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Floyd Teter

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Watching the current trends and future direction of Oracle's Applicationsfteter
Updated: 21 hours 37 min ago

Oracle and Docker

Tue, 2015-04-21 16:14
So, as many of you know, I've been working out different ways to host my Oracle labs and demos instances without chewing up phenomenal amounts of disk space and processing power.  Lately, I've been diving into Docker.

Docker has turned out to be pretty cool and very easy to learn.  And it's lightweight.  The idea is that you run containers - your app, your operating system, and your virtual machine - bundled together in a single container.  The big win is that containers abstract the operating kernel, so the total overhead of all the container is much, much less than the sum of the parts.

I'm still digging in, so I'll keep you posted as I progress.  But it looks pretty promising in terms of fulfilling my non-production needs.  One example...

I downloaded and installed the Oracle XE database...with APEX...from scratch in about 22 minutes earlier today.  All done with Docker (and because I run OS X, I also use boot2docker).

Game. Set. Match.  Pretty easy.  Run fast.  Low overhead.  You may want to check it out.

Good News On The EBS Front

Mon, 2015-04-13 16:27
Most people who know me professionally know about my enthusiasm for enterprise applications delivered via the SaaS model.  In terms of adoption and agility, SaaS is a winner.  But, at the same time, I also recognized that SaaS is not for everybody.  Those who customize heavily and those who want to retain a higher level of control are probably better off with on-premise enterprise applications.

So I was happy to hear about Cliff Godwin, Oracle's Sr. VP of Applications Technology over the E-Business Suite, laying out a roadmap for the future of the E-Business Suite at the Collaborate 2015 conference.  Not only did Mr. Godwin lay out plans for more incremental releases of EBS 12.2.x, he also shared the news about a future 12.3 release.  One of the primary intents of the 12.3 release will be to take further advantage of in-memory technology.

I'm an EBS fan.  Rock solid database model.  Recently improved user experience.  Delivers high operational efficiency.  So I'm happy to hear that EBS will continue to evolve.

NOTE:  I'm not at Collaborate 15...wish I was, but I'm big thanks to dear friend Karen Brownfield for clueing me in on the news.


Sun, 2015-04-05 14:48
They say that these are not the best of times
But they're the only times I've ever known
And I believe there is a time for meditation
In cathedrals of our own

Now I have seen that sad surrender in my mother's eyes
I can only stand apart and sympathize
For we are always what our situations hand us
Its either sadness or euphoria

                          -- From Billy Joel's "Summer, Highland Falls"

In working with Oracle customers every day, I'm seeing a common thread running through many internal IT departments:  Nephophobia.  That's right, fear of clouds.  In this case, I'm talking fear of clouds from a technology perspective (I'm admittedly having a bit of fun here and mean no offense to anyone with a true fear of clouds).

The fear shows up through either resistance or an avalanche of "what if" or "what about" questioning.  I suspect that the cause of that fear is rooted in the fear of change, as in "what happens to my job"?  So this post is for all those folks in all those internal IT departments faced with moving to the cloud, whether it be SaaS, PaaS, Hybrid, or whatever.

You are spot on in recognizing that your world is changing.  All the things you've spent your time doing - patches, upgrades, general maintenance - they're all going away.  The cloud vendor will be taking over that work as part of the service to which your institution will subscribe.  But, as those tasks disappear, new opportunities arise.  Some examples:

Network administration:  because your users are interacting with off-location servers, the performance of your own internal network becomes even more critical in a move to the cloud.

Integration:  as much as the major enterprise application vendors would like you to stick with one platform, odds are you won't.  You'll probably mix two or more vendors plus some in-house applications.  Getting all these apps to talk to each other is critical.

Development:  one of the keys for enterprise application cloud vendors is that, in order to scale (and thus make money, because cloud services are a volume business), the business processes have to be pretty basic so they can be easily shared across multiple industries.  If you work with an institution that has unique transactional and/or reporting needs (I see this frequently with public sector organizations), there will be some custom development involved.  Extensions, bolt-on applications, unique reporting...all will live on to some extent, although probably not as much as you've seen in the past.

Mobile:  everyone wants mobile and the cloud provides a great platform for delivering mobile applications.  So all those things about network administration, integration and development?  They apply here as well...maybe even more so.

All this discussion notwithstanding, let's get to the root of it:  this type of change can threaten your job.  It's scary.  So what do you do?  Update your skills to stay relevant.  The key to making a living in IT over the long-term is to be continually learning new things.  If you don't make the investment on your own, you'll find yourself on the outside looking in.  So do it.  Dig into this cloud thing.  Learn the technical underpinnings.  Figure out where you and your IT department can you add value?  And feel the fear go away.

HEUG Alliance 15 - What Looks Good To Me

Fri, 2015-03-13 10:59
The Higher Education User Group's Alliance 15 software conference kicks off this Sunday, March 15, in Nashville, Tennessee.  You're going, right?

I'm flying early this weekend myself.  Just have a few conference things to do to get ready for my little role in this big Oracle user group conference.

Looks to be a great conference.  I'm personally planning to dive into five areas of focus:  

  1. increasing my depth of understanding about customers and processes in Higher Education; 
  2. learning and evangelizing about Oracle Cloud Application services within Higher Education; 
  3. joining the discussion around Oracle's PeopleSoft Campus Solutions Self Service Mobile (especially the new 5.0 release) and the Oracle Mobile Applications Framework; 
  4. learning more about the application of User Experience design patterns, guidelines and the like to the unique set of use cases presented within Higher Education; 
  5. getting updated with the latest news on Oracle's roadmaps for their various Higher Education products.

I suspect that an underlying theme about the need for higher levels of successful student engagement will encompass all five of these focus areas in one way or another.

I'll be presenting a few sessions of my own...special sessions not found in the Alliance Agenda Builder.  They're all in the Delta Island C room at the Gaylord Hotel and I can promise they'll be absolutely brilliant ;)

  1. Taleo Cloud Demo: Tuesday, March 17 12 noon-1 p.m.
  2. Financials Cloud Demo: Tuesday March 17, 2:00-3:00 p.m.
  3. HCM Cloud Demo: Wednesday, March 18, 7:45-8:45 a.m.

So, other than those sessions where I'm presenting, I looked over the catalog of sessions with my three areas of focus in mind. What follows is a list of the sessions that look good to me. I didn't include session times or locations, as you can get to those details via the Agenda Builder.  If you do look up my list, you'll see there are time conflicts involved - a sign of a good conference is that you have to make difficult choices about how to spend your time - so you won't be able to catch all of these sessions...these are just the sessions that piqued my interest.  Maybe you'll be interested too?

So that's what looks good to me at Alliance 15.  Let me know what looks good to you if you're going, and let me know how it really turned out for you after the those comments!

Nashville Cat

Thu, 2015-03-12 12:38
Nashville cats, play clean as country water
Nashville cats, play wild as mountain dew
Nashville cats, been playin' since they's babies
Nashville cats, get work before they're two
            - From the Lovin' Spoonful's Nashville Cats

I'm heading out to HEUG's Alliance this weekend.  Gonna be a Nashville Cat for a few days.  My big job is to host three workshop/demo sessions on Oracle Cloud Applications, all in Room Delta Island C at the Gaylord Hotel:
1.    Taleo Cloud Demo: Tuesday, March 17 12 noon-1 p.m.

2.     Financials Cloud Demo: Tuesday March 17, 2:00-3:00 p.m.

3.     HCM Cloud Demo: Wednesday, March 18, 7:45-8:45 a.m.
Almost everything will be "live drive", so you'll get some relief fromPowerPoint slides ;)  These are sponsored sessions (Thank you, Sierra Cedar), so you won't find them on the Alliance schedule.  Some of those special conference sessions that only get heard about by word of mouth or from some big-mouth blogger.

You want the straight scoop on Oracle's Cloud Applications, do come by so we can chat for a bit.
I'll also be in some private customers sessions, attending a few sessions, shaking hands and kissing babies.  So if you really have to miss all the workshops, track me down so we can talk.

The Best Thing

Thu, 2015-03-12 09:33
I'm spending the latter part of my week at the Utah Oracle User Group Training Days conference.  It's a nice regional conference for me to engage's local to me here in Salt Lake City.  So I get to participate in the conference and still go home every night.  Pretty sweet.

But being local is not the best thing about this conference.  The best thing about this...or most user group conferences, for that the opportunity to exchange ideas with some very smart people.      When I get to listen in for a bit on conversations with the real brains in this business, I always come away with more knowledge...and often with a different point of view.  That's the really cool part.  And, yes, it's worth investing a couple of days of my time.

So far as the Utah Oracle User Group, we'll probably do another one of these this fall.  You really out to come out.  Who knows, you might learn something?  I know I always do.

Thoughts On Student Engagement

Mon, 2015-03-09 13:55
For those of us in the Higher Education portion of Oracle’s ecosystem, the big conference of the year - Alliance - is less than one week away.  But I already have a suspicion about the hot topic this year.  I’m betting on the subject of student engagement.

There was a time when student engagement was all about educational institutions reaching out to students and potential students.  But there were only a few ways to get that done:  advertising, public relations, events.  And the schools controlled the discussion.  Because it wasn’t really a discussion as much as a series of one-way broadcasts from the universities to the students.
But things have changed as new technologies have taken root in higher education. Social media, chat apps, mobile…now, not only can the students and potential students talk back to the universities, but they can also talk to each other.  So the schools no longer have control of the discussion.  While there are significant upsides to this turning of the tables, there’s also a downside…the schools, to a very great degree, are in the dark about the tastes, preferences, and habits of their students and potential students.  This is especially true in talking about “digital body language”.  What technology do those students and potential students use? What are their technology habits?  How can they be reached?  How can we learn more about what is important to them?  The real crux of successful student engagement is hidden in distracting complexities.
A real challenge in all this comes from a distraction over platforms.  There are lots of social and communication platforms out there coming and going:  Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, Webchat…you get the idea.  Platforms come and go, and nobody has any idea of the next big thing.  But you can’t ignore them, because your students and potential students are already there.
Another clear shift is that the days of individual and isolated decision-making are gone.  People want to check in with the groups that are important to them and know what other people are doing before making a decision.  So we have different people, all with different needs and hot buttons, all interacting with each other in a variety of networks to influence individual decisions and choices.  So decision making is much more complex.
These complexities distract from the real point of student engagement - schools learning about and adapting to their constituencies by talking with and listening to students and potential students.
To eliminate the complexities and efficiently get to the crux of student engagement in today’s environment, schools need more analysis in order to get the planning, design, and execution of the education process matched with the needs and wants of their students and potential students.  In other words, you have to learn about digital body language without getting wrapped around the axle about platforms and social networks.  You have to be able to engage in the discussions with your students and potential students where they are, when they are there…while not getting bogged down by the platforms and networks yourself.  It’s a challenge.  I’m sure we’ll hear more at Alliance.

I'm In Love With My Car

Tue, 2015-03-03 09:52
I'm in love with my car
Gotta feel for my automobile
Get a grip on my boy racer rollbar
Such a thrill when your radials squeal.
                    -- From Queen's I'm In Love With My Car

As is typical with Queen, citing the lyrics fail to do the song justice.  You can hear the song and watch the official video here.  C'mon back when you're done.

I learned everything I needed to know about life by listening to what is now called "Classic Rock".  So, yes, I do believe it's possible to fall in love with inanimate objects.  Especially those things with simple, yet elegant, designs.  For example, my daily driver is a 12-year-old Toyota Tundra pickup truck.  It's nothing bluetooth, no OnStar, no time warp technology.  But it runs and looks like the day I took it off the showroom floor.  And it's a simple design.  I love that truck...hope we never part.

Lately, I've been reacquainting myself with an inanimate object (in this case a product) that I really love:  Taleo.  Loved Taleo well before it was assimilated by Oracle and, after recently becoming reacquainted, I've discovered that I still love it.  That love exists for one reason - simplicity:
  1. Taleo only does four things: recruit new talent, bring that new talent onboard, manage talent through performance goals, and manage your team's learning.  Four things, nothing more - simple.
  2. You won't find feature bloat from over-engineering in Taleo.  There is no attempt to address the exception to the exception to the rule.  Somebody put in great deals of thought about what to leave out of Taleo.  They got it right.
  3. The user interface is simple.  Easy to navigate.  Not ground-breaking by any means, but very intuitive.  Users like it.
  4. Taleo is only offered through the Oracle Cloud.  No hardware to buy.  Patching, upgrading, maintenance...Oracle does that.  A subscription fee, a browser and an Internet connection...that's all you need to get going.  Simple.
  5. Know what happens when you stick to simplicity for your business process scope, feature set, your UI and your underlying architecture?  You end up with an amazing user experience.  Users want to use your product.  Users love your product.
Simple really is the new cool.  I love it when I find it.  And I find it in Taleo.

If You Want It, Here It Is

Mon, 2015-02-02 18:22
If you want it
Here it is, come and get it
Mmmm, make your mind up fast
If you want it
Anytime, I can give it
But you better hurry
Cause it may not last
    - From "Come And Get It", written by Sir Paul McCartney and originally recorded by Badfinger

I'm watching changes in the SaaS world...some people are keeping up with the changes, and some people are not.  The approach is selling SaaS subscriptions is an area that stands out in my mind where the market players have not all quite wrapped their brains around a new reality.

In the old days of selling on-premise applications (also lovingly referred to now as "fat apps"), the initial sale was the key battleground between applications vendors in their quest for customers.  That's because switching on-premise apps was hard.  Ask anyone switching from Oracle to SAP for enterprise apps...a very tough, very expensive, and very long process.

In the SaaS world, switching is quicker, easier, and much less expensive.  No technology footprint to switch out.  Get my data from the current SaaS vendor, map and convert to the new SaaS applications, train my workforce, cut off the old SaaS vendor, start paying the new SaaS vendor.  While it's still not a small undertaking, it's a comparative drop in the bucket.

Oh, what about hybrid platforms?  Still easier to switch out the SaaS portion of your system.  And so far as integrations:  well, the commonly used integrations are fast becoming commodities.  That's what Cloud Integration platforms from providers like Oracle, Sierra-Cedar (yeah, that was a plug - pretty slick the way I slipped it in there, huh?), Boomi, Workday, etc...providing highly-reused application integrations as a managed cloud service.

So what does this mean?  It means that as SaaS becomes more prevalent in the enterprise applications world, it won't be about making the deal as much as it will be about keeping the customer while concurrently enticing other players customers to switch while concurrently hunting for customers just entering the enterprise applications customer space.  In other words, we'll soon see huge churning of accounts from Brand X to Brand Y.  And we'll also see vendors attempting to protect their own patch of accounts.  And, at the same time, we'll see more offerings geared toward the SMB space...because that's where the net new growth opportunities will exist.

We're entering a great time for buyers...vendor lock-in in the enterprise apps market will become a less predominant factor.  And, frankly, vendors will be treat each customer like the "belle of the ball".

Watch for SaaS vendors to begin singing Sir Paul's tune:  "If you want it, here it is..." - on very customer-favorable terms.

Patch Now!

Wed, 2015-01-21 10:09
So two guys walk into a bar.  They're both talking like pirates and dressed like pirates.  The bartender asks...

No, wait, that's not the kind of patch we're talking about today.  Sorry, folks.  We're talking about a patch for your software...a fix or an update for software you already have in place.  Did you know Oracle puts out Critical Patch Updates ("CPU"s) for all their project on a regular basis?  You can read about Oracle's CPUs here.  Clicking on the link for any CPU listed will give you more information about the contents of that patch.

Now there's one important point you need to know.  It's that word "Critical" that Oracle uses in the term "Critical Patch Update".  Folks, when Oracle says "Critical", they're not kidding around.  Both important and urgent.  Security improvements, bug fixes, compatibility upgrades, new functionality...any and all can show up in a CPU.  So, in terms of applying patches, time is of the essence.  This is especially true with security fixes.  Note Oracle's language on the subject:

Oracle has received specific reports of malicious exploitation of vulnerabilities for which Oracle has already released fixes. In some instances, it has been reported that malicious attackers have been successful because customers had failed to apply these Oracle patches. Oracle therefore strongly recommends that customers remain on actively-supported versions and apply Critical Patch Update fixes without delay.
Just yesterday, we saw a timely example demonstrating the urgency of applying a CPU as soon as it is released.  David Litchfield (@dlitchfield) is a pretty brilliant security researcher when he's not taking pictures of sharks.  He recently spotted a pretty significant security hole in the Oracle database.  Requires certain circumstances and certain versions of the database, but it's still pretty significant.  So...David turned his find into Oracle.  The fix was issued in the Oracle CPU released yesterday, January 20.  You can read David's analysis of his find and the fix, along with the 160+ other security patches in this latest CPU, here.  A great perspective in addition to the description Oracle provides.

Now, y'all have read or heard me say in the past that I consider the Oracle database to be the most rock-solid, reliable database available.  Period.  This recent incident does not change my opinion on that one iota.  At the same time, it reinforces my opinion that software is complex stuff that requires continual improvement...this is just another example of that.  In order to use the stuff, you have to stay least on the CPUs.

If you use an Oracle database, you really should apply this CPU.  Like now.  Same rule applies to all Oracle CPUs. Patch now!

Enterprise Apps on SaaS

Mon, 2015-01-19 10:47
It's really, really early on a Monday morning as I write this:  "zero dark-thirty".  Some ideas just refuse to allow sleep until you share them.  So, while shivering in the pre-dawn cold, I offer the following for your consideration...

Picture if you will, just for a moment, the idea that your enterprise applications system is like an iceberg.  There are the system costs that you can see.  Then there are the costs below the water line, those that you can't quite see.  Well, at least those nobody talks about when selling you an enterprise system.

Hanging with the iceberg simile, this is your IT system:

This is your enterprise applications system on SaaS:

Any questions?


Sun, 2015-01-11 11:49
re·sil·iencerəˈzilyəns/nounnoun: resilience; plural noun: resiliences
  1. 1. the ability of a substance or object to spring back into shape; elasticity."nylon is excellent in wearability and resilience"
  2. 2. the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness."the often remarkable resilience of so many British institutions"

My parents were children of the Great Depression here in the U.S.  The experience influenced how they approached their lives - stability over all else.  Even though they never quite realized the goal of stability, it is still one of the characteristics passed down by their generation to those that followed.  That's why society tends to idolize successful risk takers; they broke the self-imposed limitations that come from the focus on stability.

My own experience in working with NASA taught me that stability is not the key to preserving the viability of any system.  The key is resilience.  With all the hooey happening recently both in the IT world and in real life, I thought the idea of resilience might be worth a brief post here.

Let's consider a very narrowly-focused, basic statistic.  The U.S. Navy is the target of, on average, 30 cyber-attacks every second - every minute, every hour, every day over the course of a year.  That's over 1 billion attacks in a 12-month period.  Common sense alone says they can't stop them all.  Some attacks succeed, some data is lost, some damage is done.  Stability can't be preserved.  So, for the U.S. Navy, the focus is on system resilience.

Resilience in IT systems essentially embraces the following idea:  bad things will eventually happen to your system, and you can't prevent it.  Make every effort to defend against hackers.  Build earthquake-ready systems to house your data center.  Keep your patches and maintenance up to date.  In my little corner of NASA, we used a floating iceberg analogy and referred to this as the "above-the-waterline" stuff...things we could see or foresee.  

But it's the things below the waterline that hold the most risk: a new hacking approach, a natural disaster of massive proportions, a unique anomaly, etc.  To address these risks, you design system architectures that can bounce back quickly from attacks and damage.  

So it's not a matter of preventing all the bad things from happening (you can't), its a matter of how quickly your system can adapt and bounce back from the bad things that happen.

Then following is a direct quote from the Rockefeller Foundation's work on resilience:

Resilient systems, organizations, or individuals possess five characteristics in good times and in times of stress. They are:
  • Aware. Awareness means knowing what your strengths and assets are, what liabilities and vulnerabilities you have, and what threats and risks you face. Being aware is not a static condition; it’s the ability to constantly assess, take in new information, reassess and adjust your understanding of the most critical and relevant strengths and weaknesses and other factors on the fly. This requires methods of sensing and information-gathering, including robust feedback loops, such as community meetings or monitoring systems for a global telecommunications network.
  • Diverse. Diversity implies that a person or system has a surplus of capacity such that it can successfully operate under a diverse set of circumstances, beyond what is needed for every-day functioning or relying on only one element for a given purpose. Diversity includes redundancy, alternatives, and back-ups, so it can call up reserves during a disruption or switch over to an alternative functioning mode. Being diverse also means that the system possesses or can draw upon a range of capabilities, information sources, technical elements, people or groups. 
  • Self-Regulating. This means elements within a system behave and interact in such a way as to continue functioning to the system’s purpose, which means it can deal with anomalous situations and interferences without extreme malfunction, catastrophic collapse, or cascading disruptions. This is sometimes called “islanding” or “de-networking”—a kind of failing safely that ensures failure is discrete and contained. A self-regulating system is more likely to withstand a disruption, less likely to exacerbate the effects of a crisis if it fails, and is more likely to return to function (or be replaced) more quickly once the crisis has passed.
  • Integrated. Being integrated means that individuals, groups, organizations and other entities have the ability to bring together disparate thoughts and elements into cohesive solutions and actions. Integration involves the sharing of information across entities, the collaborative development of ideas and solutions, and transparent communication with people and entities that are involved or affected. It also refers to the coordination of people groups and activities. Again, this requires the presence of feedback loops.
  • Adaptive. The final defining characteristic of resilience is being adaptive: the capacity to adjust to changing circumstances during a disruption by developing new plans, taking new actions, or modifying behaviors so that you are better able to withstand and recover from a disruption, particularly when it is not possible or wise to go back to the way things were before. Adaptability also suggests flexibility, the ability to apply existing resources to new purposes or for one thing to take on multiple roles.
Resilience is all about making systems and the components of those systems stronger:  hardware, software, people, communities, etc.

From an IT perspective, the next time you design a solution or a system, stop and think about how your solution or system could be designed for greater resilience.  You'd be amazed how simple and inexpensive it can be once you invest a little brain power.

And what I just wrote about the IT perspective?  It applies to real life situations too.  How's that for a pearl of wisdom?

Your thoughts?  Love to hear 'em!  Comments...

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose

Mon, 2015-01-05 12:27
plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.
        -- Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr,  Les Guêpes, January 1849 volume

Translation:  the more things change, the more they stay the same.


It's been an interesting first year with Io Consulting...uh, I mean Sierra Cedar, Inc.  I've had the opportunity to dig deep into the unique Higher Education marketplace, and to help spread the message about Oracle's Cloud Application Services within that marketplace.

For me personally, it's been a great learning experience as I've tuned in to the typical conversation patterns.  Conversation patterns?  Let me play out a few scenarios to explain what I mean.

Scenario 1

Higher Education Institution:  we need to eliminate the ever-growing drain on money, equipment and people required just to maintain our back office applications.

Me:  could we spend a few minutes talking about Oracle Cloud?

Scenario 2

Higher Education Institution:  we need to keep control over certain business processes, but we'd like to lessen the maintenance load on everything else.

Me:  could we spend a few minutes talking about hybrid cloud opportunities with Oracle Cloud?

Scenario 3

Higher Education Institution:  my current applications vendor has been acquired.  The new owner has put our key applications into a mode of maintenance development only.  We need to switch vendors in order to keep up with student, faculty, and administrative expectations.

Me:  could we spend a few minutes talking about user experience in Oracle Cloud?

Scenario 4

Higher Education Institution:  we already use Oracle products:  Peoplesoft HR and Campus Solutions.  Why switch to a cloud?

Me:  could we spend a few minutes talking about how to advance your institution's mission by leveraging Oracle Cloud while protecting your current investment in Oracle products?

There are a few more typical patterns, but this is enough for you to get the idea.  The interesting part of all this?  These are essentially the same conversations I had and continue to have with organizations that exist outside the domain of Higher Education.  Different use cases, same patterns.

So, what's this long-winded blog post all about?  I've picked up a pearl of wisdom over the past year...the concerns of customers and potential customers remain the same.  Those concerns cross the boundaries of vertical market divisions.  It boils down to this:  help me do what I do better, faster, or less expensively.  The trick is in recognizing the patterns to apply to specific use cases and communicating those patterns clearly.  

The more things change, the more they stay the same...