OTN APAC tour stop 4 – Beijing, China

Beijing Olympic Green fenced off for APECAfter arriving and resting for all afternoon, I headed out to the one sight that I was keen on seeing in Beijing. Our hotel was part of the infrastructure built for the 2008 Olympics and the birds nest and aquatic centre were just one block away. So I had planned to go there and also swim some laps in the same pool where Michael Phelps set a world record. But that was not going to happen. I learned that the whole olympic green area was still blocked after the APEC summit which concluded just a few days before our arrival. And it remainded closed during our whole time in Beijing. The upside to this was that we were treated with relatively little air pollution as according to this piece by Reuters the Chinese shut down lots of factories before and during the APEC summit and even stopped giving out marriage licenses in order to present itself in the best light. Continue reading

OTN APAC tour stop 3 – Tokyo, Japan

I woke up on Tuesday Morning with a bit of shock on confusion. Where was I? Did I oversleep? What day is it? Do I have to be at the airport and fly somewhere again? When you travel to a new destination every two to three days with jetlag, red-eye flights and all sorts of new impressions to digest, things start to get blurry. Tim and I had arrived the night before from Shanghai and even though the flight itself was just a quick 2,5 hours jump over the Sea of Japan, we were kept busy with queueing and rides in taxis and trains.

Shinagawa stationAfter a shower and some toying around with the japanese high-tech toilet (there were LEDs and buttons to explore) I got on my way to the conference location using the public transit system that I had researched way ahead of time. The google maps app has been a great help with this, too. When searching for public transit connections, it not only shows the line you need to take but also the ticket price and the number and names of the stations in between. Back in Singapore I was already impressed by the ability of the app to display information on the different floors in an indoor shopping mall by floor.
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OTN APAC tour stop 2 – Shanghai, China

Contrary to what my family, friends and coworkers believe, not every aspect of these OTN tours is glamour or relaxation, but there is actually quite a lot of dull travelling involved (with the time used to compose blog posts like this one). The travel to Shanghai was such a day. After a last dinner in Perth, Tim and I hitched a ride with Connor to the airport, then spent the first part of the night there, waiting for our plane to depart shortly after 2am. I managed to sleep a fair bit of that first leg to Singapore where the little transition time that we had was a great reminder of the wonderful time I spent there just the prior weekend. This was one of those times were I would not have minded a cancelled flight and an extra day there. But our flight to Shanghai was right on time and another 4 to 5 hours long.
We took the maglev train from the airport which was quite an experience because a) you do not get to ride 430km/h every day and b) it was good to see what was done with my german tax money that went into the research of this technology. I felt adventurous so instead of taking a taxi for the final bit to the hotel we took the metro after a bit of a fight with the ticket machine. First of all there was only one machine that accepted bills so it had a bit of a queue. And when it was our turn we could not buy the tickets we needed because the english screen did not allow us to select the right line (only a subset). But after a bit of pointing the guy behind us helped out.

OTN APAC Shanghai posterLater I enjoyed a wonderful dinner in a restaurant that was also partly a museum, met two of the other speakers. Maclean Liu from the UG and also the sponsororing partner in Shanghai, Joe Huang who has been working for Oracle at HQ as a product manager for years but was raised in Taiwan, so he knew mandarin. And then also our liasion and local coordinator Bo Feng who did an excellent job at looking after the international speakers and introduced us to a lot of new and strange food items.

Again, I felt adventurous and walked from my hotel to the conference site which was about 40 minutes. And I was pretty much blown away by stepping into a completely different world. I passed a street packed with little hardware shops selling all kinds of screws, nuts and bolts and other building materials, then some very local and raw parts of town next to the river. It really felt like diving into a completely different world.

The conference started with updates by 刘冰冰, a lady from Oracle, and even though all I could understand were a couple of keywords (CDB, PDB, big data SQL, cloud) I am pretty sure I have heard a very similar presentation in English a few times already. The audience understood english well enough but the organizers also translated the slides of Tim and Giusseppe Maxia into chinese so when they were talking they sometimes had to guess at what each bullet point said because there was not much english text left. Tim talked about how to avoid the most commin performance problems in PL/SQL and it was an excellent presentation with good points and a lot of small demos.
Giuseppe talked about mysql replication, how to set it up and also how to monitoring and some advanced cases, I am already looking forward to seeing him again at the Beijing conference in a few days.

OTN APAC Shanghai raffle winnersI did my talk on RAC connectivity which I have done many times now. I am sometimes getting a bit tired of my older presentations but still like this one a lot and think I should maybe turn this more into a general talk about RAC rather than just talk about load balancing and services.

Since the rest of the sessions were going to be in chinese we snuck out and walked around a bit. One of the more bizarre things we saw was a shopping mall with 3 or 4 floors of nothing but mobile phones and accessories. Even some repair shops were people were taking phones apart. We wondered how many of the phones we saw were counterfeits and how many were originals.

OTN APAC Shanghai selfieWe made it back to for the end of the conference and enjoyed another great dinner with the guys from the Shanghai User Group and speakers. The oddest food was fermented stinky tofu. Think of blue cheese. Tim made the mistake of taking a sniff first, then eating, I just avoided breathing through my nose. The taste was actually pretty good.

I decided to go for a brief walk over to the Bund and take some pictures of the Pudong skyline. It was a bit over the top with the colourful blinking lights and screens and couples in cheap tuxedos and polyester dresses having their pictures taken. The constant presence of hawkers advertising cheap “massages” was very annoying and I dared to walk about in some of the sidestreets and was rewarded with scenes of street food carts, interesting smells (both good and bad) and just generally loads of bustling life happening in the streets.

OTN APAC tour 2014 stop 1 – Perth, Australia

I arrived in Singapore a day before the conference and used this bit of quiet time to catch up on work stuff rather than do sightseeing. We had a nice ACE dinner downtown even though Tim did not make it in time. So it was Craig from the US and the local heroes (really, a very high density of excellent Oracle presenters and ACEs) Penny, Gavin, Connor and Scott. To me, one of the biggest benefites of the ACE program is getting to meet all these birght people and being able to call a lot of them great friends.

Connor took us to the beach for a quick swim on both days since – again – Tim did not make it on the first morning even though he said he was up and ready. The swell as a tad gnarly with pretty big waves on Friday. It was good fun and a refreshing way to start both days.

For me and the other speakers of the tour this was propably the hardest work at any one of the conferences since we all did two 2-hour ACE masterclasses each. But we started with an OpenWorld recap which had 7 of us talk about one aspect of OOW for 5 minutes each. This was inspired by the 12 on 12c presentation that EOUC did in San Francisco. This was good fun and I explained how you can have an excellent time and get good value out of the conference even without going to a single session. Others shared their own perspective on what to do or not and gave a summary of the hot topics at the conference.

All of my sessions went great and were very well attended. They made me feel like a real VIP during lunch when I got my own (vegetarian) meal with a big sign with my name. Since this was a local event for most attendees there was only a small networking thing with a few tame beers after the sessions and everybody went home at a decent time so after a quick dinner from the local convenience store this was another chance to get some decent rest.

Tim Hall handstandThe second day had the same strong content-rich agenda as the first day, mayben even more. Connor did a talk about 12c new features for developers. Initially we were afraid that this would clash with my presentation the day before (which was also 12c new features) but they complemented each other very well. He mentioned a lot of things that I did not even think about and also a lot of stuff around PL/SQL that I just barely ever get to play with. Penny Cookson did a brilliant session on how the optimizer works by comparing it to a girl trying to find a partner and working out the best plan all the while doing estimates based on statistics (as in how many single guys in the right age and height would be at any of Perth’s bars at a given time). It was hilarious and a great learning experience aswell. It is pretty scary to realize that an analogy like this works so well. I was still so impressed that I tried to work the analogy into my own presentation on baselines that I was doing after lunch. But it did not feel right to compare SPM to evaluating the quality of a new partner by trying out both the old and the new one. Or maybe that is an excellent analogy.

There were a few drinks and a dinner after the conference after which Tim and I went straight to the airport to catch the first of two flights to Shanghai at 2am – no point in going back to the hotel.

OTN APAC tour 2014 stop 0 – Singapore

#SOS - Singapore Oracle SessionsWait? Stop 0? How does that work? One reason may be that there is a lack of a universal understanding of what to call the first element of a finite set. Like floors in a building. Things you learn on tours like these are that 1 is not actually the ground floor in all countries (and it was the reason why I exited the lift on the wrong one). But the real reason that Singapore was stop 0 for me is that it is not actually part of the OTN tour (but in my opinion should be next year). I had planned a quick 3 day stopover and stay with Doug Burns and he decided this was a good time to start a local oracle thing in Singapore. So with less than a week notice he booked a room, organized food and drinks and managed to get over 30 people to show up (Hemant Chitale helped spreading the news) for the first installment of #SOS Singapore Oracle Sessions. Excellent! Portrix, Oracle and Doug chipped in as sponsors for the few expenses we had.

The speakers were blown away by the enthusiasm and passion of the attendees, received many great questions and chatted in the breaks. There was also great networking between people and everybody seemed to at least remotely know everybody else or made introductions. It was very clear that there was a demand for something like this format and while people were unsure if they needed a “proper” user group it was evident that everybody would like to see this continue.

Singapore Oracle Sessions Bjoern Rost on SQL Plan Management and baselinesI started by talking about SQL Plan Management. I have done this talk a few times now and am really happy to see how I am making progress with it. I was happy to make the most important points very clear, answered a few great questions and still finished ahead of time because Doug was signalling from the back of the room that the pizza was getting cold.

Doug talked about SQL Monitor (one of the most useful performance tools in Oracle) and how to use it from the commandline. What I did not know was that you could create just the same flash based report that the full-blown Cloud Control is generating and even more. Some of the tabs are grayed out in certain version of EM12c but they work in the CLI-generated one.

Morton did a Big Data primer, introducing people to what big data is and what it is not, giving funny but concise quotes from the Oak Table mailing list, giving an introduction to Hadoop and what the hadoop connector in Oracle can do for you (mostly access files on HDFS so you can either export big tables straight to hdfs for mapreduce processing and/or to import the results of a map/reduce job which will be written to HDFS). He finished with some funny correlation-type analysis which actually helped a customer identifying how to better do their job and got them to invest into big data infrastructure.

singapore supertrees and MBS from satay by the bay bathroomThe only bad thing I can say about the Sessions was that it cost me a few hours of precious sight-seeing time in Singapore. People have told me to come for a while but I never thought it would be as exciting, interesting and cool as it actually was. I wonder why we “dream” about some destinations (some of which turn out to not even be that great once you are there) and turn down the idea of visiting some others. Lesson learned: keep an open mind and good things will happen to you. To everybody else: Singapore is well worth a visit, with or withour Oracle Sessions.

The picture on the left was taken from the bathroom of a hawker centre (street food court). There was no wall behind the sinks, only the awesome view of tropical plants, supertrees and the iconic Marina Bay Sands hotel.

As I am writing this I am already in Perth for the annual Western Australia Oracle UG conference enjoying a rare moment of peace and quiet before the conference tomorrow. I have already experienced a new world and images of tropical plants, buildings old and new and exotic smells (both good and bad) fill my mind but this is merely the start of a tour that lasts two more weeks.

PS1: #SOS is a really bad hashtag
PS2: B-Tree indexes would be awesome if they were called Supertree-Indexes

DTrace analytics in ZFS Storage Appliance

About two years ago, Kyle Hailey suggested I blog about DTrace analytics in the ZFS Storage Appliance. I thought it would be a good idea but I never actually got around to doing it. But this week had some debugging to do with a storage problem and maybe have an interesting story to share (if this is actually interesting will be up to you to decide). Investigations started because a database was experiencing slow IO sometimes. Slow meaning ‘db file sequential read’ waits exceeding 30ms (less than 10ms is what I would consider normal) for a majority of events. And sometimes because some queries still returned data quickly. I still have not gotten around to the *sometimes* part of it but I guess this has to do with caching on the storage array end. This ZFSSA has 24GB of DRAM that is used to hold what is called the ARC – Adaptive Replacement Cache and maybe some of the queries hit data that was in the cache while some others were just unlucky and had to fetch things from disk. But disk access should not take longer than 3-8ms and we were seeing an average of 25ms for some queries. Continue reading

Singapore: sending out an SOS

The Oracle community rocks! I mentioned previously that the beginning of the OTN APAC tour will take me to Singapore to meet Doug Burns again. Well, Doug took the opportunity to organize a little meetup of the local Singapore Oracle User community for Free Pizza, Free Beer and Free Oracle Presentations next monday, November 3rd. If you are in Singapore or can get there with reasonable effort, I would love to meet you there. See the flyer and rsvp to the email address if you want to come as seats are limited.
The speaker lineup sounds like a european takeover. You will have to listen to me talk about SQL Plan management first only to be rewarded with presentations by Doug Burns (Scotland) on Real Time SQL Monitoring and Morten Egan (Denmark) on Big Data.

on the road again: OTN APAC tour and rest of 2014

I should be packing right now. But as much as I love travelling, I yet have to grow fond of packing. So instead I am updating my blog which I have neglected a bit over the past months. But excuses are plenty and I have been quite busy and it won’t get any better anytime soon. But this is a good kind of busy since I get to present at a bunch of events and meet a lot of good friends around the world. I was lucky enough to be accepted on the OTN APAC tour again. Last year, I was “only” able to attend two stops in New Zealand and Australia but this year I will manage to visit China (twice) and Japan in addition to Australia. The trip starts this week with a client visit after which I will fly straight to Singapore for a long weekend to meet up with Doug Burns. After that these will be the tour stops:

After Beijing, I am leaving directly to Nuremberg for the annual DOAG conference and one more customer meeting the day after before finally heading home for a weekend. But that will not be the last trip of the year, the Oracle Midlands user group is having a “german night” with two of my talks and a stroll over the German christmas market in Birmingham on November 25th. And then finally the last event of the year will be the UKOUG tech14 conference in Liverpool from December 8th to 10th where I will get to co-present with Philippe Fierens.

OpenWorld 2014 activities

In just a few days I will be sitting on a plane to San Francisco for this year’s geek festivities of Oracle OpenWorld and the schedule is already pretty full. This is the second time I am invited to the ACE Director briefing at HQ on Thursday and Friday before the conference. This is not only a great opportunity to hear about all the new and upcoming stuff directly from product managers and executives but also two days of seeing a ton of familiar old and new faces.

Sunday will be super packed and propably has enough content and activities to fill a whole week. I am presenting in an early slot at 9am which means that I have to ditch the Golden Gate bridge run organized by Jeff Smith and the SQLDeveloper gang. ODTUG has asked me to talk about how developers can implement a feature like flashback data archives into their own applications and I am happy to be co-presenting on this with Henning who can cover the developer view much better than me.

By the time we are done with the presentation, RACattack will already be in full swing. You can find the ninjas at the OTN lounge. Join us to install a running 12c RAC cluster right on your laptop or stop by to chat with experts or join the ninja ranks and help out fellow DBAs yourself. There is also a very limited supply of RACattack ninja t-shirts, so get there early. And if you already have a cluster on your laptop, you can still join the OTN kickoff party from 3 to 5 and meet likeminded people, including many ACEs.

The EOUC came up with a unique and fresh format for this conference and host a session of two timeslots called 12 on 12c where a dirty dozen techies from the EMEA region will talk about 12 different topics and each speaker only gets 5 minutes. My tiny slice is second to last and I will talk about what 12c can do for existing applications.

The night will wrap up with the ACE dinner which is always a bittersweet affair. On one hand you get to hang out with so many smart friends, on the other there are always a few you wish were there but are not part of the club (yet). It also means that I will only be able to attend the OPN partner reception towards the very end.

If there is one event that you should not miss and you cannot make up for at any other oracle conference in the world, it is the Swim in the Bay on monday morning. Chet oraclenerd Justice started to make this official two years ago and we have grown ever since. Meet the crazy bunch at aquatic park at 7:30 am and secure your own oraclenerd beach ball!

Following the success of RACattack at previous conferences, this year you can experience an attack of the Attacks. The OTN lounge will also be hosting RepAttack and CloneAttack where you can talk to experts and gain hands-on experience with replication and cloning on your own laptop.

I have always loved the OTN night parties and was a bit sad that there was none last year. Well, it is back on. Get your best geek on and join the party on monday night.

The now traditional OpenWorld bloggers meetup is going to happen once more on Wednesday evening, a perfect opportunity to meet fellow bloggers, authors and tweeps before the big party with Aerosmith on treasure island. Check out this video from last years event.

Navigating the session catalog has been a big challenge these past years because of the sheer volume and finding the content that you were interested in was a bit like chasing needles in a haystack. This year, there are focusOn … documents that feature a best-of list of sessions per area of interest. Check it out! Especially this list of all 149 sessions by Oracle ACEs.

And then there is also the Oak Table World right next door with even deeper technical sessions by some of the smartest people in the Oracle technical community. It’s free, it is only 1 minute from moscone and you should not miss it.

SPM and schema virtualization

I received a lot of feedback and a fair number of good questions on my session on SQL Plan Management for the Virtual Technology Summit. Some of the questions deserved additional research and a more detailed answer than I could give in the live Q&A and I hope I can add most if not all of these issues to this blog eventually. A lot of you have also asked for the slides and i uploaded the pdf here in case you have trouble pulling them from the event site. Here is the first one: Continue reading

OTN MENA tour final stop: Dubai, UAE

After a very relaxed day I followed the others virtually on their travel to Dubai. All but Osama were too tired to go out and opted for a quit night and early sleep. So after a quick run that left my soaked in sweat I met Osama for some catching up since I have not seen him since UKOUG Tech 13 back in december.

Dubai Marina at nightDubai is a very exciting destination. Two million people from all over the world are living in a rather compact space that has erupted from the desert in the past few decades. It has become the business hub of the golf region with many major banks and services companies occupying a stunning set of skyscrapers, all of which are overshadowed by the majestic Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building at 830 meters.

The event location was chosen wisely by Vishnu Vinnakota of prosec in the sizzling marina district at a very nice hotel which featured the largest projector screen I have had the honor of presenting on. There were no complaints of a too small font for some of the code examples this time.

We started with the proven Exadata performance expert panel which we have done at most of the stops before and all that practice made perfect, we even spiced things up a bit by letting someone else present “their” slides.

OTN MENA tour Dubai teamIt was the third time I saw Ed present his introduction to Big Data on this tour but he is so much fun to watch and the presentation flows so nicely that it still did not get boring for me.

Mike talked about IO performance and started with a review of how physical disc drives work and why they are limited to a maximum of 200-300 IOPS each. He then showed how this number can be increased by using RAID technology, compared this to modern flash based devices and showed ways how to benchmark and monitor the IO system. Great basic content that should be known by all DBAs.

speaking in dubaiAfter a lunch that had me go for seconds three times, I was scheduled to talk about flashback data archives. But I also had requests from the attendees to talk about SQL plan management and 12c new features. All three are full 45 to 60 minute presentations but I managed to get to the gist of each of them in about 15 minutes and was able to deliver all three topics.

Osama discussed high availability options for fusion middleware from self-written scripts to full blown cluster and provided many tricks to manage those things in the stack above the database that we dbas so often neglect and forget about.

I was excited to meet fellow ACE Director Joel Perez for the first time and he did not disappoint when he presented about how to upgrade from 11g single instance to 12c RAC with minimal downtime. In addition to this specific project there was also a lot of information about backup, restore and replication.

The final words once again belonged to Jim who wrapped it up in style while the rest of us once again admired his eloquence in speaking and presenting. Unfortunately, he had to cut his presentation short because we (the others) overran a bit on time which is a shame because I was very much looking forward to his examples on histograms. I saw him prepare the slides on the plane to Cairo and thought it was quite hilarious. I guess this will now premiere with another audience at another conference (and I will not give away what it is).

Overall, the tour was a huge success, especially given the fact that this was the first of its kind and these were all the first time we had done anything in these cities and did not really know what to expect. A big thank you to Tariq and Syed who masterminded this tour, the local event organizers who did their very best to provide the forum for us to present and reach out to the local users and of course to the Oracle Technology Network and ACE program for being the sponsor and enabling us do to this.

I very much hope that we can establish the tour as a solid event in the region and keep improving it year by year. I know that I and all of the other speakers would be proud and more than happy to be back again.

OTN MENA tour Stop 2: Saudi Arabia

As I am writing this I am just slowing down after very intense 36 hours in Riyadh, still in awe and slowly processing all the impressions I made here. We arrived at King Khalid airport at 9pm on Wednesday night but hat to test both our own and our generous hosts’ patience as we waited 4 hours in the immigration line. I was expecting that with a pre-approved visa (that process alone was another huge effort) this would be rather quick. Ironically, they are in the midst of upgrading their biometric database and are not able to run at full capacity right now.

OTN MENA tour 2014 RiyadhWith the late arrival we had to skip all dinner plans and were happy to fall into our hotel beds and sleep at least 4 hours until it was time again to get up for the event which was held in the conference center of a very nice hotel. And Esolutions, the local sponsor, together with the ARABOUG went out of their way and made a huge effort in organizing this. They had signage, a very nice stage, incredible arabic lunch and they used the intermissions to award to distinguished guests and raffle off a number of very nice prices among the more than 100 Oracle DBAs and professionals that showed up for this first of it’s kind event in Saudi Arabia. One of the VIPs that was awarded an award shared how he started his IT career as a junior DBA with one of Mike’s books. There was even a professional photographer and a TV crew to document the day.

OTN MENA tour Riyadh - Jim speakingAll presentations were spot-on and well received by a crowd that was hungry to expand their knowledge. HA and RAC seemed to be the topics of the biggest interest and we managed to cover a lot of ground, starting with the Exadata Tuning Expert Panel led by Tariq, my RAC management session, Mike, Inam and Jim talking about performance tuning and Syed and Ed rounding it all out with sessions on security and big data. In addition, I also enjoyed very much to chat with a great number of attendees and hopefully answered a number of very specific questions. One of the biggest pieces of advice I hope I could give is that if they enjoyed the event it is really up to the local oracle community to organize themselves and meet for informal roundtable-type events and share their knowledge rather than hoping and waiting for an OTN tour stop every year. With Syed and Inam Ullah Bukhari they already have at least two great local speakers there and I am sure there are more.

OTN MENA tour awardEverybody was very polite and I am sure I shook hands, said thanks and had my picture taken with every single attendee at least twice during the day. After many heartly good-byes it was time for us to go on a brief sightseeing tour of Riyadh. While it may have been brief, we still managed to see so very much of this wonderful city that is by no means a common tourist destination due to their very strict visa policies. Our hosts took us to the national museum Which showcased the history of the region from the creation of the universe to today and included impressive models of the holy mosques in Mecca and Medinah including the drape that covers the Kaaba. The museum was structured very concisely and was so huge that it was really a shame that we had to rush through it.

OTN MENA tour RiyadhThis was followed by a walk around of a nice park and what looked like the rebuild of old Riyadh with small alleys, open areas surrounded by palm trees and nicely decorated houses. We then had the chance to visit Kingdom Centre, Saudi Arabia’s highest building (until the Kingdom Tower in Jeddah is finished which should become the worlds tallest building), and zipped up the the 100th floor where you can enjoy magnificent views from a bridge that spans the two arches that give the tower a very distinct and unique appearance.

The night ended with a very generous dinner by the local sponsors and while the food satisfied the hunger, I wished the conversations would have gone on for another few days. But there was barely enough time for a very short two hour nap before at least Jim and I had to head out to the airport again which gave us the opportunity to see the sunrise. Tired but still excited, my mind was so preoccupied that I left my cell phone in the taxi but was able to get the driver’s number from the hotel and he turned around to return it. Just calling my own number did not even cross my mind until a few hours later.

The event in Jeddah was only scheduled for half a day, so I would not speak there and proceeded directly to Dubai. I was actually thankful for one day of rest on the beach. But I still followed the Jeddah event over the live stream and pictures on social media and it looks like that one was another success. Now I am waiting for the others including Joel and Osama to arrive in Dubai for the final event of the tour.