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Marcel Proust had his memoir—“Remembrance of Things Past”—to re-live all that had gone before. The entire novel was accompanied by a stream of memories from the still-rather-young author, who has been snacking on madeleine cookies and drinking café au lait. It is a work of seven volumes, with many hundreds of characters appearing throughout—a march through space and time. As Oracle OpenWorld (OOW) opens at San Francisco’s Moscone Convention Center next week, I am remembering what happened back in 1997, when OOW began—and thinking about OOWs “past, present and future.”
That year of 1997, nearly 20 years ago, saw the beginning of the current conference series, which expanded beyond the original International Oracle Users Group conference (IOUG). Although IOUG lives on and takes place on the weekend preceding the conference itself, it is worth remembering that this was primarily a users’ group meeting with only a few thousand attendees. This same conference has now been surrounded by one of the world’s largest industry events—with more than 60,000 people expected to attend OOW 2014. Some memorable moments stand out in OOW history: the Wednesday night concerts on Treasure Island (Aerosmith, Sting); the time Ellison beamed his keynote talk into the Moscone from New Zealand; and last year’s America’s Cup events during OOW week.
Masses flock to the 2013 keynote – Image courtesy Oracle PR
The conferences have changed, over time. The events have gotten bigger, literally taking over city streets in the vicinity of the convention center and filling up hotels all over the San Francisco Bay Area. What once were small breakouts with 50-100 people now have many hundreds of people listening in (and this year will have over 2,500 sessions!). What began with tips-and-techniques for tuning databases and applications has become a discussion about platforms—such as Oracle’s engineered systems, where Oracle does the tuning and optimizing with your on-premise Oracle equipment, or delivery of the data service over Oracle’s cloud infrastructure (e.g., including software as a service (SaaS), platform as a service (PaaS) and disaster recovery as a service (DRaaS).
The transformation of San Francisco’s cityscape in preparation for the event, stretches in all directions. For OOW, many of the city’s largest hotels have space that is dedicated to an Oracle theme or product set – Java, PeopleSoft, Oracle Financials. OOW events reach all the way to Union Square, a mile away where red banners show Oracle’s logo flying beneath the square’s palm trees. This extension of the conference’s perimeter was made necessary to hold product-specific breakouts, focusing on ERP, CRM and other types of applications software—and Java. When Oracle acquired Sun Microsystems, it brought Sun’s JavaOne — once a separate conference —into the OOW event.
How To Navigate Your Way in This Year’s Conference
So, what is the best way to deal with the challenge of getting the most out of this huge conference? Can you really see all the parts of this annual spectacle? Here are some of the key points to remember and personal tips to help guide your week-long walkabout of OOW:
- Where it started – IOUG: First, see IOUG on the weekend, if you can. IOUG reminds us of the business users, the enterprise users, at the heart of the conference. The focus is on users, their expectations and business needs, and not on the ecosystem that’s grown up around the Oracle portfolio of products. These users have IT challenges, and pain-points in their infrastructure – and they come to San Francisco looking for answers, tips and techniques, that will help them on their next wave of Oracle deployments
- The Sunday night keynote: What’s the theme? Oracle co-founder Larry Ellison, who has changed his role at the company from CEO for 27 years, to a new dual role as CTO and executive chairman, is scheduled to speak on Sunday night, from 5 to 7 PM—and on Tuesday from 1:30 PM to 3:15 PM. Those are his customary speaking time-slots, just as they have been for years at OOW, where he previews the OOW major announcements. This year, Larry Ellison will be focused on his role as one of the top technology executives, as the firm’s software and hardware products evolve in the age of the cloud. That’s important because the company’s revenue streams, which began as paid licenses only, are shifting more heavily into cloud services. What’s he likely to talk about? It’s a safe bet he’ll be discussing the company’s flagship database product, Oracle Database 12c. It’s going to take a bit of doing to flip the business model more in the direction of cloud computing. Fortunately, Oracle Database 12c was designed to support cloud computing, virtualization, and isolation of workloads for high availability. He’s also likely to speak about Oracle’s engineered systems, which combine hardware and software engineering into a unified technology stack.
- See the Industry’s Movers and Shakers: Large companies that are partners of Oracle, are no strangers to the “main tent” keynotes. In most years, Michael Dell and other CEOs have spoken from the main stage – as have top Oracle executives. In the wake of recent management changes, the keynotes of co-CEOs Mark Hurd and Safra Catz are likely to generate news in the media, no matter what they speak about – and this event is a stage for some of the industry’s biggest the movers and shakers.
- Map your SIGs in the hotels: This is a very useful way to tour Oracle OpenWorld. After the keynotes, there are many breakouts – many of them sorted by hotel and by theme. You may have to board one of the shuttle buses to reach your sessions on time given the distances. So I suggest you take some time to find out which topics are most aligned with your enterprise workloads, and figure out how to get to the right hotel in time.
- Lunch for the masses with customers on the lawn: This is most often a pastoral scene: Behind the Moscone North conference center, the Yerba Buena gardens provide an expansive lawn, benches, and a fountain/waterfall as the background for the OOW-provided lunch, associated with conference registration. So even amid all the indoor activities, keynotes and discussions you don’t want to miss, make sure to step out for some fresh air, and if you’re lucky you may catch a rock band playing in the park during lunchtime, or after-hours.
- Coffee Breaks – where business happens: This is perhaps the best way to network—and to get guidance from other attendees about the best OOW sessions. You’ll never be able to get to all of the breakouts—so speaking with fellow attendees is a good way to winnow down your choices to a manageable number and the best way to find out about great information that’s not printed in the schedule.
- Trail along the megatrends affecting the data center: This year, many of the talks will likely center on the megatrends of Big Data/Analytics, Cloud Computing, Social Media and Mobility. It’s only fair for me to note that all of these megatrends are forcing change in the servers and storage that support the workloads. When flash storage is leveraged inside-the-box to accelerate workloads, applications and databases will see dramatic performance benefits, so it’s also no wonder that SanDisk® will be there with a huge presence showcasing a breadth of enterprise flash solutions to accelerate Oracle workloads.
- Sport shoes: Expect to walk huge distances, stand for long hours, and hurry to your next session. My best advice as you prepare for OOW – pack some comfortable shoes!
Back to the Future
How will Oracle OpenWorld change in the future? It will always be a meeting place, an annual reunion for longtime Oracle users, and a place to listen to hints about next-year’s directions for the company – and the industry. Because it mirrors the company, and its executives, it’s safe to say that OOW will remain a week-long opportunity to get “re-charged” on Oracle technology, while sipping San Francisco coffee.
After all, one must pace oneself during the five days of intensive discussions. And it’s just possible that the local Starbucks’ (there are three of them in the immediate vicinity of the Moscone Center) will have, some madeleine cookies to snack on.
Follow me on Twitter @jbozman for live tweets from OOW – I look forward to seeing you there!