Oct 28, 2008

Goodbye Carl

I just can't believe it ! I just heard the news about Carl Backstrom.

Carl, we will miss you.

He was a really friendly person and a great guy. Always ready to help the community.

I am shocked. This is a big loss.

My condolences to his family.


Oct 8, 2008

My week at Oracle Open World - Part 3 (Final)

Wednesday September 25

Yep, after this long day and after spending a lot of energy stressed about the presentation, well, it was time for Party !

This year, the appreciation event was on the Treasure Island in SFO. Treasure Island is a man-made atoll located in the middle of San Francisco Bay and just beneath the San Francisco Bay Bridge.

For the occasion, there was some thrill rides , arcades and two stages with live performances. It's my second OpenWorld and again, it was incredible. As last year, there was a lot of food and drinks. What a nice party.

Here are some pictures of the event :

Thursday September 26

After a short night, I attendted Jonh Scott's presentation "Dispelling Myths About Oracle Application Express" . Of all the presentation I saw during the week, I think that this one was one of my favourite. Why ? Because, we have been using APEX for more than 4 years now and we used it in all kinds of architectures, applications, configurations and it is working very well but, when you talk to your customers about Apex, they do not believe us when we say that this new tool is : a good tool, it scales, it's web enabled, it's secure, it's simple. Everything today is so complicated that when you say "well, all you need is an oracle database" the customer says "What's the catch ?" "Can it scale", "Will Oracle support it", "If it's free it's not good", "It's not a proven technology" .

Well, Scott did a good job in listing all of those myths and dispelled them one by one. Nice job. If you have the chance to see that presentation, go. It's worth it. Especially for the Apex timeline that he shows . It's surprising to see for how long this product (Apex) has been there. Longer than you think...

Later, at the end of the day, I saw "Building a Web 2.0 Interface with Oracle Application Express" by Mark Lancaster. Another good presentati
on explaining AJAX and Javascript with Apex. You can find examples on his Blog. I especially liked his story about his water cooling machine. It's a long story but it short, Technology is simple but it still takes experienced people to help you get the best out of it.

Friday September 27

Well, that was my last day in SFO and we went visiting Alacatraz , Fisherman's warf and Pier 39. We also did a last ride in the Cable Car.

With so many new things in my mind, I now have to find a way to communicate everything to my team here in Montreal.


Oct 5, 2008

My week at Oracle Open World - Part 2

Wednesday September 25

Wednesday was a big day for me. I was going to be part of a presentation for the first time at OOW !
I was a bit nervous since I had nothing prepared. The fact that English is not my native language added to the nervousness. But it was a round table and we were there to just talk about our experience with APEX in a Software as a sevice (SAAS) environment and answer questions from the audience.

So, in the morning, I attended the "Soup-to-Nuts RAD Development Using Oracle SQL Developer and Oracle Application Express" presentation by Mike Hichwa and David Peake.
We had a preview of the data modeler tool that will be integrated in SQL Developer. It looks very promising and at last, we will be able to easyly publish our data model and compare different schemas via SQL Developper. I think that people that are currently using designer only for the modeling part will rapidly switch to this new tool.

here is a snapshot of what it looks like :

There was also a demo of APEX and the Forms conversion tool.

After that we took a look at the Demo ground and Exhibition Hall and went to lunch.

We then decided to go to Larry's Keynote. I think that it is a must see for people attending OOW.
We had to wait in line an hour before. There was a lot of people there ! But it was worth the wait.

Larry officially launched the Exadata storage servers in partneship with HP. Very interesting piece of equipement.

After the Keynote , it was my turn, I was a speaker in the "S300458 - Building commercial Software-As-A-Service (SAAS) applications with Oracle Application Express" presentation.

So we went back to Moscone South. I think that the presentation went pretty well. We were six on the Panel and David Peake hosted the roundtable. Our product was a bit different than the others since our SAAS solution is a CRM but also generates dynamically the public websites of our customers. All this in the same multi tenant APEX application.

The participants of the roundtable were :
  • Jim Brull, Centroid
  • Doug Gault, Hotsos
  • Francis Mignault, Insum Solutions
  • Anton Nielsen, C2Consulting
  • Paulo Vale, Neoface
  • Dennis Vanill, Paetec
I really liked to exchange on the SAAS topic with the other panellists. In a way, we all share the sames issues and they are not only technical issues.

Our solution is an integrated Association Management service. We host the application on our servers and our clients uses it to maintain their membership database. With only a web browser, they have access to an application that stores the information of all their members and suppliers in one single place. They can print members cards, print labels, follow their communications, renew the memberships automatically, generate public and private web pages, list the activities, allow on-line subscription, interface with their accounting system and produce different reports.

We also provide a job offer system where external suppliers can post job offers themselves and the result is automatically sent to all the members on a daily basis.

They can generate mailing lists, members can print and pay their invoices on-line. They can also update their profile on-line. The general public can query the members database with specific criterias.

It is even possible to display ads on their web-sites through a user friendly interface. This is really the beauty of our solution since our software become a source of revenue for the association. Not only it allows associations to give a better service to their members by communicating the information more rapidly, it eases the burdon of having to maintain and support the software and the hardware. It also reduces the manual administration of the association by automating a lot of the business processes.

It is a management system for Assoctions memberships with some content management.

Our customers benefits of an up-to-date software at all time. We constantly add new features and everyone using the software gets those features automatically. It's a living software without having to worry about upgrades, licenses and technical issues.

The application also make extensive use of the globalization functionalities integrated in APEX. That allows us to offer a bilingual (French and English) software.

We host our SAAS in a secure environment with a redundant database on a remote site and by doing so our service is reliable and always available.

All this using Oracle Application Express. Because APEX is scalable (we currently support over 60 000 user accounts) and because the architecture is simple (Oracle database only) this allow us to offer our solution at an affordable price without any worries.

We have a dedicated team that are working exclusively on support and maintenance of our product.

To find out more about our SAAS solution, you can check our website at www.insum.ca

You can check some of our customers sites here on the right of my blog : "Websites using our SAAS product (Association Management Software)"

We are also listed on the Oracle Apex website in the Commercial Applications section.

I really enjoyed this session. I would like to thank the other participants and especially David Peake who made this possible.

If you are thinking about a SAAS hosted solution made with Oracle Aplication EXpress and you don't know where to start, need help or if you have any questions, feel free to send me an e-mail .

You can download the powerpoint presentation here.

Next post will be about My week at OOW Part 3 (final) ...
More to come : Appreciation Event, Seal, UB40, Alcatraz , Web 2.0 with APEX and John Scott presentation : Myths about Oracle application express ...


Oct 1, 2008

My week at Oracle Open World - Part 1

Again, this year, it was very impressive being part of Oracle Open World.
The city was painted in Red and there was Oracle logos everywhere, on the sidewalks, on the busses , on the taxis, literally everywhere.

Here are the higlights of my week in SFO (PART 1 ):

Saturday September 20th
We arrived in San Francisco on Saturday , the flight was ok and everything went smoothly. This year, my colleague Patrick was part of the trip. It was fun being able to share those moments with someone. After our registration , in order to get in the mood of the city, we decided to go for a Cable Car ride and go check Fishermans Warf.

Sunday September 21st
Now it was time for the real thing. Meeting again with Apex related friends. It's always nice to see everyone again .
So we started the day with the "Oracle Application Express SIG: Ask the Experts (IOUG)" session where the panel discussed and answered questions about Apex. It would be a good idea to have this session at the end of the week after all the Apex sessions. Maybe next year.

After I attended the session : "Using Oracle Database 11g and Oracle Application Express to Change Business Practices and Realize ROI" by Anton Neilsen. It was again very interesting to hear real life situations where Apex was used and where the time constraints where very high. Another success story about using Apex and delivering a stable application in a record time.

And then, it was time for Joel Kallman presentation about Globalization. We, at Insum, do use this feature a lot. Here in Montreal, our customers are both French and English speaking. And let me tell you that this is just a great feature. It's not only about translation but about globalization itself. Things like date formats and NLS formats are all available declaratively in Apex out of the box. Today with the web and the opening to the rest of the world ( Open. World ;) ) , I think that this is a must. So again, another great APEX presentation.

During the day, I also had the chance to meet with Paulo Vale. We where both participating in the round table about SAAS with APEX. It is always fun to meet in person with people you only knew through their blog.
We had a lot to share about hosted apex applications. Very interesting to have other points of view. Sometimes, even if you are in different countries and speaking different languages, a lot of things are similar. Especially when you are in the same line of business and using the same technology.

I finished the day at the Welcome Reception. Food, drinks and live music. What more can you ask for ?

Monday September 22nd

On monday morning, it was back to the conferences.
Running from the Mariott Hotel to the Moscone Center West , to Moscone South. That was good exercise.

I attended Deb Groskreutz's presentation "Rapid Development/Validation of Oracle Application Express APplications at an FDA-Regulated Medical Device Firm". Another good real life example of using Apex in projects with limited time and resources.

I also attended Roel Hartman's presentation about "Developing a Real-World Logistic Application with Oracle Application Express". Roel showed some interesting stuff using Ajax and Apex togheter.

On monday, there was also the much expected presentation about "Migrating from Oracle Forms to Oracle Application Express" by David Peake.
I think that this is very interesting. There was a lot of people attending this presentation since I think that most of them already looked at the java opportunity but are still looking for easier path to the web. David did say that Forms will NOT be desupported short term. He also said that this is not a silver bullet solution but a conversion project. That means that it will not convert everything automatically since client-server and web applications are not the using the same approach and functionalities. But this is a great tool to help moving to a web environment. Looks pretty promising and we can't wait to start using it.

Another interesting conference was the "Oracle Application Express Mashup". I learned what a mashup was.
Check out this microsoft product called Photosynth . I also learned about Dapper , Popfly and Yahoo Pipes. You can use all those tools in an Apex application. Oracle Application Express is really opened to all kinds of web technologies. That is very cool stuff.

To finish the day, we went to see Carl Backstrom's presentation "Web 2.0 Development with Oracle Application Express" . I already saw this presentation at ODTUG but this time Carl talked about some new features coming out in 4.0 like the Dynamic Actions (cool). Again, a great presentation. You can check his blog to download the example application. I really like the idea of having access to the tools used to build Apex. With Apex, you have the declarative side and the under the hood side. It's a bit like mini-wheats ! So having access to those low level procedures gives you the opportunity to build what you want. I have some catch up to do with JSON and with javascript. A lot of studying ahead...

And the day finished at the OTN Night. Food, drinks and games ...

Tuesday September 23

On tuesday, after a short night, we started with Tom Kyte's keynote "The Best Way... "
He really has a good approach on how to deal with problems and how to think "Out of the box".
As always, very good presentation. It was nice to attend something not too technical. There were some very nice and funny quotes. I don't remember all of them but one of them goes something like : "One best pratice is NOT to have best practices" , meaning that you cannot rely on best practices with your eyes closed since things are evolving and changing overtime.

Another interesting presentation, was "The Power of the Oracle Application Express Repository" by Patrick Wolf. Patrick showed us the path to heaven ;) Very nice and funny presentation. He explained that with the Apex Repository, you can do a lot of things like QA and even unsupported updates directly in the metadata.

We finished the day at the Apex Meetup. Thanks Dimitri for organizing the meetup !
This time it was drinks, food and friends.

Next post will be about My week at OOW Part 2 ...
I still have some interesting things to talk about : Exadata, Larry Ellison, Appreciation Event, Seal, UB40, Alcatraz , Me at the SAAS Apex presentation ...