UKOUG Conference 2011 Summary for Middleware Admins
11 Dec 2011 by Simon Haslam (in Events)
Earlier this week UKOUG held its annual conference in Birmingham. Here I will describe many of the highlights from my perspective, though speaking, and other volunteer responsibilities, meant I couldn't attend all the sessions I would have liked to.
SundaySunday afternoon was themed with only Oak Table speakers. There were a mixture of database sessions including an excellent one on how Exadata (and 11.2) does multiblock reads by Frits Hoogland, as well as probably the most entertaining session of the conference by Connor McDonald talking about collecting statistics (and who, living in Perth, Australia, must have travelled the furthest to be here!). Connor has a pretty unique style and slides you would practically call animation. Of course, these was no middleware in sight (these are the Oak Table diehards afterall), but it's still very useful as a middleware admin to try to keep current on what's happening in the database. In fact only today I have been analysing a website with intermittent performance problems to finally narrow it down to some PL/SQL code running in the database.
On Monday the Middleware Keynote was delivered by Will Lyons. Only a few days earlier Will was giving the WebLogic 12c Launch Deep-Dive Webcast (see my recent post) so we were very lucky to have him with us for the first in-person presentation of 12c. Will also discussed Exalogic in a later session in the conference's "Exa..." track - a day full of presentations focussed on the large Exadata and Exalogic systems.
Needless to say there's a lot of buzz around 12c at the moment - for admins it revolves aroung full Java EE 6 compatibility, enhancements to GridLink, JTA storage in the database, session affinity etc. Plus there's the new Oracle Traffic Director product on its way and a new release of Oracle Virtual Assembly Builder.
Lonneke Dikmans kindly stepped in to fill in for a last-minute cancellation and gave her popular introductory session about SOA (with her "breakfast as a service" analogy!) which I'd seen and enjoyed at Oracle OpenWorld earlier this year.
Monday afternoon was quite busy for me too: I gave a session on "High Availability Options for Modern Oracle Infrastructures" along with Julian Dyke. The talk was supposed to be a relatively high level (4 out of 5) discussion about all the various techniques for providing high availability from vMotion to Clusterware to RAC to Whole Server Migration, with the intention of getting all the options written down in one place with their pros and cons.
I haven't spoken in Hall 1 for quite a few years and you forget how different it is to speaking in "normal" rooms - apart from the size of the stage, simply not really being able to see the audience is a bit disconcerting and tends to make for a one-way dialogue.
Not long after that session I delivered a talk called "Build Your Own Middleware Machine" - essentially using blade servers to build a very clean and highly automated system.
I then saw Simone Geib (aka @SOASimone), from Oracle's SOA product management, presenting "SOA Suite Reference Architecture - Understand It." This session mainly compared when to use OSB vs BPEL vs BPM - I do find these kinds of sessions useful as sometimes in our day jobs it's easy to get bogged down in the technology and lose perspective. I hadn't seen Simone speaking before and really liked her clear, laid back presentation style.
Now, on to Tuesday. The day started with "Oracle GlassFish Server, Java Enterprise Edition and JVM Roadmap", given by Alexis Moussine-Pouchkine of Java One and GlassFish podcast fame! This is definitely a session for middleware admins - the converged JVM (i.e. HotSpot plus JRockit) is likely to happen, along with the tooling like Mission Control, over the next year or two and is likely to become the next hot topic once WebLogic 12c has settled down.
Frances Zhao visited the UK specially for the UKOUG Conference again. As it happened I ended up co-presenting Frances' "WebLogic Server and Oracle RAC" session as I had done at Oracle OpenWorld this year. GridLink is one of the key integration points between WebLogic and the Oracle Database so it's vital that administrators of busy java applications get to grips with it (and it is now available with the WebLogic Suite licence). In additon GridLink has some of the key enhancements in WebLogic 12c so, coupled with two enthusiastic, technical presenters, it was destinated to overrun even before it had started!
Next for one of those golden nuggets you sometimes only spot on the agenda at the last minute: Kuassi Mensah, another speaker over from Oracle HQ and a (very technical) product manager for the JDBC / Oracle*Net areas. His session "Net Services - Best Practices for Performance, Scalability & High Availability" covered things I'd almost forgotten about like SDU sizing (in 11.2 thankfully with a much larger 64k maximum, and 8kB default), TCP.CONNECT_TIMEOUT and listener RATE_LIMIT parameter. He also described how Database Resident Connection Pooling works, as compared to Shared Server (fka MTS), which apparently can have some uses for java applications too.
"Upgrading to Oracle SOA Suite 11g While Maintaining 100% Uptime" was a high impact title for an interesting session by another speaker from USA. I this case Ahmed Aboulnaga described how the bank he was working for built what were essentially independent, stateless, parallel SOA systems to allow for a seemless upgrade from 10g to 11g. Given the huge amount of change from BPEL in 10g to the SCA approach in SOA 11g I don't underestimate how tricky even this relatively simple design might have become.
Another case study session, this time Dave Felcey from Oracle talking about ON/24's Coherence implementation. ON/24 is a global media company who stream webcasts, virtual conferences and the like. This was actually a presentation written by ON/24 themselves (for Oracle OpenWorld), in particular it talked about the monitoring tools they use (in particular RTView).
The final case study for the day was how the Ministry of Finance in El Salvador uses SOA to integrate with banks for tax collection from citizens, in a talk called "Beyond SOA for Integrating Government Financial Services with Banks Ecosystems". I hadn't met Mauricio previously and had a fascinating chat with him later at the "Masquerade" social event (not just for firewall administrators you know!).
Update (18 December): Finally I will describe the Wednesday sessions I enjoyed.
Best Practices for Managing Oracle WebLogic Server: Frances Zhao was joined by James Kao (both from Oracle HQ in California) to deliver this presentation about enterprise deployment of WebLogic. Frances talked through the various ways to design WebLogic architectures (the trade-off between isolation and maintenance) and gave plenty of tips. For the final third of the time James described what the Oracle Enterprise Manager WebLogic management pack had to offer. The nice thing about this session for me was that it wasn't at all hard sell for the extra-cost OEM options (and frankly I've seen a quite few of those in the past!) but showed clearly what you got "for free" with WebLogic and where you might be able to benefit from OEM once you have a WebLogic estate over a certain size.
Optimizing WebLogic Server Performance: JVM tuning: René van Wijk is one of the leading authorities on JVM tuning so I was delighted that he came over from the Netherlands to present this session. He started with the basics of Java heap design and went right through to the latest research techniques for garbage collection. One snippet of information I picked up, which I confess I never knew before, was that where you have multiple JVMs running on a single host they cooperate so that no two carry out garbage collection at exactly the same time - I must investigate that mechanism further.
Wednesday Wizardry with Fusion Middleware: this was a whole afternoon where 3 Oracle ACE Directors from the Netherlands, Lonneke Dikmans, Ronald van Luttikhuizen (both from Vennster) and Lucas Jellema (from AMIS), built a modern, service oriented, application before our very eyes! The business requirement was for a conference session management system to allow the submission and review of abstracts/papers for a technical conference like UKOUG. The starting point was an existing database and plus a service model for the new application.
Each team member had a different role: Ronald was doing the "plumbing" (working with the database, e.g. for AQ, connecting to the email server, deploying the services), Lonneke was responsible for integrating the services, setting up the process flows, etc and Lucas was building in the web-based UI. As you can see below, we had 3 screens, each one following a different presenter's PC:
The team used Oracle SOA Suite for BPM, AQ, events and file integration, and used ADF for the front-end. Whilst relatively small scale (it was only 3 hours afterall) it still was realistic - we saw some of the problems common in the real world (triggers accidentally created in the wrong place, hostname mismatches, etc) and it was fascinating seeing the presenters at work. The only disappointing aspect for me was that the session was only lightly attended (about a dozen people), but I think the fact that they stayed until nearly 5:30pm (after the end of the conference - the organisers started kicking us out!) shows that they were finding it worthwhile.
For more information, including the process diagram of the application, see Ronald's blog post.
So there we are - the end of another UKOUG Conference! Admittedly the timing of the new WebLogic release was pretty special this year, but even without that, as a middleware person I found more than enough good sessions to go along to. For those of you who couldn't make it I hope this write-up gives a bit of a flavour of the event, and perhaps we'll see you there next year!