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As the Collaborate 18 conference approaches, it finds an Oracle user community experiencing a bit more than the usual level of technology changes.
This edition of the annual conference staged by the Independent Oracle Users Group (IOUG), Oracle Applications Users Group (OAUG) and Quest International Users Group can be viewed as an important showcase for Oracle cloud database adoption, as well as the technology vendor's myriad other cloud efforts.
As a conference, Collaborate takes a different tack than Oracle OpenWorld, Oracle's own event held later in the year. No startlingly orchestrated new product previews are expected at Collaborate 18, which takes place from April 22 to 26 in Las Vegas. In fact, it is as much about what the cloud means to the careers of IT professionals as it is about Oracle technology plans.
The user groups are the three pillars of Collaborate. For the IOUG, the focus is the Oracle database. The OAUG and Quest concentrate on the business applications side of IT, with the former group focused on products such as Oracle's E-Business Suite software and the latter one largely dedicated to the JD Edwards and PeopleSoft software that Oracle acquired in 2004. Each group finds itself affected by cloud.
"We all see cloud coming. What we are looking for is our own personal journey to the cloud," said Christine Hipp, the OAUG's president. Hipp, who is an IT manager at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, emphasized that users of Oracle's big business applications suites must continue to update those applications while they simultaneously chart plans for the cloud.
Sessions at the conference cater to both needs, she said, while also including other emerging topics, such as compliance with the European Union's General Data Protection Regulation, which goes into enforcement next month.
"Cloud applications are a great thing. They create opportunities for our members to see how they can supplement their current Oracle applications," said Quest CEO Jon Vaughn. "This is not just a trend. It's not going away."
Vaughn, a professional administrator at Quest, said its portion of Collaborate 18 is especially tailored for the different stages at which users find themselves. After several years in which cloud activity has ramped up, he said, many attendees are now on a spectrum of investigating, implementing or optimizing cloud deployments.
More automation in Oracle databases
For his part, Troy Ligon, the IOUG's director of event program management, said he sees tremendous changes underway in Oracle database management techniques. While the availability of new Oracle cloud database services is a major impetus for those changes, they also arise due to a general evolution in the types of problems data professionals are asked to solve, he said.
Ligon's own career may form something of a template. As director of technical architecture at American Express, he said it's part of his job these days to see that database work is "a little smarter" and that the company's IT workers are "all pulling in the same direction." Ligon said he makes sure to get hands-on experience with new technologies, but said he also finds the time to focus on planning and "upstream value."
The types of automation that cloud computing brings to database administration aren't limited to the cloud, Ligon added.
Christine Hipppresident of OAUG
"We're seeing it on premises, too," he said. "There's a focus on eliminating repetitive effort. That is the nature of the beast." As people experience more automation with Oracle database instances in their data centers, they will get more comfortable with it on the cloud, he suggested.
Ligon pointed to extended hands-on labs at Collaborate 18 designed to help people get up to speed on the cloud. Other Oracle cloud database sessions include a look at what the company's new Autonomous Data Warehouse service on the cloud means to database administrators (DBAs) who are used to taking a more direct role in setting up and tuning databases. That's led by John King, a partner at King Training Resources in Scottsdale, Ariz.
Meanwhile, Erik Benner, an enterprise architect at consulting services provider Mythics Inc. in Virginia Beach, Va., will discuss the evolution of the DBA role to being a steward of the data as technology such as the autonomous Oracle cloud database becomes more commonly used.
In a similar vein, a panel session called "The 18c Database and the Oracle Autonomous Database" will discuss Oracle's latest database advances and what they mean to DBAs and database developers.
Looking beyond the database
There is much more; a look at the agenda shows conference cloud coverage is extensive. Included are sessions on Oracle's cloud services for ERP, HR, customer experience management and other applications. Even a full-day, hands-on workshop on setting up and configuring the Amazon Relational Database Service for Oracle is on tap.
Much of the value of conferences such as Collaborate is in the technical sessions. This one will be closely watched, as many viewers see data center growth in decline and cloud as the future of computing. But, as important as technical session content is, what is even more important is the networking with colleagues that attendees experience at the event, Hipp said.
"Everybody has a different way of learning, but I don't think there is any replacement for interaction. It's one of the things about Collaborate that sets it apart," she said. "You meet with other users, and you get real-world, unbiased points of view."