Monday, May 24, 2010

BI Forum - consolidated geekness awards

According to Daan Bakboord over here, Robin and me reached ultimate twitter geekness when I watched Daan tweeting, took a pic of him and tweeted it and Robin took a pic of me taking a pic of Daan tweeting...

Well agreed it was kinda geeky in a web 2.0orhea kind of way. Still, I vote for this pic as the winner of the generic geek award, category t-shirt:

So after this, here's all the pics I took:

BI Brighton Forum

Sunday, May 23, 2010

BI Forum Brighton 2010

Hi all,

well what can I say...the BI forum at the Brighton Marina was a blast. Almost the whole european blogger community was there and we had a real good time and extremely good discussions. Plus as of Friday we even had goo weather!

Last things first, at the end we voted for the best speaker of the event and Robin Moffatt won this year. Especially cool for him since we popped his speaker-cherry at this event ;-) So congrats Robin.

The first day of the event was a masterclass on OBIEE with Kurt Wolff. I'm sure you all know him, but to re-iterate: he was part of the original nQuire team and is - as he says - responsible for some of the things which confuse people today.
It's amazing to see how much of concepts and design decisions which were made by people like Kurt or Ed Suen back in 1998 are still the basis of what we do almost unaltered form. @lex has a nice write-up over here and all I want to add to this is: thanks for your excellent presentation, Kurt. Brilliant explanantions and insights!

At night before the dinner we had Phil Bates rocking up together with Mike Durran and Adam Bloom to give a keynote speech for this event on the topic of "a future version of one of their products that they're working on in the labs". So you might guess that he could have meant 11g but we can't be sure since the Oracle guys continued to use that phrase throughout the next 2 days ;-)
Phil had some nice slides and we finally saw most of them demoed on a obviously no screenshots from there.

Day 2 started off with Mike Durran again who seems to be getting the early-bird sessions every time. At least this time he got Wednesday so no real danger of too much impact from the "entertainment committee" aka "Ragnar and Borkur" (more on that later).
Mike showed us the future architecture and systems management features of 11g. So obviously he had hard time finishing a single topic without questions and everyone was volunteering his speaker time to stay on subject (equally obviously that didn't happen). That first in-depth presentation clearly showed us all several things: first of all the learning curve won't be linear...not even will be logarithmic. Can't really say much more but be prepared to be astonished. Unfortunately I was so concentrated on the topic that I didn't take a picture :-S (neither Kurt the day before actually...).

Next up was speaker-award winner Robin Moffatt on "Performance Testing OBIEE". I think his example was the most thorough, well-structured and thought-through performance testing strategy I have seen at any clients side in the last 5 years. There's huge misconceptions on this topic out there and Robins presentation is a good guideline which covers the most important questions you have to ask yourself before going off to test your solution for performance. And here he is in action:

Next up was Elio Idema on "Complex Modelling with OBIEE". It was funny to see him more or less hitting similar topics as Kurt had the day before since it really enforced the main theme of this whole forum and the single most important recurring point in OBIEE projects: data modelling. He had some excellent points on how to procede in transforming entity-relationship data models into analysis-oriented star schemas in the physical layer and I would really suggest to anyone attempting such a feat to check out his slides and follow his main points. (I'll try and get him to blog on this as well).
I only caught him on camera afterwards so here he is (on the right):

After lunch there was Emial van Bockel who hit the same spot with "The art of modelling with OBIEE". Like last year he had some interesting slides on the way his company models information, what concepts lie beneath these models and how they evolve. Quite obviously he spawned a lively debate; here we have John Minkjan (left hand, turned), Robin Moffatt, Sukesh and Michal Zima: then we have Justin Townsend, Peter Scott and Michael Krantz.

Next up we pestered Adam Bloom...i.e. he had his presentation and we constantly asked for more since his topic was "BI in and on the Business Process – New Innovations between BI 11g and BPM 11g". Adam is the Oracle Product Manager for the whole action framework so you can imagine that we took the liberty of going down to the nitty-gritty. The scope of the whole topic is so vast though that time ran out way too early.
Here he is as he was most of the time: hacking away at a "future product that's in the lab":

After that we had a debate on "What should drive your modelling strategy from ELT to front end?" presented by Emial and myself. Obviously no pic I've taken, but good ol' @lex took one and I'm sure you agree we had THE opening slide ;-)))

With this we ended day 2 and after a short round of drinks in the bar, headed out for dinner. But this is a geek blog, so fast-forward to day 3.

In order to slow him down and not have him win speaker-of-the-event by default, Antony Heljula got the morning session this time and in the audience you could see some victims of Ragnar-and-Borkurs "entertainment blitzkrieg". Well some you couldn't see because of follow-up negotionions with their pillows, but I disgress...

Tony talked about "BI EE Architectures and Sizing" with several key hints and helps for sizing your architecture. Like Robins the day before, this presentation covers a topic which should be one of the core topics for each project but often "falls through the cracks" and results in either badly set up environments, hugely overpowered ones or awfully undersized ones.

As a little intermezzo from my side: those three days in Brighton would have been a boon to any project out there and if you have 5 minutes, then get over to, get the contact details, get the presentations wherever possible, read them and learn from them.
I don't think we re-invented the wheel or anything, but most of the topis covered simply can't be ignored in any project and were presented in a exquisitly researched form. Again, kudos to all of you guys. That's why I more or less booked my place for 2011 already.

Next up we had a real celebrity. Mr. "Oracles Person of the year"...Mark Rittman! Here he is scratching his nose ;-)
Ok jokes aside not all of you may know the person-of-the-year story, so here's what Mark has to say but of course we knew before that it's oraclenerds fault.
Mark covered "Inside the Oracle BI Server" which was clearly one of the most nerdy tech topics. (Loved it and obviously voted for it). If you were ever wondering what a level 5 log file actually contains, what it means and how you influence which part of it...that's your presentation to look out for. I had done a fair share of log file archeology but Mark had some really cool new stuff in his presentation and thanks to the presence of "the godfather" Kurt Wolff we even got some additional informations which took this one presentation really to the next level.

"ODI 11g: The New Generation of Data Integration" was then presented by Craig Craig!
He reminded us first that 11g ODI was still not out there but we got the feeling that it's closer to us than another future-product-that's-still-in-the-lab. All in all I have to say that ODI grew quite a bit and contains neat new knowledge modules. Coming more from an OBIA background that plain ETL/ELT I obviously tried to get more information out of him regarding the next OBIA releases and ODIs importance within them but to no avail :-( Still it was very nice to see in which direction ODI is evolving.

The arrival of John Minkjan on the stage as the next presenter heralded a hugely funny intro to his presentation "OBIEE Customizations: When you are in the kitchen, learn to cook." Plus he looked quite neat as the only guy presenting in a suit

John gave us a good beating on the different aspects of GUI design for dashboards. He has some major points I have to say. We all have seen the horror of gradients, 3D charts, animations all over the place and eye-cancer-inducing colour palettes. I agree with John; you really should read up on analysis- and interface-design if you want to present your information in a digestible format.

Last but not least there was Venkat with his "Fusion Middleware 11g - ADF Business Intelligence Components" presentation. As one of the few things that's widely known and also officially confirmed by Oracle, ADF will become the new graphical layer of OBIEE in its next incarnation just as it has in other parts of the Oracle product stack already. This will definitely be an area where all of us will need to get more experience and dive into its depths since it really seems that for so many of the things we faked or tricked today in order to accommodate user requests for GUI behaviour or specific analysis types, ADF will be the answer.
And here's Venkat gesturing while he explains a dogfight during the Battle of Britain:

(obviously not but that's the first things that came to my mind when reviewing my pictures).

His session wrapped up the forum for 2010. If at all possible it was even better than 2009. We had Kurt Wolff over who gave us a history brush-up on OBIEE nee Siebel Analytics nee nQuire and showed us through his in-depth explanations just how well thought-out the concepts were which they defined 12 years ago and which still form the basis of our daily work.
The speakers were high-class, the presentations to the point and on intriguing topics. No sales bladibla or "we are the best" company presentations.
The discussions were very lively and people participated from A to Z with much vigor. That's just the thing that distinguishes this BI forum from others...we're not there to sell; we're not there to "steal" either by just sitting there, not opening our mouth since sharing our project experience is losing competitive advantage or something (you might get who I'm bashing here...). It's just industry-wide recognized cracks sharing, exchanging, learining and discovering together with a healthy portion of networking and most of!

Thanks again to Mark, Jon and the whole RittmanMead crew for making this forum a possibility and to al of you other guys for participating.

Hope to see you all again next year. It was awesome.