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Open Insights 21 – Open Season, Open Sesame?

OPEN INSIGHTS Newsletter
Issue 21 – Open Season, Open Sesame?
July 1, 2006

by Sean Hull
<shull@iheavy.com>
Founder and Senior Consultant
Heavyweight Internet Group

Welcome to our free monthly newsletter, discussing news, developments and business best practices at the intersection of Oracle and Open Source software.


In This Issue:
1. Feature: Open Season, Open Sesame?
2. Audio Interviews
3. Current Reading
4. Lightweight Humor
5. Past Issues
6. Technical Articles
7. About Heavyweight Internet Group


1. Feature: Open Season, Open Sesame?

So what’s with the term “open” anyway? Wiktionary.org has various definitions from accessible, and not closed, like a gate, to open as in hours of operation, ready to conduct business. But there are two additional meanings they list, receptive, and public. It’s these two latter meanings which will come into play a lot for us.

Sometimes when I hear the word Open it conjures images of geopolitics, perhaps Perestroika Gorbachev’s late 80’s reform movement. You might hear of open inspections, or Democratic openness, all pointing to transparency or at least more transparency than previously known. We think of it as being part of a free society. We might defer to Anderson360’s dictate, “keeping them honest”. Howard Bloom, a visiting scholar at NYU and author of “The Global Brain” and “The Lucifer Principle” theorizes that in good times, societies aspire to Athenian Democracy, while in bad times they tend towards Spartan Dictatorships. These are in essence open and closed societies.

Bloggers all have an inherent affinity towards openness. Maybe it’s journalists in general, but bloggers in particular are spending their days writing, and spreading knowledge and information. I enjoy Seth Godin’s blog on marketing, because it’s chock full of new ideas and insights. Or take Keith Ferrazzi who speaks about networking, and building relationships. He says relationships are not a
fixed resource, that can somehow run out. It’s not a zero-sum game, but about sharing connections, and benefiting from the intangibles that are gained from that open network of relationships. An interesting thing, many of these bloggers are authors, and some compile postings and material from their blog over the years into a book which people buy, despite being able to get much of the informatio
n on the blog itself. And further, some folks are taking it to the next level while simultaneously publishing a free online copy of a book they’re selling on Amazon, for instance. Check out http://creativecommons.org for details.

In computing we speak of open standards, that is protocols, and agreements to create a fair playing field upon which many vendors can compete. All free market economists agree that competition encourages innovation, as each business strives to win the most marketshare. Another way to win marketshare, is to build proprietary systems & protocols, tying consumers and businesses to a specific solution, by controling intellectual property relating to the technology. In the days where railroads where the kings of transportation, companies fought vigorously over gauges, which defined the width of the tracks over which the trains rode. Fighting over the gauges, slowed the expansion of businesses, and that pressure caused the industry to standardize on 143cm width. We can see similar types of things happening in the computing industry with CD-ROMs, DVDs, and the battle
over the newer formats coming out now.

How open-source software plays into this mix is an interesting one. By it’s nature of course source-code is always available, and this level of transparency has brought more confidence in security circles, relating to open-source software. Bugs are clear and evident, and there’s no waiting for the vendor to either decide to fix it, or get around to it. Here we fall squaring in the cross-hairs of the full disclosure debate.

And for those free-market capitalists among us, an open market is a level playing field, a la Thomas Friedman’s “The World Is Flat”. He might have also said “The World is Open”. Indeed.

The truth is competition is the tougher road. And though it leads to a better result for the consumer, many businesses flounder, and fail to compete to create the best product, whether through engineering mistakes, marketing ones, or lack of the right business acumen. It’s much easier to go the road of the monopoly, and companies will tend towards that direction if they can, growing larger, but less nimble and adaptable.

The image of the stodgy monopoly would probably be the phone company. Telephones have not experienced real innovation in 50 to 60 years, mainly because the phone company had a monopoly on the pipes, and what protocol (think railroad gauge) they understood. Now with the advent of telephony over the internet, Voice Over IP has turned that industry upside down. Between the breadth of new offerings from companies like Vonage, Skype, and Broadvoice and the incredibly fierce competition among celular providers, consumers can only win. Incredibly, with skype I can call worldwide to other skype users for FREE, and to landlines in most countries for around two cents per minute.

In the computing world of course, the big monopoly for some time has been Microsoft. Despite the failure of the justice department to affect that, the internet is starting to chip away at that business. As more applications move onto the internet with so-called Web-2.0, the Operating System, and the desktop become less and less relevant, and for a company like Microsoft, harder to control and corner.

In a way one might argue that no monopoly, no closed system, no censorship, no dam in the system is sacred on the internet, where John Gilmore famously declared “The Internet interprets censorship as damage and routes around it.” By analogy, things inevitably become open, whether we like it or not.

2. Audio Interviews

We have a great audio interview or podcast that you’re sure to enjoy. We talk with Paul Vallee, Founder and President of Pythian Group, about their use of Open-source technologies in the enterprise, and why they’ve taken the reigns to maintain a Perl to Oracle library called DBD::Oracle. Click here for more

Do you use Open-source technologies in your enterprise? Would you like to talk
about your experiences, and business successes? We’d like to hear from you. Email me at shull@iheavy.com

3. Current Reading

A Whole New Mind – Daniel Pink (link to his blog)
Daniel Pink is the bestselling author of Free Agent Nation, so I thought I’d give his book on right-brain thinking a try. Although his insights are apt, they’re mostly rehashed for greater luminaries, and I’m not a fan of his writing style. The real heavyweights in this space are Cialdini’s “Influence: The Psychology
of Persuasion
“, and Goleman’s “Emotional Intelligence : Why It Can Matter More Than IQ” both of which I heartily endorse.

The Art of Innovation – Tom Kelley
As far as innovative thinking goes, the IDEO guys have done it all. And Kelley’s book is one part story, one part story, one part how-to. Also check out this Commonwealth Club Interview with Tom Kelley

Master Pieces: The Curator’s Game – Thomas Hoving
In this curious and interesting book, Hoving presents us with clips, scraps, and little snippets of larger works of art, classical pieces we might all be familiar with, and challenges us to identify the original. Cataloged and organized as a puzzle on every page, with the second half of the book being a good introduction to art history guide for each of the referenced paintings. This book is fun to flip through, or to provide your coffeetable with some life.

4. Lightweight Humor

A little free and open source software in the dentists office from User Friendly.


5. Past Issues

Issue 20: Better Web Better Business
Issue 19: ManagingFixed Fees
Issue 18: The Cost of Consulting
Issue 17: SecretsOf The Interview
Archive: Past Issues

6. Technical Articles

Oracle10g Laptop Rac How-to: click here
Oracle9i + RAC on Linux/Firewire: click here
Migrating MySQL to Oracle: click here
MySQL Disaster Recovery: click here

7. About Heavyweight Internet Group

In a nutshell, Oracle. Everything related to and surrounding the database technology we specialize in, but specifically setup, admin and tuning of Oracle technology. I have 10 years experience with Oracle, wrote a book on the technology, and write and lecture frequently. I’m founder and senior consultant of the company. In capacities where your company might hire Deloitte, AIG, or Oracle Consulting we can bring the same level of service and experience, at about half the price. Simple equation.

Visit us on the web at www.iheavy.com.

Open Insights 20 – Better Web Better Business

OPEN INSIGHTS Newsletter
Issue 20 – Better Web Better Business
June 1, 2006

by Sean Hull
Founder and Senior Consultant
Heavyweight Internet Group

Welcome to our free monthly newsletter, discussing news, developments and business best practices at the intersection of Oracle and Open Source software.


In This Issue:
1. Feature: Better Web Better Business
2. Audio Interviews
3. Current Reading
4. Lightweight Humor
5. Past Issues
6. Technical Articles
7. About Heavyweight Internet Group


1. Feature: Better Web Better Business

Are you using the web to fullest advantage to improve your business? Almost every business is asking itself that question these days. Let’s take a look at some of the various ways you can put the web to use to make your business run better, get wider coverage, and bring in more revenue and business.

a. Google.com
Google has many services which you can use to build your website into a destination in your business niche.

Search Engine Optimization
This is techie speak for making your website appear highest in google searches for the right terms. There is an art to this, from getting other sites to point to yours, to using keywords in the right places in your HTML. Do some google searching to find out more.

Adwords http://adwords.google.com
Whenever users do normal Google searches, sponsored ads show up along the sides and top. Studies show most users don’t know the difference between sponsored links, and real search engine results. You do don’t you? The good part here is that you only pay when a clickthrough happens. And despite some of the bad press on click fraud, on the whole you get what you pay for here, and they’re very diligent about tracking down fake clickthroughs. Signup for an account with your credit card. It has fairly straightforward directions to get you started with an ad campaign in under an hour!

Adsense http://adsense.google.com
This is the flip side of adwords. You place sponsored ads on your site in a small box, controling what, where, and how much ad placement you want to do. Then they send you a check!

News alerts http://news.google.com
Signup for alerts, and google will mail you daily, results of important keywords. I have an alert for “oracle open-source”, so everyday google searches it’s current news archives and emails me titles and story summaries. An easy way to keep up with important news in your industry.

Maps http://maps.google.com
You may have used them to find an address or driving directions, but google maps can do a lot more. With a little programming, it can map out store locations, event locations, or other relevant business information, and be linked right into your site.

Finance http://finance.google.com
One of Google’s newer features, this allows you to track key stocks, funds, and indexes that are relevant to your industry. The comparison + graphing tools are phenomenal.

Trends http://www.google.com/trends
Another one of the newer offerings, this service allows you to track trends in google searches for keywords you’re interested. Want to track the keyword “database”? Just enter that keyword and see a graph of news articles that word appeared in, since 2004.

b. Tagging
This technology allows you to use and associate keywords to content on your site. Like Search Engine Optimization mentioned earlier, it helps you get the right people to see the right content. See http://del.icio.us/ and http://technorati.com/ for more info.

c. Instant Messaging
Do your clients like to communicate via instant messaging? You may already be struggling with multiple IM clients. If so, take a look at http://gaim.sourceforge.net It supports the major ones such as AOL, MSN, Yahoo, and Google (Jabber) as well as IRC, Gadu-Gadu and others. If you’re on a Mac, checkout Adium X: http://www.adiumx.com/ In addition, many of the messaging clients are adding voice now, using various Voice Over IP technologies. By far the biggest heavyweight in this area is the upstart from Luxembourg Skype http://www.skype.com founded by the two creators of Kazaa. I’ve used it for quite some time, and find crystal clear calling almost everytime I use it. There is also video teleconferencing which is also clear, and works very well. It’s hard to believe all of this is free. Of course if you want to call landlines or allow landlines to call you on skype, you’ll need to get SkypeOut or SkypeIn respectively. Even more exciting, from now until the end of the year, US callers can enjoy SkypeOut domestic calls for FREE until the end of the year! If all that is not enough, there is also a party line feature, which can be used for teleconferencing, or socializing if that suits your fancy.

d. CRM Systems
I hope you’re not all still using Outlook to store your addressbooks now are you? The truth is that CRM or customer relationship management software is something sales folks have been using for years, but the rest of us are just discovering. Keep track of all your contacts, notes on recent calls, reminders to call back, relationships, categories, prospects, opportunities, mailing lists, you name it. One solution I’d recommend is SugarCRM a phenomenal open-source system for doing all of the above and more. There is a commercial version which has various other additional features, that may interest you after you’ve had a chance to use the software. What’s more if you don’t want to fiddle with installing, and hosting it, you can simply get SugarCRM ondemand straight from the source!

Don’t want to fiddle with installing your own software? Not to worry, there are many web offerings that provide great service as well. For starters there Plaxo. The basic service is free, and you can configure it to let your contacts update their own information periodically, saving you the hassle! There is also a premium version for a monthly fee. Then there’s Constant Contact which has a free 60-day trial to get you started.

If you want the real mac-daddy of on-demand solutions, look no further than Salesforce.com .

e. RSS and Website Syndication
RSS is the technology for syndicating content from your website, or getting content from someone elses. For instance aggregation services like Google’s personalized homepage, allows you to add news feeds from all your favorite sites. What makes news feeds even better is you can easily browse this content on your phone, or other mobile device. Take a look at http://www.feeddemon.com/ for a desktop client that reads news feeds, or go to one of these sites that does aggregation for you:

http://www.feedlounge.com
http://www.newsgator.com
http://www.bloglines.com

My Yahoo, My AOL, and Google Personalized Homepage all offer the same thing. Consolidate all your regular sites, and you’ll make yourself much more efficient, and less prone to wandering, and getting distracted while browsing the web.

f. Website Customer Feedback
How are you using your website to build a better connection with your customer? There are a lot of things you can do with a website besides place up basic description of your founding philosophy, and services.

Are you reviewing your site traffic statistics regularly to see what areas of the site capture the most interest? How about placing some surveys on the homepage to ask your customers what you could be doing better? Or what need they have which isn’t being met.

How about offering users the ability to have premium content if they register? This can garner you more information about the users who use your site. You can direct market to them, contact them, and customize content for them.

How about providing a newsletter subscription box so they can keep up with news about your services? How about a blog (as mentioned above) which provides regular new and interesting content to the site?

g. Indeed.com
Indeed is a real gem of a find. Their site aggregates many different job site
s, so you can go to just one place to find listings. What’s more you can save search criteria you do often, and get an RSS feeds for them. That’s right, the great syndication technology I described above can help you keep track of what jobs are out there, who is hiring, and for what. What makes the site even MORE noteworthy is it’s “Job Trends” feature: http://www.indeed.com/jobtrends

Type in a keyword to see how job postings have gone up and down over various dates throughout the year!

h. Blogging
Well, you’ve heard about it, and you probably read plenty of them, but are you doing it? Blogging brings regular, new content to your website, material people can search for, and find you based on. Sites with new and refreshing content are much more likely to see regular sustained traffic as users will come back time and again. If you’re writing a newsletter, post it in your blog as well. If you discuss issues in discussion groups, post some of your conclusions on a blog. If you look at all the email you send in a day, it easily amounts to a couple of blog postings, and others may benefit from your insight. There are many, here are a few you might try:
http://www.blogger.com/start
http://www.typepad.com/
http://www.livejournal.com/

2. Audio Interviews
We have a great audio interview or podcast that you’re sure to enjoy. We talk with Paul Vallee, Founder and President of Pythian Group, about their use of Open-source technologies in the enterprise, and why they’ve taken the reigns to maintain a Perl to Oracle library called DBD::Oracle. Click here for more.

Do you use Open-source technologies in your enterprise? Would you like to talk about your experiences, and business successes? We’d like to hear from you. Email me at shull@iheavy.com

3. Current Reading
Intuition – Allegra Goodman

Allegre’s bestselling book involves a fictional university lab doing cancer research. One of the brightest young researchers produces some promising results, and the interplay of personalities begins to unfold. Her writing is superb, in the way that you get drawn into each of the characters from their point of view, as a good director does in a film. Lab directors push too hard, romances burn up in flames, and even some government agencies get into the act. I couldn’t put this book down. She needs a blog: http://theory.lcs.mit.edu/~karger/allegra.html

How to Lose Friends and Alienate People – Toby Young
Toby Young wrote for Vanity Fair while working in NY, though I first read his column in the NY Press. This was some time after he crashed and burned. This book tells all about it, velvet roped clubs, clipboard nazis, photo shoots, and pissing people off at a-list events. He even recounts tales of begging for firstclass upgrade on plane flights across the proverbial “pond”. A very funny book. He has a blog: http://www.tobyyoung.co.uk/toby/rss/blog/

Beyond Fear – Bruce Schneier
Bruce Schneier is famous for his work on cryptography, and his past books “Secrets and Lies” and “Practical Cryptography”. His latest book comes in the wake of 9/11 and it’s attendant security hysteria. He focuses on real-life security, and his keen mind and relentless thinking on these topics help illucidate the topic for the rest of us. He has a blog: http://www.schneier.com/blog/

4. Lightweight Humor
The Onion archives does it again with: “Late-Working NASA Scientists Discover Moons Over My Hammy

5. Past Issues
Issue 19: Managing Fixed Fees
Issue 18: The Cost of Consulting
Issue 17: Secrets Of The Interview
Issue 16: Success In Juggling
Issue 15: Marketing About Technology
Archive: Past Issues

6. Technical Articles
Oracle9i + RAC on Linux/Firewire: click here
Migrating MySQL to Oracle: click here
MySQL Disaster Recovery: click here

7. About Heavyweight Internet Group
In a nutshell, Oracle. Everything related to and surrounding the database technology we specialize in, but specifically setup, admin and tuning of Oracle technology. I have 10 years experience with Oracle, wrote a book on the technology, and write and lecture frequently. I’m founder and senior consultant of the company. In capacities where your company might hire Deloitte, AIG, or Oracle Consulting we can bring the same level of service and experience, at about half the price. Simple equation.
Visit us on the web at http://www.iheavy.com.

Open Insights 19 – Avoiding A Fixed Fee Fix

OPEN INSIGHTS
Issue 19 – Avoiding A Fixed Fee Fix
May 1, 2006
by Sean Hull
Founder and Senior Consultant
Heavyweight Internet Group


Welcome to our free monthly newsletter, discussing news, developments and business best practices at the intersection of Oracle and Open Source software.

In This Issue:
1. Feature: Avoiding A Fixed Fee Fix
2. Audio Interviews
3. Current Reading
4. Lightweight Humor
5. Miscellaneous
6. Past Issues
7. Technical Articles
8. About Heavyweight Internet Group

1. Feature: Avoiding A Fixed Fee Fix

Recently I ran into some confusion and hit some roadblocks with a client over a fixed fee project. That inspired my thoughts, and insights in this month’s newsletter.

The Spirit and Letter of a Contract
Depending on the total cost of your project, or the piece of your project, it may or may not make sense to hire a lawyer to draft a complicated contract to cover all eventualities. Even if you have such a contract, it often remains difficult to stay on the path you paved. There are various boiler plate contracts on the internet, and I urge you to review them, and look for one which retains the fewest pages, and least complicated legalese and speaks more in plain language. Be sure to add in bullet points on what both parties intend to accomplish. Also include a clause that says the contract represents the entire agreement between the parties, and any amendments must be made in writing and signed by both parties. Furthermore keep in mind that if the contract is between two named corporate entities, a dispute cannot be settled in small claims court, and therefore both parties would need to hire lawyers.

One more thing to keep in mind. Lawyers often talk about the letter and the spirit of the contract. That’s because written english can never completely capture the idea two parties have about something. You make every effort to include details, but there is always ambiguity. If there weren’t, where would disputes come from? Keep asking questions, and looking for differences, and try to resolve them now between yourselves, and get those resolutions in writing. The more ironed out, the closer the letter of the contract will capture the spirit of the agreement you’ve come to. I’ll admit that no matter how many times I consider this piece, it remains extremely difficult. At the point you are about to sign an agreement, you don’t want to bring up anything that will prevent both parties from agreeing, but at the same time you want to be clear and honest about what you expect. Only real-life experience can make you better at this.

Holding Hands + Frequent Calls

With a new client, this can be the hardest part. Both parties are just getting to know each other, and just building a relationship. So there is a period of demonstration, and proving competence. This is very important, and consultants and freelancer’s often take this to mean, put in the extra effort, and go the extra mile. In addition, the promise of long-term work often stands out in front as an added incentive. Unfortunately such loosening of the reigns can allow projects and scope to expand and grow beyond the project outlines. I emphasize great caution here. You want very much to maintain your good relationship, but you also want to closely manage your fixed scope, necessarily implied by your agreed upon fixed fee. With that in mind I also emphasize frequent calls. Discuss the developments, difficulties, and hurdles you’re encountering as you’re encountering them. Don’t wait to mention a problem until it builds up to be a real obstacle.

Hitting Walls

With a fixed scope, discipline and prudence must be maintained. This is fortunate for the cost of a project as it doesn’t grow and expand, but it means you’re going to be saying “We can’t do that.” early on. You won’t be saying it out of ability, but rather out of practical constraints. But try to leave yourself a small golden parachute. Put some clauses in the contract that account for some expected walls, and how to route around them. You can even bill hourly for items which fall outside your agreed upon scope. But manage this. Let the client know during the contract negotiation what your concerns are both verbally, and in writing, and as issues come up mention them before they boil over.

There’s Light At The End Of The Tunnel
Above all, don’t lose hope. Differences can very often be resolved when all parties come to the table with an open mind, and give each other a fair chance to speak. Be frank, and sincere, and keep the end goal in mind.

Conclusions
Fixed fees, if managed carefully can be great for all parties. They can wrap an entire project into one lump sum that a company can easily budget and plan for, without trying to debate whether hourly fees make sense, or what those hourly fees will come to at the end. And if rounded out properly you may make some additional profit off of tasks you manage and perform regularly. However all aspects much be managed closely, else your road may take you into wild country.

2. Audio Interviews
We have a great audio interview or podcast that you’re sure to enjoy. We talk with Paul Vallee, Founder and President of Pythian Group, about their use of Open-source technologies in the enterprise, and why they’ve taken the reigns to maintain a Perl to Oracle library called DBD::Oracle. Click here for more.

Do you use Open-source technologies in your enterprise? Would you like to talk about your experiences, and business successes? We’d like to hear from you. Email me at shull@iheavy.com

3. Current Reading

Art of SQL – Stephane Faroult
In this phenomenal book on SQL, the language of getting data in and out of databases, Stephane takes a fresh approach. Using The Art of War by Sun Tzu as a metaphor for doing battle with your data, he takes you on a new journey through the trials and tribulations of modern database application tuning.

You The Smart Patient – Michael Roizen, Mehmet Oz
Drs Roizen and Oz take us on a guided tour through our modern world of medicine, helping us negotiate insurance, choose a doctor, and understand some of the common ailments and how to help our doctors help us.

Free Culture – Lawrence Lessig
Lawrence Lessig is a professor of law at Standfort Law School, and specializes in copyright and intellectual property especially in relation to discourse online. In this book he inspires, and encourages us to consider the dangers of putting too much of the control of copyright in the hands of big-business and media conglomerates.

4. Lightweight Humor
Back in The Onion archives, I found this hilarious article which is as funny today as it was in 1998!

Evil Genius Gates Drops Windows 98 Into NYC Water Supply

5. Miscellaneous
Learn from these audio interviews of great entrepreneurs and business leaders with Venture Voice Podcasts.

Monster.com is sponsoring some interesting podcast interviews by great business and other management gurus with Career Advice Podcasts.

Want to get a better idea of the job markets? Check out Indeed.com’s Jobtrends.

Keith Ferrazzi, author of previously mentioned “Never Eat Alone” a book about networking, and building relationships for your career, as a Tip of the Week.

6. Past Issues
Issue 18: The Cost of Consulting
Issue 17: Secrets Of The Interview
Issue 16: Success In Juggling
Issue 15: Marketing About Technology
Archive: Past Issues

7. Technical Articles
Oracle9i + RAC on Linux/Firewire: click here
Migrating MySQL to Oracle: click here
MySQL Disaster Recovery: click here

8. About Heavyweight Internet Group
In a nutshell, Oracle. Everything related to and surrounding the database technology we specialize in, but specifically setup, admin and tuning of Oracle technology. I have 10 years experience with Oracle, wrote a book on the technology, and write and lecture frequently. I’m founder and senior consultant of the company. In capacities where your company might hire Deloitte, AIG, or Oracle Consulting we can bring the same level of service and experience, at about half the price. Simple equation.

Visit us on the web at iheavy.com.

Open Insights 18 – The Cost of Consulting

In This Issue:
1. Feature: The Cost of Consulting
2. New Audio Interview Series
3. Current Reading
4. Lightweight Humor
5. Miscellaneous
6. Past Issues
7. Technical Articles
8. About Heavyweight Internet Group

1. Feature: The Cost of Consulting

I spend a lot of time with prospects, networking, exchanging ideas, and also fishing for new projects. Some of that time is spent on the phone, some at networking events, seminars, and conferences, and some just at lunches. Business as usual you say, right?

In a recent conversation and negotiation over costs for a project, a prospect expressed one of her concerns to me. “Well, I shouldn’t have to finance your lunch dates with other clients…” Now one might take this in an adversarial way, but of course she was merely expressing her interest in keeping costs down on her end, and what she preceived to be a lack of fairness in overall cost. But one thing it made me realize is how there is often a lot of miscommunication, and misunderstandings over the cost of consulting. So that got me thinking about this month’s newsletter.

I’ll start by talking a bit about some of those costs, hidden ones, and obvious ones, and then speak of some hidden benefits of hiring what at first might seem to be a more expensive resource.

Consulting can be a mixed bag in terms of business, and profit. There are ups and downs of the business cycle, and many activities that don’t directly contribute to income. One is keeping skills up to date, which involves following online forums, reading the latest books on the subject, attending and speaking at seminars, and generally being involved in the technical community. As a fulltime employee, that is a natural part of day-to-day activity, and mixes in with your weekly salary as an expected overhead. As a consultant however, those are dreaded “unbillable hours”. Writing this newsletter is another example of unbillable hours, as are phone calls and prospecting in general. In fact of the many aspects of consulting, including accounting, marketing, sales, networking, prospecting, negotiating contracts, billing, maintaining professional skills, and writing code or administrating a system, only the very last two are billable! Unbillable hours are a huge cost in consulting, but benefits, such as 401k, and health insurance are a few additional ones. Each and every one of those costs has to be captured, and encapsulated into an hourly rate, in order to simply be in business. If the money coming in doesn’t equal the costs, you simply won’t be in business for very long. It simply won’t work.

From the perspective of a prospect considering taking on a consultant for a project, it may still not be obvious why this all should concern them. I spoke with a hiring manager once who told me, there are lots of folks out here who will work for $30/hr, students, parttime freelancers, and people looking for a second income. He was right, I’ve met a number of these folks myself. I think they fall into two categories, (1) those for whom consulting is not their primary income and (2) those who are testing the waters, trying to get clients by underselling themselves. The former category of people unfortunately won’t make your business a priority for them, since the income isn’t a priority. And the latter group will inevitably not last long in consulting because they haven’t recognized all of the hidden costs. Take that $30/hr, multiply 40 hours, and 50 weeks (2 weeks vacation is yet another overhead) and you come out with 60k. But that doesn’t account for higher taxes, health insurance, and 401k, and make what businesses estimate to be a 20-25% cost on top of salary. So 80% of that is 48k, and that’s assuming you bill out every hour of every week of the year. More likely it’ll be around 75% of those hours, bringing you down to an equivalent salary of 36k, which is certainly not much of a salary by New York City standards. Take a salary of 90k as a base in NYC, with overhead figure 113k cost to the company, continue with our optimism and figure 75% of the year’s hours are billable, that’s 151k divided into an hourly rate and you get $75/hr.

From the perspective of your business, if you need someone for a quick one-week project, it probably doesn’t matter. In that case, assuming they can execute on what they say, cheaper is probably better. So what do you gain from hiring a resource that at first simply seems more expensive? You get projects done quicker, and anticipate more of the roadblocks, and hurdles in advance. You get peripheral benefits from years of experience, recommendations, opinions, and you get reliability. A consultant who’s been in business for ten years like we have, you know is going to be around after they finish the project. You’re going to be able to turn to them if something goes awry six months or three years down the line. You’ll also get the benefit of their network of contacts, and industry connections, foresight, and perspective.

In the end we’ve found clients pleasantly surprised by what they got for their dollar, at the close of consulting projects. You as a business, must be savvy, and factor not only an hourly rate but also how much time the project will take, whether all the cracks are filled in at the end. Ultimately you want to be sure your new bridge can stand the test of time.

2. New Audio Interview Series

We’ve started a new series of audio interviews or podcast that you’re sure to enjoy. In our first one, we talk with Paul Vallee, Founder and President of Pythian Group, about their use of Open-source technologies in the enterprise, and why they’ve taken the reigns to maintain a Perl to Oracle library called DBD::Oracle. Click here for more.

Do you use Open-source technologies in your enterprise? Would you like to talk about your experiences, and business successes? We’d like to hear from you. Email me at shull@iheavy.com

3. Current Reading

A testament to blogging, each and every one of the authors we mention here has a blog!

Collapse by Jared Diamond
Jared Diamond, famed author of “Guns, Germs, and Steel” points his attention to various human civilizations from history, and discusses what we can learn and apply to our present day environmental and geopolitical problems. Also read Diamond’s blog

Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell
Also the author of Blink, another bestseller, Gladwell discusses various social phenomenon which exhibit a tipping point. He talks about the word of mouth phenomenon, mavens, networking, social connectors, and how size impacts the affectiveness of working groups. This is a superb book, for its excellent no nonesense writing style, and focus on issues of relevance to all of us, especially in business. You can follow Gladwell’s ideas regularly at his blog.

Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi
Keith Ferrazzi takes a fascinating look at networking. Some of his deep insights include “don’t keep score”, “build it before you need it” and “social arbitrage”. I even managed to see him speak at the 92nd Street Y, and I highly recommend his book. He also has a blog Never Eat Alone. Keith also has a 15 point tip sheet called “Conference Commando” which is very good. Search google to find a copy.

We’d also like to bring your attention to Paul Beelen’s Advertising 2.0 Whitepaper. He discusses RSS for syndication of your content, as well as word of mouth advertising on the web, and how blogs are having such an impact. This is very good stuff for anyone running a business on the web.

Tom Peters is one of those famous and insightful people, that always sparks some new thinking when you read his materials. Check out his 111 Ridiculously Obvious Thoughts on Selling.

Have you started using Linkedin, or are wondering how to better manage your network of contacts and associates? Read Keith Ferrazzi’s howto Tools of the Trade: Linkedin

If you’re a blogger, you may be curious how to earn some income from all your hard work, and original content. Here’s a great way to get started Tag, You’re It! Leveraging Tagging For Your Blog

Lastly, I would recommend taking a look at Virtual Handshake by Teten and Allen. The entire book is available for free download off of their site!

4. Lightweight Humor

Here’s a funny one from the Onion CEO’s Success Credited To Unbelievable Handshake!

5. Miscellaneous

We’ve submitted an article to a great site called Change This. Change This is all about optimistic visions for the future, in technology, politics, social change, and business. We would really love your support. Simply follow this link and click the “Vote” button. That’s it.

6. Past Issues

Issue 17: Secrets Of The Interview
Issue 16: Success In Juggling
Issue 15: Marketing About Technology
Archive: Past Issues

7. Technical Articles

Oracle9i + RAC on Linux/Firewire: click here
Migrating MySQL to Oracle: click here
MySQL Disaster Recovery: click here

8. About Heavyweight Internet Group

In a nutshell, Oracle. Everything related to and surrounding the database
technology we specialize in, but specifically setup, admin and tuning of Oracle
technology. I have 10 years experience with Oracle, wrote a book on the
technology, and write and lecture frequently. I’m founder and senior
consultant of the company. In capacities where your company might hire
Deloitte, AIG, or Oracle Consulting we can bring the same level of service
and experience, at about half the price. Simple equation.

Visit us on the web at www.iheavy.com.

Open Insights 17 – Secrets Of The Interview


OPEN INSIGHTS
Issue 17 – Secrets Of The Interview
March 1, 2006

by Sean Hull
<shull@iheavy.com>
Founder and Senior Consultant
Heavyweight Internet Group

Welcome to our free monthly newsletter, discussing news, developments and business best practices at the intersection of Oracle and Open Source software.

In This Issue:
1. Feature: How to Interview
2. Current Reading
3. Lightweight Humor
4. Past Issues
5. Technical Articles
6. About Heavyweight Internet Group

1. Feature: Secrets Of The Interview
Anthony Bourdain is a famous New York City chef, has been on various talkshows, and published a spectacularly funny expose of the restaurant business called “Kitchen Confidential”. In it he discusses a restaurant owner and purveyer from the West Village who has a longstanding reputation, and interesting nickname to boot. This quote inspired this months newsletter…

“Bigfoot understood — as I came to understand — that character is far more important than skills or employment history. And he recognized character — good and bad — brilliantly. He understood, and taught me, that a guy who shows up every day on time, never calls in sick and does what he said he was going to do is less likely to f**k you in the end than a guy who has an incredible resume but is less than reliable about arrival time. Skills can be taught. Character you either have or don’t have. Bigfoot understood that there are two types of people in the world: those who do what they say they’re going to do — and everyone else.”

Now with all the interviews you’ve either had, or given, how often are you preoccupied with specifics of skills, and distracted by the details of the project itself to forget these important essentials?

I will certainly grant you that a good foundation and skillset is important. Basic problem solving, as well as theoretical and abstract thinking are crucial for technical positions. But all the Fortune 500 experience, name dropping, and buzzwords on the resume don’t necessarily lead that way. Specific skills may be less important as they are all learnable. Furthermore there is likely a huge pool of specifics for your project which will be new and have to be learned anyway. Did the individual work their way through college, hold jobs before college, are they on-time and confident?

If you think back to projects you’ve managed in the past you’ll find, as I have in subcontracting freelancers now for over seven years, it is that the ones who are driven and determined, and can execute what they say, when they say they will who you want to work with again. Can they estimate their time to complete tasks and follow through?

So how many times has your interviewee made mistakes and gotten back up? In my experience interviews are composed of questions of one type, but inevitably what clients compliment and thank me for after a project is completed, all boil down to those things which define character.
2. Current Reading
Copy This, by Kinkos founder Paul Orfalea, and Ann Marsh
Especially prescient this month, as it connects right in with our character versus skill discussion is Copy This. It’s the story of Kinkos founder Paul Orfalea, how he started the company, how he turned his dyslexia into an asset, and how he continues to lack basic reading and writing skills (unbelievably for a fortune 500 CEO), yet through his great people skills, and really paying attention to the things that matter he managed to grow Kinkos into a household brand. I saw Paul speak six months ago at the New York Small Business Summit, and he has real charm and charisma. I became even more convinced that the real skills that matter most are those very skills that interviews so often miss.

Pro MySQL, by Michael Kruckenberg & Jay Pipes
If you’re looking to move into the MySQL space, or you manage a few of these databases, this is an excellent APress title to take a look at. It skips a lot of the basics you can get from the manuals, and digs into the meatier material. I’ll also point you to a related article I did for DBA Zine: MySQL for the Oracle DBA

Kitchen Confidential – Anthony Bourdain
Bourdain has been through the trenches. Before I read this book I had no idea that might describe the kitchens of some of New York’s finest restaurants. Yet there it is in black and white, all the crazy hours, colorful characters, and wild stories that he tells so well. This book is not for the squeamish, and it may be that many of us would rather not know!

3. Lightweight Humor
Here’s an amusing Dilbert from a few days ago. The boss is grilling Dilbert over a project that is four months behind, and he tries to pass the buck.

4. Past Issues
Issue 16: Success In Juggling
Issue 15: About Technology
Issue 14: The Tricky Database
Issue 13: Oracle Heavy Lifting
Archive: Past Issues

5. Technical Articles
Oracle9i + RAC on Linux/Firewire: click here
Migrating MySQL to Oracle: click here
MySQL Disaster Recovery: click here

6. About Heavyweight Internet Group

In a nutshell, Oracle. Everything related to and surrounding the database technology we specialize in, but specifically setup, admin and tuning of Oracle technology. I have 10 years experience with Oracle, wrote a book on the technology, and write and lecture frequently. I’m founder and senior consultant of the company. In capacities where your company might hire Deloitte, AIG, or Oracle Consulting we can bring the same level of service and experience, at about half the price. Simple equation.

Visit us on the web at http://iheavy.com.

Open Insights 16 – Success In Juggling

Open Insights Newsletter
Issue 16 – Success in Juggling
February 1, 2006
by Sean Hull shull@iheavy.com

Founder and Senior Consultant
Heavyweight Internet Group

Welcome to our free monthly newsletter, discussing news, developments and business best practices at the intersection of Oracle and Open Source software.


In This Issue:
1. Feature: Success in Juggling
2. Expanding Newsletter
3. Industry Heavies – Interviews
4. Current Reading
5. Lightweight Humor
6. Book Reviews
7. Miscellaneous
8. Past Issues
9. Technical Articles
10. About Heavyweight Internet Group


1. Feature: Success in Juggling
In Godin’s “The Big Moo” there’s an article about success in business using a unique insight. “Juggling is about throwing, not catching.” Now being part-time juggler in real life, and having spent ten long years as an independent consultant, I can tell you first hand that this is incredibly, terribly accurate. The worse your throws are, the more catch-up you have to play. Good throws are easy to catch and so they make the whole process smoother, and more fluid.

Obviously there’s an analogy here, and I think a very serious one to ponder. Take for example this very excellent presentation by Dick Hardt entitled OSCON 2005 Keynote – Identity 2.0. This presentation is what I would call, slide after slide a perfect throw each time. He seemlessly takes you from one thought to the next, also building on the last until you get the picture. His presentation is very engaging because of that.

That’s another point about good consulting. Companies have spent so much time with cookie-cutter consultants coming from the big consulting firms that they sometimes assume boutique firms will be the same or worse. But the reality is those big firms have million dollar sales teams negotiating contracts for which they simply apply resources.

The other insight here comes from watching a beginner learn to juggle. Despite explaining to them how important a good throw is, they’re going to get excited at first, and get all worked up, and it’s still going to be difficult for them. You have to help them get over that hump. The same goes in consulting projects. In truth clients hire you because you have a proven track record at knowing how to throw, and hoping that you’ll be able to extend that skill to their business. With patience it can be done, and the insight from this example is that the patience really needs to be practiced all around the table. If as a consultant you expect all your clients to know what they want, you’re kidding yourself. If they knew all that, they could execute themselves without hiring you. So too, if clients expect that just plugging in the right resource will solve all their difficult problems, they have a few things to learn from juggling as well.

So set about your next technology project with this insight in mind. You want to be as serious about throwing, as you are about catching. And keep it in mind as you review and consider outside resources for those projects.

2. Expanding Newsletter
We’ve reached our 1200th subscriber for our monthly newsletter, and also decided on the name “Open Insights”. Thanks so much for passing us along to colleagues. With any luck we’ll double again in the coming year!

We’re also adding more features, and a contents section, so you can quickly jump to what you’re interested in.

3. Heavyweight Industry Interviews
I interviewed the authors of six open-source projects which work with Oracle, and published the interviews in their entirety on Oracle + Open Source. Included are…

Ljubomir Buturovic, author of gqlplus
Itzchak Rehberg, author of OraRep
Jeff Horwitz, author of extproc_perl
Paul Vallee, the author of m2o.pl
Tim Strehle, author of the OracleEditor
Clausen Yngve, author of ora2html

Read – Oracle Open Source Projects – The Interviews.

4. Current Reading
The Big Moo, edited by Seth Godin see also Remarkablize.com
Seth Godin edits this little book of insights, including essays and new ideas from such luminaries as Malcolm Gladwell, Mark Cuban, Tom Peters, and Amit Gupta.

The Database Hacker’s Handbook by David Litchfield, Chris Anley, John Heasman & Bill Grindlay
This book talks A to Z about database security, covering Oracle, SQL Server, DB2 and Sybase as well as open-source MySQL, and Postgres.

The Deep Hot Biosphere by Thomas Gold
The premise, backed by a lot of chemistry, and current respected science is that hydrocarbons, commonly known as fossil fuels are not of fossil origin, but are a natural component of the earth’s core. See also Abiogenic petrolium origin.

5. Lightweight Humor
This blog Gaping Void has some pretty insightful and humorous cartoons, all drawn on the backs of business cards. Here’s one about smarter and faster markets.

6. Book Reviews
Expert Oracle Database Architecture, by Tom Kyte
Tom Kyte’s books are always excellent, and this one is certainly no exception. Read the in-depth review here.

Cost-Based Oracle, by Jonathan Lewis
Jonathan Lewis as many of you know, is a world renowned expert in the field of Oracle database administration and tuning. His new book on Oracle’s sophisticated Cost-Based Optimizer will provide insights, and insider detail like no other you’ve read before. You can find the full review here.

7. Miscellaneous: Tags & Related News
We’ve added a few things to our blog “Oracle and Open Source”, including a “Tag Cloud” of keywords that appear most frequently on the Oracle blog aggregation site “OraBlogs”. To learn more about that, visit http://www.tagcloud.com. We’d also recommend taking a look at the social bookmarking site http://del.icio.us We have aggregated our favorite sites there as well.

8. Past Issues
Issue 15: Marketing About Technology
Issue 14: The Tricky Database
Issue 13: Oracle Heavy Lifting
Archive: Past Issues

9. Technical Articles
Oracle9i + RAC on Linux/Firewire: click here
Migrating MySQL to Oracle: click here
MySQL Disaster Recovery: click here

10. About Heavyweight Internet Group
In a nutshell, Oracle. Everything related to and surrounding the database technology we specialize in, but specifically setup, admin and tuning of Oracle technology. We have 10 years experience with Oracle, wrote a book on the technology, and write and lecture frequently. I’m founder and senior consultant of the company. In capacities where your company might hire Deloitte, AIG, or Oracle Consulting we can bring the same level of service and experience, at about half the price. Simple equation. Visit us on the web at iheavy.com.

Open Insights 15 – Marketing About Technology

By Sean Hull

Founder and Senior Consultant

January 1, 2006

Happy New Year everyone, and welcome to another year of Heavyweight Internet Group’s monthly newsletter.

Please forward to interested friends and colleagues. Subscription information can be found at the end.

Please also visit our sister site Oracle and Open Source for more frequent updates.

In This Issue:

Feature: Marketing About Technology

On The Lighter Side

Past Issues

Technical Articles

Marketing About Technology

At a recent day long seminar on Oracle technology I sat in on a panel where the

audience asked questions, and the panel responded with their professional expe

riences on that technology. One question was on Real Application Clusters, and whether it was a recommended solution for High Availability in a given environment. Should we go with RAC?

What struck me at that moment was two very opposing visions. One was of a bore

d technologist, who, having implemented the perfect high availability solution has very little to do because it runs so well. He affectively lets his genius work him out of a job. The technology just runs, and he has nothing really to do! The other vision was of a marketing/sales team, who has just sold a company on the latest wizbang technology that will save the business millions. They’re very excited because they know how much revenue it will bring into the consulting company.

What’s wrong with these two pictures? Well obviously the former picture of the

technologist who has nothing to do, we all know (I hope) is a fantasy. Despite all the marketing in the world self-managing systems remain, and I think will forever remain, a figment of the imagination. The complexity of technology systems, whether from security issues, upgrades, bugs, patches, new features, or new application development, will forever keep the technology administrator busy. Now the latter picture, I hope, also sounds fantastical, that of the perfectly happy consulting group who get everything they want. The truth is with enough insight, investigation, and research you can and should educate yourself be forehand about what’s reasonable, and within reach.

But what I also think is important, and want to draw your attention to is the two distinct perspectives. The technologists perspective is, or at least should

be to simplify the technology so it’s boring. So it’s ordinary in a way that

makes the business run smoothly. That way the technology facilitates, and provides, but doesn’t hinder, or become a nuisance. Now we know all technologists may not be of the mind to simplify, but we can point in this direction. So for instance when we look at upgrading systems to the “latest and greatest” we might think twice, and imagine being on the oldest supported version, which has every known bug ironed out, and support has a good document on every issue already tweaked, honed, and polished for your use. This isn’t as glamourous as using the latest Agile Software or Grid technology, but it may well be the most reliable.

And what of the other perspective? The marketing and sales perspective is to build the business, and in the case of consulting, find challenges, and ever bigger problems for which experts will be needed. This is a natural consequence of perspective, to build that type of business.

What you as a client hiring a professional services firm should keep in mind is all of these perspectives, as they all come into play, and point different minds in different directions. Hopefully with enough foresight, you can hire the right group, with just the right balance that won’t end up creating more opportunities for themselves, than they solve for you.

On the lighter side

Everyone who enjoys the great technology of google, but also wonders from time to time if there is an end in site should check out this great piece over at the Onion Google Announces Plan to Destroy All Information It Can’t Index.

Open Insights 14 – The Tricky Database

By Sean Hull

Founder and Senior Consultant

December 1, 2005
The Tricky Database
Which of these statements fits your thinking?

“Well we want the best of the best, so we got Oracle.”

“We have expensive problems to solve so we spent handsomely on the solution.”

“We need to be up more than 99.999% of the time, so we surely need Oracle.”
The truth is technology experts can tell you exactly what the database is and does but may not have the most insight into when and how to use it most effectively. And as managers we often have the above insights about problems that need to get solved, and budgets and so on and so forth, but the two bits of intelligence are often separated by an abyss of understanding, leaving money badly spent, or real business problems half solved.
At Heavyweight Internet Group I sit in the unlikely position of having one foot in both camps. So hopefully I can extend some insight, and possibly shed a little light on some of these questions. Ok, here goes…
1. Why are databases such a complex component in the enterprise?
Well to put it mildly, everyone has their hand in there. The finance department keeps accounting, and business intelligence there, helping to answer big questions about running the business, hr, marketing, and sales all want to keep contact info there. It’s your business’s proverbial golden nugget. So it needs to be available all the time, like electricity, or the telephone system. Unfortunately it’s a much more complex beast than those technologies, and is constantly evolving too. There are backups, security, patches, and upgrades to worry about. Not to mention application tuning, when the logic behind those lengthly reports becomes unweildy, or your data volume grows.
2. What’s with database “tuning” anyway? Is Oracle the PINTO of software?
This is a very interesting question for me, primarily because I can see it from two very different angles. From the management side I see this hunk of technology that looks for all intents and purposes like a very expensive Pinto, a Jaguar automobile of old. It needs constant attention, the parts are expensive, and so are the mechanics. But when I put on my engineering cap, I can see a shining piece of engineering marvel. A machine which, when tuned properly (not an easy task I grant you) will outperform any other datastore in the world. Thousands and thousands of transactions a second can be performed, while hundreds and hundreds of users are all connected simultanously asking it their own questions.
Now I will grant you that the machine does not come out of the box tuned very well as a starter system, the principal reason for this is there are so many types of uses. There are datawarehouses, terabytes of archival data, and reports that run all night long on million row tables. And there are transactional (dubbed OLTP) systems, perhaps driving the backend of a website or ecommerce site. Databases run financial institutions, and small startup companies, each with a different profile of needs. And what also makes it complex is that each of those businesses will be running on different hardware, from mainframes, to Linux servers, and Windows XP, to Sun Solaris. Some will have EMC storage, while others will have a cheap Intel based RAID controller with six disks. Every system can be tuning precisely, but out-of-the-box Oracle doesn’t just plop down and do what you want.
3. Will monitoring save me? What about the Remote DBA?

Automated monitoring is a really excellent way to keep your systems in tip-top shape. You spend time and money at the outset, but you gain peace of mind that your infrastructure will keep rolling. There are many ways to get monitoring, from commercial software packages that you can install, which provide fancy graphical front-ends to the database, to various Open Source solutions like Nagios which provide all the power, functionality, and customizability you could ever want, but perhaps with a few less bells and whistles on the interface.
If you’re not comfortable with these solutions, you can outsource this aspect of your infrastructure. Sign a contract with a vendor who specializes in this type of service, with a specific service level agreement, guarenteed response. That way it will be in their interests to keep track of the things that could most threaten your day-to-day operations, from security concerns and backups, to rogue or errant queries that are impacting performance. Even hardware monitoring is available, so the loss of a harddrive in your RAID array is noticed well before it threatens your whole system.
4. Is 5×9 reasonable? Can we do HA?
The industry talks about 5 NINES, that is 99.999% uptime as the sort of gold standard of availability. But lets really think about that. With only three NINES, you have room for 10 minutes of downtime per week, four NINES gives you only 1 minute per week, and five NINES gives you a mere 6 seconds per week. Here’s a more detailed look at what five NINES really means.
To put that in perspective, the power grid that runs the Northeastern United States was out in August 2003 for 24 hours. New Yorkers will remember this well. The last big one was the blackout of 1965. If you do the math that’s a real outage of 38 minutes per year, or a little better than four NINES. If you took all the little power outages businesses experience, the picture gets worse. Now granted many datacenters have their own power generators, but the point remains in complex systems, even with plenty of redundancy, and elimination of human error from the mix, some downtime is inevitable.
What about High Availability? Oracle offers this in a couple of ways. One through Dataguard, formerly Standby Database, and the other through Real Application Clusters (RAC). Yes these technologies will bring you closer to five NINES, but a reasonable and real assessment of the technologies, and real-world test cases, and relative expenditures have to be considered to get a true sense of what is reasonable to expect. As more complex components are added to the mix, both hardware and software, you have more points that can fail, and more possible software bugs too.
5. What about the Open Source databases? Will they change everything?
The Open Source databases vying for your attention these days include Firebird, MySQL, Postgres, and Ingres. The question of Open Source databases becomes more and more relevant everyday. As new features are added, and they become more sophisticated and feature rich, more businesses will use them for their data. Many enterprises are sticking with the watch and wait plan, and letting others live on the bleeding edge. We covered this over at Oracle and Open Source in an article War of the Databases?.
On the lighter side

A colleague of mine recently forwarded this excellent illustration. Everyone in the business of technology projects, whether you hire outside resources, or have developers in house, would benefit from understanding this. It is a picture with ten panels, each illustrating a different perspective of a technology project, from “How the customer explained it” to “How the business consultant described it” and even “How the customer was billed”. Well worth a look, and hopefully to keep in mind as what to avoid.

Open Insights 13 – Oracle Heavy Lifting

Heavyweight Internet Group Newsletter

Issue 13 – Oracle Heavy Lifting

November 1, 2005


by Sean Hull

Founder and Senior Consultant

Heavyweight Internet Group


Welcome to our free monthly newsletter, discussing news, developments and business best practices at the intersection of Oracle and Open Source software.


Please forward to interested friends and colleagues. Subscription information can be found at the end.


We are now writing material regularly for our sister site Oracle + Open Source so check there for more frequent updates.

Oracle Heavy Lifting


In consulting, I have the unique opportunity to both think deeply about technology, how it works, and what it can do, and also about business questions, what does a business need to do, and how will technology help it achieve greater returns. I just finished pouring over Tom Kyte’s new Expert Oracle title. It is an excellent book, full of plenty of deep insights about Oracle technology. As I was reading the chapters, I noted in particular which features required enterprise edition, and which are included in standard edition. You can find my chapter by chapter review on Amazon.


As I’m engaged with many different types of clients and businesses, I have the opportunity to see Oracle in various real-world situations, solving real business problems. I came to a profound realization that most enterprises decide how much to spend on Oracle in proportion to (a) the business problem & use they are putting it to and (b) how expensive the hardware and consulting services are. In other words the expense is relative to the budget constraints, and in proportion to the problem it is solving. However, with my technology hat on I realized that though it might seem like a rational decision from the business side, you may not be doing all the heavy lifting you think you’re doing. Put another way Enterprise Edition may not be what you need, or at least more than you’re using.


Without going into a tremendous amount of technical detail, I just wanted to outline the situations where Enterprise Edition would likely be worth the money, and when it may be overkill. When Standard Edition sits at roughly 10-15% of Enterprise Edition, that’s certainly something a business should consider.


A traditional way to separate database types is into two categories, Data Warehouse and OLTP. A Data Warehouse is characterized by very few users, doing large long running queries. OLTP or OnLine Transaction Processing is characterized by hundreds of concurrent users, such as a database which serves as a backend datastore to a website. An Oracle database can be tuned to prioritize and use resources most efficiently for each type of database.

So what does this have to do with Enterprise or Standard Edition. Well as it turns out Enterprise Edition proves a very attractive option for Data Warehouses. There are features such as streams, transportable tablespaces, materialized views, advanced analytical functions, and compression to name a few. None of these features are included in Standard Edition. Additionally there are other EE options which are attractive for Data Warehouses including Partitioning, and various ways to parallelize operations to help a single session consume the resources of the entire machine. These parallel operations can speed up dataloads, rebuilds, batch jobs, and large queries against even terabytes of data.


But what about Transactional environments (OLTP)? Many businesses use Oracle as a backend datastore for their online presence, such as banks, bookstores, airlines, and just about any other dynamic website. Well there are some features such as Fine Grained Access, Virtual Private Database, and Secure Roles which aren’t available in Standard Edition. There are also the Tuning, Change Management, and Diagnostics packs that are add-on options only available with Enterprise Edition. But many folks are just looking for speed and high availability features. Will Enterprise Edition help in this area? Well you only have Data Guard in Enterprise Edition, but databases can be cloned, and that process can be scripted, and although not seemless, and an integrated feature as Data Guard is, something similar can be done in Standard Edition. So how about the Parallel Features, and the Partitioning option. Will those help with Transactional databases? Let’s start with partitioning, it is a feature which may or may not be heavily used in your environment, but if your application is OLTP, chances are you’re not getting dramatic query improvements, because your queries are characterized by small frequent accesses by lots of concurrent users. Now partitioning will help you with maintenance and availability, but in that sense it serves more as a DBA tool, than a performance boost overall. What about the parallel operations. Again mostly for DBA operations, one-off rebuilds and dataloads can be made to run quite a lot faster but the day to day operation of your database may not be dramatically impacted by this feature.


With Oracle’s recent announcement of it’s Express Edition of 10g as well as it’s purchase of Innobase a commercial component of MySQL providing solid transactional support, your options are wider and more complex than ever before. Your best bet navigating this complex landscape is to get an accessment of your current infrastructure, or do sufficient research before investing in that new project. Like buying a car, ask lots of questions, don’t believe everything you hear, and kick the tires before you buy. Both Standard and Enterprise Edition can be downloaded for single-instance development use & testing off of Oracle Technology Network.

Technical Articles at IHEAVY.COM

Coming soon… A Hitchhiker’s Guide to Oracle 10g RAC

Note: The following articles will be returning to iHeavy.com soon. We’ve done some redesign and rebuilding, and have to add these again…

Tracking the Wily Proxy Hackers

Asterisk Calling Card Applications

MySQL Disaster Recovery

Dummy’s Guide to Linux firewalls

Wireless Truth or Dare

Mirroring for the Impatient