IOUG's John Matelski Makes the Case for the Engineered Systems

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The IOUG's John Matelski talks about the importance of two-way communication between IOUG members and Oracle, and why members should take a closer look at the Exa stack.

At OpenWorld, Oracle's annual conference for customers and partners,  John Matelski, president of the IOUG, and CIO for Dekalb County, Georgia, gave his perspective on the key takeaways from this year's event. Matelski also described the user group's efforts to help the community understand the value of Oracle's engineered systems and deal with the broad implications of big data, and how the IOUG is supporting Oracle DBAs in their evolving roles.

What are the salient messages you are have been hearing from Oracle?

Matelski: After Mark Hurd’s Monday morning keynote, the user group presidents had an opportunity to meet with him.  He talked about four key areas of focus in the upcoming year and their need for help from the user groups in getting that message out. The first is that Oracle is really focused on having best-of-breed at every level of the stack. The second is integrating best-of-breed parts through the Exa strategy and leveraging their engineered systems to do that, and that even if it is a best of breed product that is not from Oracle it will still work within the "red stack framework." Third is getting Fusion cloud applications out to market and that is a big focus and whether it is going to be through Oracle Cloud, a private cloud, or on-premise it is up to the consumer.  And fourth is that Oracle is making an investment in all industries to see how they can best solve the challenges, global and specific industry challenges. Although he didn’t say this in the keynote, he also said that Oracle is investing $5 billion in terms of R & D.

There were some key new product announcements - including the new Exadata X3 and the Oracle Database 12c - described in Larry Ellison’s and Mark Hurd’s keynotes.

Matelski: Speed is a key feature in the new Exadata. There is much better performance. And the Oracle 12c container database is exciting. It is not coming out until some time in 2013 but that is an interesting concept and the redaction of data for security purposes is important. In the public sector, redaction is a huge issue. There are many governments including DeKalb County, Georgia which is where I work, where any data that is captured, even if we were not the initial owner, technically could become public data and so helping to automate redaction with the volumes of data that we are now talking about, would be very helpful.

How are the engineered systems being received?

Matelski: The concept is being well received but because of the economy, and because IT budgets typically are actually being decreased rather than increased, and even if they are being increased it is just 1%, 2% or 3% increases -  many organizations and agencies are considering and are making decisions based on whether they will be able to recoup their investment by the end of their current budget cycle.  But the reality is that with the large investment that they would make in an Exadata box or an Exa solution, quite frankly, they are not going to get that return on investment within that budget cycle so I think in many industries they are taking a wait and see attitude

The good news is that Oracle is evolving down the path where they are making things easier with the Exa boxes. But on the other hand because their products have been pretty good already, people are also saying to themselves: Why should I make that leap now – and asking themselves would it be better if a query that is taking 10 seconds now takes me a second? The answer is yes, but in the big of scheme of things, 10 seconds may not be that big of a deal. It really depends on what kind of business requirement you have.

What needs to happen?

Matelski: The current challenge for Oracle is to get the message out so that people really understand the technology and understand the value. They need to look at this as a long-term solution both financially and functionally, but more importantly in this discussion, recognize that financially, this is a long-term investment not a short-term solution.

This is where IOUG can help by working in alignment with Oracle to get a better understanding of their overall Exa strategy and develop some programs and educational track around it. As we look toward our COLLABORATE conference in April 2013, we are planning to enhance our education. We have just come out with an Exadata Tips and Best Practices Booklet which conveys IOUG volunteer editor picks of seven indispensable items to share with the community. We will also host some regional events and are dedicating a curriculum or a path at COLLABORATE to the Exa stack.  We also have created an Oracle Exadata SIG which already has approximately 5,500 participants. We recognize that because most of our members are technical and not the apps folks, we have the most people that would have an interest in this and therefore we feel obligated to work with Oracle to ensure that accurate, relevant information is disseminated to our community.

The IOUG believes it is a valid approach.

Matelski: Absolutely. The biggest issue for most organizations is that they may not have the expertise in-house to do a full TCO and ROI evaluation of Exa solutions and they are not looking at how much it will save in terms of functional areas and staff resources. Because everything is now going to be confined to one solution, this minimizes expenses on internal support as well as functional support.

This is the challenge – how to get people to understand the value and look at it as 5-year investment and not a 1-year snapshot.

From a technology solution perspective, 1 year is typically a tactical investment and anything over that, typically 3 to 5 years, should be evaluated from a much more strategic perspective. Oracle’s solution focus is clearly strategic, which poses a challenge – how to help people place a value on it and look at it as more of a strategic investment.

How is the IOUG planning to support DBAs in the year ahead? 

Matelski: Although a majority of our members are DBAs, we look at the needs of our community more holistically in terms of the business issues that we can help solve. Most of what we do - whether it is at our conferences or through our content - has an educational focus.  We want to make sure we have the tools to help folks stay current with new releases and help them deploy the best technology and applications that support their business objectives. Ultimately, it is about helping them to reduce the total cost of ownership of what they have within their total Oracle ecosystem as well as making sure that any new product that would help complement their environment also will provide the return on investment they need.

How is the IOUG’s mission evolving?

Matelski:  We are there to help members make choices. In some senses, Google and social media sources are our biggest competitors. For example, people will want to find out information related to 12c.  If they try to rely on searching internet resources, they will find a good deal of information. Some might be good, some might be opinionated and some might just be wrong.

Our goal is to provide data that is validated by customer members or vendor partners within the Oracle network. Before we publish something, we make sure that the information is correct. People may ask why should I join a user group. The benefit we offer is that we can filter out the incorrect information. Also because we are independent, we are not out there shilling for Oracle. At the end of the day, we are partners. We are trying to make sure that we are getting the best information that is available. We also provide a two-way mechanism for advocacy. We are out there sharing information that Oracle wants to get out to the community, but also provide customer feedback that is “many-to-one” to vet issues and bundle the information, and ship it back to Oracle to say: This is what the community has found, or is thinking. In addition, quite honestly, because DBAs make up our core membership, we want to make sure that the information and resources we provide are very technical in nature. It is important to note, though the majority of our community consists of DBAs, we have members that are across all levels and functions of an organization - So yes, we have got information that we can provide for CIOs and functional business folks as well!

Has that DBA role changed?

Matelski:  One of the big issues we are focused on now is this whole concept of the data scientist and whether the role of the DBA will evolve or whether there will be a separate path that a person would take to become a data scientist. 

Right now, most of that research is at its inception but we think the reality is that it is going to be both. There are going to be those DBAs that only want to manage and manipulate the data, and there will be other DBAs that have more of an analyst focus on the business need and use data to get answers to whatever the business questions might be. We are looking at this in an effort to provide DBAs and other members with an understanding about how their job is or may evolve as we move into the world of big data.

What is ahead for the IOUG in terms of events?

MatelskiWe are working with Oracle to host some regional events, and may also put together our own regional events as need dictates. Our key areas of focus are performance and scalability, high availability, storage, data warehousing, business intelligence, and cloud computing. Those are the broad-based topics that we are focused on and from Oracle’s standpoint, those all funnel up through the Exa strategy. Of course our annual COLLABORATE conference is also coming up.  COLLABORATE 2013 will be hosted in Denver the week of April 7th.

Is IOUG continuing to focus on online learning?

MatelskiAs part of COLLABORATE, IOUG provides a virtual offering, with over 200 folks attending virtually, during COLLABORATE 2012.  Though the economy has impacted attendance and membership across all user groups, attendance at COLLABORATE has been flat or just slightly down.  From an IOUG perspective we have been happy with our attendance, and anticipate a slight uptick for COLLABORATE 2013.

What is ahead for the next COLLABORATE conference?

MatelskiWhen we go into Denver that will be the kick-off event of the IOUG’s 20th anniversary celebration.  We are already starting to work on a video featuring past IOUG presidents and key volunteers, who have helped foster the growth of the IOUG.

Celebrating our 20th anniversary in Denver is going to be exciting!  For JD Edwards and PeopleSoft customers, Denver is like a homecoming week because that is where the JD Edwards facilities are, as well as a lot of the PeopleSoft support teams.

Though the economy has created challenges, it can actually help us in the long term because when times are leaner and money is tighter, people are looking for ways to get reliable and relevant information in the most cost effective manner as possible. And that, in and of itself is what the IOUG is all about.  We have developed what we refer to as our "GREAT" strategy which is focused on Growing the community, Relevancy of information, Educational focus, building Alliances and all focused on leveraging Technology.