in all their solutions is the conformance to open standards. A good example of this standardisation is Oracle’s BPEL solution. You can use Jdeveloper or Eclipse as IDE to develop the BPEL process and you can deploy it against multiple Application Servers. Unfortunately, some tools do not fit in this picture of openness and standards … Yes, indeed, the good-old Oracle Forms and Oracle Designer. Do I need to say more …?

In a final session, Tim Dexter — Group Manager, XML Publisher Product Management — gave an introduction and demonstration of XML Publisher. This product was originally part of the E-Business Suite (aka “Oracle Apps”), now it is available as a separate product. XML Publisher was an answer on all the problems the development team had with maintaining the >1000 business reports, in different languages and in different versions. The main idea is that the extraction of the data (XML), the layout of the document and the translations are three different components, independent of each other.
For producing business reports and documents, this reporting solution will probably replace Oracle Reports. The integration with MS Word and Excel seems very promising.
On the other hand, there is still a lot of confusion about the pricing and licensing of the product — it is still very expensive. And furthermore, there is also some overlap with other BI tools like Discoverer and the Siebel BI solution — I read somewhere that they want to rename it to BI Publisher — Nevertheless, Oracle still has some home work to do in positioning each of these products.

As one could expect from interesting sessions, they did not end at the scheduled time. Consequently, the chef had to do some overwork. Nevertheless, no complaints, we got a delightful lunch in the Executive Dining Room.

Our visit ended with a small Campus tour. We walked through Oracle’s own Conference Centre, visited the enormous fitness centre and admired the well-known Oracle Buildings. You can find another picture here.

This was the end of the official part of our trip to the states.

Conclusively, when looking back, it was a pity we did not see “God” him self. Nevertheless, the least we can say is that we used his Limo.

I can recommend everyone to participate at the AYTS contest of next year…at least the Belgian Oracle consultants.


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About Jan Huyzentruyt