Oracle UKOUG Why It's worth joining.

>> Wednesday 10 October 2012

Today I was lucky enough to be able to attend a UK Oracle User Group Database Server SIG meeting.  It's been a few years since I went to one of these.

My company doesn't subscribe to any user groups any more, it's their policy.  I suspect because the person holding the budget has no idea at all what happens at one of these and has a false impression of a time wasting out of office jolly and god forbid a good time could be had by any dungeon living IT technician.

The value of these SIG days should not be underplayed.

Today I found out how to use snoop a step on from strace/truss for suspect network issues,  I discovered the ins and outs of working from home in the UK whilst outsourcing for a Canadian company, how to compare AWR reports, looking into high buffer reads and about IBMs Netezza. All this was over coffee breaks and lunch.  Networking, sharing experiences and meeting like minded people is a great part of the day. 

But let's put the fun aside:

The Support update was a solid reminder of the needs for patching, what sorts of issues are out there etc.  But all this is available in metalink, I hear you cry.  Yep, Metalink is sat there whirring away in the background but whilst I'm in the office up to my neck in issues and blaming the infrastructure, it is good for me to be mindful of the types of major faults Oracle are still mopping up and these presentations do that for me.

Before stepping into the building I knew nothing at all about Exadata.  I'd read a little, I've stood on the sidelines of social media conversation but I didn't really know any useful basics at all.  45 minutes of e-DBA's Jason Arneil (@jarneil) and I have a grounding of the basics, enough to allow me to read technical documents without just hearing white noise.    I know I am unlikely to ever get formal training on this even if we were to implement them.  As far as I am concerned that session justified the cost of the day.

But wait there's more, Pete Finnigan did a session on Secure Coding PL/SQL.  I've seen him present on profiles, roles, inherited rights  invoker rights before and if you haven't, you should.  But this was a step on into how to start to protect you sql procedures from sql injection attacks, how to look for the holes in your pl/sql and how to start closing them.

There were sessions on  Edition Based Redefinition which is something I was totally unaware of and GoldenGate something I had heard of but had no understanding of.  I think these 2 things are well worth me being fully aware of especially knowing that GoldenGate can be short term licensed.  I now have another option to propose when I need to upgrade a critical 24/7.

But the grand finale was Jonathon Lewis presenting on Exadata compression, storage indexes and Exadata's use of indexes.  None of the presentation was directly relevant to anything I'm doing right now and by the time I'm fortunate enough to come into contact with Exadata I'm likely to have forgotten the detail, that isn't why it matters.  This is the reason why:


Being a DBA can sometimes seem like a firefighting daily grind, a battle with developers, a battle with infrastructure design, a non IT driven management that don't understand the technical detail or really care.  In short it can be a drag and I start to wonder why I do it at all.  Jonathon's presentation got back to the core of what I really love, why I ended up here in the first place.  Talking about compression headers is interesting, working out how many rows you can squeeze into 32k is fun and I'm still wondering why Oracle picked 32,759 rows for a compression unit.  The process behind a query dances on the powerpoint and Jonathon at points appeared to be dancing in front of it! Why should the predicates matter...look at that hint... I didn't know that hint.. wow look at THAT hint. He over ran and as so many of us wanted to see the end, he happily stayed behind and finished the presentation for us.  He clearly enjoys the dancing data too.

Companies that don't pay for this membership are clearly very short sighted.  You need real technicians to be enthused about what they do.  If they are motivated, they will do it well, they'll even do it in their own time, they'll want to do it.  The cost of membership to a company to buy that type of staff motivation is as cheap as chips.

I am now seriously considering a personal membership for next year not so chip cheap but worth it.  I know my company's policy is not for turning but I need this sort of regular infusion of update, refresh and reinvigoration to make me the best DBA I can be.

I was rather pleased at the end of the day to have another delegate come up to me and say "What company do you work for? They must be good to be employing such intelligent people that can ask such good questions"   Bless him,  I'm not sure he understood I ask so many questions because I don't have the answers not because I was trying to bring up good points!

I'm sure if you've come here via a search on UKOUG membership you will know that it includes many privileges beyond SIG attendance including discount on Oracle University training. Go and have a look at their website for more details.


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