One of the biggest Oracle user conferences of the year -- Collaborate '06 -- kicks off later this month in Nashville. The conference, which this year represents the combined efforts of the Independent Oracle Users Group (IOUG), the Oracle Applications Users Group (OAUG) and the Quest International Users Group, promises to offer a comprehensive refresher on the newest technological advancements of interest to Oracle applications customers and database professionals.
Kaplan, who will be emceeing the event, has been involved with the Oracle community since 1992 when he worked for Oracle "as a firefighter on some of their implementations." After leaving that job he became an independent consultant and the co-author of several books on Oracle. Kaplan is also the founder and CEO of Expand Beyond Corp., a maker of mobile database management software.
What do you think will be the major themes or hot topics of discussion at this year's Collaborate show?
Ari Kaplan: On the database side, some of the hot topics this year are RAC [Real Application Clustering]; security, how you secure the database and encrypt information; and certainly we have strong PeopleSoft and Siebel special interest groups because with the recent acquisitions there is a lot of activity [around those companies].
What are the latest happenings in the area of RAC?
Kaplan: The first couple versions of RAC were fairly difficult to implement and get running correctly. There were a lot of command line type interfaces and it was just a challenge. But with Oracle 10g, it's orders of magnitude easier to install and configure. It's literally just a command or two to add a new node or remove a node. It's very streamlined and because of that the adoption of RAC is phenomenal – it's finally been hitting mainstream. A large percentage of companies, especially very large companies, are now actively pursuing RAC within the next year. That's a little bit of the reason why RAC has so much interest and at the conference we'll have RAC hands-on labs and University-type sessions, as well as our special interest group and just tons of content. We survey our members when they register and RAC is the number one item [of interest]. The buzz on the street is that RAC works very well today. A lot of companies see the value and finally are looking to actually go ahead with it.
Could you explain the values that these companies are seeing in RAC?
Kaplan: One of the big values is scalability. In the past you would have just one server pointing to the database and you know a server can only scale so much. Now you can have a cluster of multiple servers all accessing the same data. The benefit is that you can scale very nicely the number of concurrent users, transactions, etc. You can literally have hundreds or more physical servers all pointing to the disk.
The other advantage is high availability. In the past the server was the single point of failure. If the server crashed your application failed. But now if you have just two servers accessing the data and one goes down, your application is still up and the users can still connect.
The third is performance. If you have more servers, more processors, pointing to the data, you can process things quicker.
We've all heard stories over the past couple of years about companies losing sensitive customer data in various ways. Will we be hearing much about protecting customer data at Collaborate this year?
Kaplan: Yes. That is going to be one of the big ones. [You'll hear about] the Iron Mountains of the world, where you have tape back-ups being lost, to malicious hackers to internal employees exposing your data. In the past security was really about how do you manage passwords and give people select privileges to certain data, but now that certainly is not enough. [Malicious] DBAs in the past as an inside job could do pretty much whatever they wanted in the database and alter the audit trail to cover their tracks. But with new technology coming out with Oracle for example, there are these audit trail lockboxes so that not even the DBA can modify it. For Sarbanes-Oxley and other compliance issues, it's [a big deal].
The other big thing is encryption, with the government mandating that credit cards, social security and critical information be encrypted at the storage level.
The other part that is top of mind is that Oracle recently had a couple of acquisitions in the security space around single sign-on. That is somewhat new to the Oracle world and so DBAs and security people are looking to understand what is a single sign-on, how do I implement it and what are the benefits.
What will your role be at this year's show?
Kaplan: In my role as president I'll largely be emceeing the event so I'll be welcoming Charles Phillips, the president of Oracle, and [I'll be introducing] Judy Davis, head of alliances for Dell. We'll have town hall meetings to discuss the future of IOUG and get good feedback from our members. Also, I'll be moderating a panel on mobility and how mobile wireless is being adopted by wireless customers.
Is mobile wireless seeing wide adoption among Oracle users?
Kaplan: Yes. That is another big topic in there. There is the mobility where you're offline, which is the Oracle Lite/AvantGo type of solution. Then there is real time mobile software and that is certainly one of the other key growth areas of IT. Oracle has the technology to do it with Oracle Wireless and their application server which is now called Fusion middleware has a lot of technology to help enable companies to go wireless.
Can you give me an idea of exactly who makes up the membership of the IOUG?
Kaplan: People like the DBAs, the developers and we also have a large contingency for business intelligence (BI) and data warehousing as well as one level above: The tech managers, DBA managers, and the data center managers. We also do have a good contingency of executive managers. We have about 20,000 members in 130 countries.