OracleCode London 2017

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My colleague & boss Ace Director Luis Weir and I were invited to present at Thursday 20th’s Oracle Code London.

oracle_codeThe request to present came late as we where needed to cover someone who had to cancel (not that we aren’t grateful for the opportunity). This did mean getting the presentation together was a little bit of a scramble, unfortunately I missed a couple of sessions as I needed to assemble an environment, work out how I wanted to explain the point Luis’ slides where communicating as this was the first time presenting with Luis as a double act. Add to that address the day to day work demands.

Despite these challenges, I think the presentation went very smoothly (and we’re looking forward to receiving the feedback). The slides can be found here …

I did catch a few presentations, including the keynote by Adam Bien, Tim Hall‘s presentation on exposing databases using REST services, Lucas Jemella‘s microservices and eventing backbone and finally CQRS by Sebastian Daschner. All presentations  where all top notch, loaded with useful information.  I’ve been fortunate to see both Lucas and Tim presenting before so knew I would in for a really good presentations.  So if you ever want to know about Oracle DB stuff with practical honest insights I’d recommend looking Tim up.  Like wise in the middleware space for Lucas.

Seeing the presentations and different presenting styles was interesting. Those presenters with a Java Rockstar background vs those from an Oracle Ace background. The Java guys taking a very minimalist (if any) slides and all code / demo – but blink and you’ll miss it, where as the Ace community (of which I am fortunate enough to be a member) with slides that are often visually very strong and still supported by demos.

Whilst I’ve attended Oracle Open World, I’ve not yet seen the parrallel Java One conference in San Francisco. That said, the feel of the day’s event (and presumably the goal) is what I’d expect Java One to be like. I have in the past attended similar RedHat events, whilst the venue has a similar feel (not unsurprising as both have used SkillsMatter venues), what was different between the Oracle and RedHat events was that the atmosphere felt a lot friendlier and communial at Oracle Code. This maybe down in part to the fact that I know more of the people both Aces and Oracle employees, although that can’t be the only reason as when I was involved in the RedHat environment I had known senior people within the organisation and encountered presenters.

My last observation, more technical is the fact that JavaEE was mentioned a lot more than I’d expected, even those much maligned EJBs got a mention. Is JavaEE making a reassurgence?

So, if you get a chance to attend OracleCode – as an architect or developer I’d recommend that you take the opportunity. Whilst Devox maybe bigger with the really big name speakers, the day was both informative, engaging and rewarding.

25-04-17 UPDATE: Oracle have just made all the OracleCode London sessions available on YouTube here, and our session specifically here.

Journey to the Clouds with UKOUG

I recently along with several colleagues presented at the UKOUG event called Journey to the Cloud.  I thought I’d share the slides from the event. These reflect the genera technical strategic thinking and factors that need to be taken on board when adopting a cloud approach. Although these slides focus on an Oracle ecosystem, they could be easily adapted to any contentxt.

 

Innovators

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Recently I’ve given some time over to catching up on some reading. Which has included Walter Isaacson’s tremendous book Innovators. I picked this up  more because I liked Walter’s approach to the Steve Job’s biography. I thought this was going to be more focused on individuals and how they brought through new technology innovations. But actually it is a very good potted history of the development of modern computing.  Whilst I work in IT and thought I knew key contributors, from Babbage, Lovelace to von Neumann and Turing.  I was rather surprised at how many signficiant contributors I didnt know, or only vaguely aware of.  For example the work of Douglas Engelbart who pretty much lead the design for the mouse.  What about Vint Cerf who made key contributions to TCP/IP? Stephen Crocker who was responsible for the RFC that we all associate with the IETF now?

Not only is the history interesting, the book looks at the dynamics of innovation and how much innovation comes from the individuals working away on their own and having a eureka moment compared to that constant dialogue between people which sounding off each other lead to new ideas? The later is beautifully illustrated with the development of the transistor and the work of John Baarden and Walter Brattain. It’s interesting that as the history moves into the pre-internet era that more and more of advancements are a result of collective effort, but also recognised as such. I wonder whether that is because technologies made collaboration easier, or the effects of socio-cultural developments that meant people recognised the collaborative efforts?

I’d recommend this book to anyone who is interested in IT has developed or even just interested in the interplay of personalities and events such as World war II that influenced scientific advancement.

Building Microservices

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When I read a technical book from cover to cover I usually build a mind map so that I can use it as a memory jogger in the future if I need to return to get key points such as arguments or facts. With the ferstive break I have had time to finish reading Sam Newman’s Building Microservices. The following is a static image, but clicking on it can take you the dynamic site provided through WiseMapping, it does take a moment or two as the map is large (or click here).

microservices

Many of the points made in this excellent book are true to software design and development generally, but given a Microservices spin. For example, monitoring and security should be incorporated into any good design.

 

My experience writing a technical book

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We have just supplied our publisher with the final draft of the final chapter in our book about Oracle Integration Cloud Service (ICS). Before we get too chilled out waiting to see the printed article as Packt Sort out the final publishing I thought it might be helpful to share some observations from our experiences.

Let’s start with some background. I have been acting as a peer reviewer for Packt for some years now, and in fact Packt had approached me in the past to write a book, however I had declined their proposals as I didn’t want to write on a subject that people had already written about. So when I was introduced to ICS, this felt like a good subject to write a book on, certainly represents something that it is going to have a significant future and deserved a book to help people get beyond a basic user guide.

Choosing to write a book is not a small undertaking, so make sure you’re going to do this for the right reasons. Let’s be honest, very few books make much money. You have to be  lucky, writing a subject you know us going to be game changing (think Gang of Four and Thomas Erl) or have a definitive text on the next big thing that everyone will use. Publishers also run promotions, discounts and give aways, some more than others, but that will all eat into you share, not to mention unless you self publish or you’re a rock star author you will not see big percentage royalty rates coming your way.

So first steps, for us was to get a publisher on board, given it was an Oracle product I wanted to talk to Oracle Press (or here) first which is run by McGraw-Hill. They weren’t too sure about the idea, having not been successful with previous cloud books. So we went back to Packt, they do have Oracle based books, and I had a relationship there.

With some initial positive feedback, I needed to get things moving. Thinking through this I concluded that the entire book alone could be a lot of very hard graft when working with a new product and I didn’t have the access to the same level of resources working for a customer organisation as you can with an Oracle partner company. So I needed a co-author who was involved with ICS, and ideally working for an Oracle partner. I had seen Robert van Mölken blogging about ICS, and working for AMIS suggested he would be a very capable person, not to mention AMIS is a respected partner. Robert has shown himself to be more than capable, and getting him signed up to the idea was a good call.

Next, was to start properly developing the idea, which means chapters, subheadings, and  book introduction.  Very quickly the chapters and subsections where finalised, along with our approach to the examples. I was very keen that the examples where routed in plausible scenarios and that would help the ideas without getting caught up explaining the detail.  Not to mention the examples should feel less superficial. Additionally, we have recognised that a book about a cloud solution means that things will move far faster than something that is deployed on-premises, so how we approach this book needs to hold true and relevant even if there are new features and aesthetic changes for a good while.

We divided the work up between us, I think Robert in hindsight took on the more troublesome chapters, in so far needing to understand more social APIs. So when plotting out the division of work, also think about the technical challenges you might have and need to explain. Whilst you won’t have this in perhaps a ‘hello world’ level of functionality when you past this effort builds up, if you’re working on a cookbook it may we’ll be an important factor.

Our original goal had been to publish in time for Open World. But the realities of a job, both of us being active with events such as user groups meant these things would eat into the available writing time as demos, presentations would also need to be written. We also uncovered a couple of bugs that delayed things, both in waiting for the patch, but also confirming that what we where seeing was a bug, and not an issue of understanding.

In hindsight I think perhaps we should have done more work during the planning to  build the example scenarios. There is no doubt that planning before actually writing makes a significant difference. It would have given us more time in working through the questions and challenges. The risk would have been that it would have been a lot longer before we actually produced some content, and there is certainly something psychological about getting those initial chapters written.

1905356542-video-conferencing-webmarketing-inner-blog-umr8sp-clipartDuring the core writing phase Robert and I would gave weekly call to catchup, it meant that we could discuss the chapter scenarios, details, and assumptions that meant we were aligned. Whilst not necessary, and this could be done be email, a short conversation was a lot easier and it helped keep focus. Not to mention probably reduced the differences in writing that can occur with different authors.

When comes to the writing itself I found the clearer my thinking was on the specific  points I wanted to convey the easier the writing became and the writing of the chapter just flowed. The question I still haven’t really answered in my own mind is whether I should have been a lot more attentive to the formatting the publishers wanted us to adopt, applying it retrospectively took a couple of passes as you would spot something that had omitted the correct style. But diligently applying the right styles would have been disruptive to the writing style.

153493174We found that most chapters overran the page count by about 10%-15% the publisher was pretty cool about this – they definitely agreed a good book over a book that was edited to a specific length was most important. We can put the over run down largely to the fact we didn’t allow for the formatting of the page, which meant more white space that we had anticipated, plus in the drafts we needed to put additional publication notes in such as references to the images being used. It is worth looking at this before finalising your chapter lengths.

The last thing we did during the writing of the 1st drafts was reviewing each other’s work before submitting the chapters. This probably helped a lot in so far as Robert would often pickup on issues with my screenshots and I would tend to finesse wording – when you write in a more conversational style those little quirks of speaking can come through.

thumb_colourbox10196464Completing all the chapters in 1st draft felt pretty satisfying, and certainly a morale boost as we had overrun our original estimates, as it meant we where we we’re well over 50% complete, probably nearer to 75% complete in terms of effort. In the contract with Packt this was also the 1st milestone for the advance, which is a long way into the process and the payment has yet to be received. Some of this delay has been organisational, but things don’t happen quickly on that front.

Before we started the project one of the Oracle Ace Directors we knew provided some observations, suggesting that each page will probably take a couple of hours to write. I have to admit to being a little sceptical of this as it would mean roughly a year of writing every evening for both of us if you look at it from an elapsed time it isn’t so far from the truth. If you look at the actual effort, those weeks where I was just working on the book rather than presentations or work demands. I think it would have been fair to suggest about 8-12 hours of effort went into the book each week which is about 450 pages in length. In the end I think we probably where writing at twice that speed if you measure effort from 1st to last draft.

Colorful letters background. 3d rendered illustrationSecond draft is about addressing the review feedback from the peer reviewers. For us that was pretty straight forward,the feedback we received was very positive and making suggestions on how to improve things. As we wrote about a cloud product that is developing and improving quickly we needed to double check the screens hadn’t changed. We did see 1 challenge in the reviewing.  We wrote the Preface to help provide context to the book, but I didn’t get sent before the 1st chapters went to review some comments as a result perhaps weren’t so intune with the books underpinning goals.  Should the reviewer need to have had the preface first, debatable. We took advantage of this lesson, to reduce the dependency on having read the preface.

Most changes where about fixing formatting, then adding a couple of additional screenshots and some clarifying text. Each chapter probably only needed 1 additional paragraph per chapter. So working through this was pretty quick. Then it has been over to the publisher to finishing things off and assemble the book.

Going forward, we will continue to write additional material, initially for the blog (oracle-integration.cloud) but we are exploring the idea of a living book where the book version will undergo quarterly updates. But time will tell as to whether this makes a difference.

The book can be found at:

UKOUG Tech16 Presentation Slides, Apex & Oracle Cloud

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My presentation for UKOUG Tech 16 can be seen by following the link – Introduction to SOA CS. or see below   It was a tremendous 4 days (if you include the Tech stream’s Super Sunday).  If you are a UKOUG member and didn’t make it to the conference I’d look out for the material to be become available.

Whilst I’m not a big Apex fan (stitching business logic into the persistence layer feels wrong to a middleware person), i did attend the keynote session which covered Apex’s history and future direction, and there are some very exiciting things coming and if everything materialises as I understand it then some big steps to getting developers engaged with Oracle cloud offerings.

Oracle has done a lot of work on the middleware layer with apps container (using common Docker configurations without needing to worry about Docker), Kafka, Node.js and others to engage developers and provide the means to offer a polyglot microservices platform that is not just attractive to  the traditional Oracle customer base but also those wanting the middle ground of supported open source. What Oracle are missing is the means to get developers trying the technology and being creative with it. Amazon and Red Hat have got this by offering limited footprints for a long time. Oracle offer 30 day trials which is fine to do a project sponsored PoC. But to hook grass roots users you need a lengthy period where people in spare time can built some cool/geeky solutions.

Now this maybe down to the fact that Oracle cloud is built on their Exa machines with clever on silicon security features, and Oracle can’t manufacture it quick enough. Whereas other cloud providers work with largely commodity components. But if they want to challenge Amazon as Ellison says they need to change this.

 

UKOUG Oracle Scene – Another Article Published

The latest edition of the UK Oracle User Group (UKOUG) Oracle Scene Journal is out now with another article from me, in addition to some great content from other contributors. This article builds upon and updates an article previously published in the Oracle Apps User Group about 18 months ago. We updated and republished as part of the run up to the UKOUG special Event in March next year which will be fully announced at the conference in a couple of weeks. You can see it here Oracle Scene Edition 62 – Journey to the Cloud

 

 

OTN Appreciation Day : OMCS Push Listeners

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The background to this post, and the OTN Appreciation Day can be seen at Oracle-Base.

Oracle Messaging Cloud Service (OMCS) is I think an overlooked gem of Oracle iPaaS portfolio.  I say this as it offers a JMS 1.1 compliant Java library but at the same time provides a means through which integration through REST APIs can be performed.  This means it is possible to pretty transparently connect legacy JMS based integrations with new REST based products.  The magic sauce (and therefore my favourite feature) is the concept of the Push Listener. Through the REST API it is possible to register a REST URL as a target for queues and topics to have messages sent to. Once registered when a message appears on the queue or topic it will get passed on as a REST call. Whilst is is possible to do with with a little bit of Java code. the Push Listener simplifies the job to a REST call with a bit of XML configuration.

There is one small challenge that makes the integration completely transparent to the recipient of the PushListener today, and that is it currently demands that authentication process take place on initial contact. This is not a complicated or challenging thing to address, but does require a tiny bit of code to address.