COMMENT: In the Field
An Oracle User Looks at 30By Ari Kaplan
A tradition of technology and user groups marks Oracle's 30th year.
Celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, Oracle has been a consistent leader in databases and associated technologies. And while the company has been building and sharing leading technology, Oracle's users have built relationships and become leaders.
Where It All Began
My own association with Oracle began in 1992, when I graduated from the California Institute of Technology. So many Caltech alums went to work for Oracle in those days that it was nicknamed "Caltech grad school." I was one of about 60 new consultants who joined the company that year. Oracle was still small enough at that time that Larry Ellison personally reviewed and signed off on all our résumés and came to meet every one of us.
I was fortunate enough to join one of Oracle's top-gun consulting teams. All the most difficult projects came to us. Everything was behind schedule. Everything was high-pressure. It was great. In the two years that I worked for Oracle, I learned a great deal about technology and problem solving.
I learned enough, in fact, to go into business as an independent Oracle consultant. I'm very proud of the Oracle-based applications I helped architect in the years from 1994 to 2000, such as the Web site for Hallmark, which was one of the top 10 e-commerce sites at the time.
It was through my independent consulting that I first became involved with Oracle user groups. I wanted to participate in user groups for several reasons. As a consultant, it was a good way for me to make professional contacts that could help my own business. I also got to learn from the experiences of other members and guest speakers sharing their successes and failures. I volunteered to speak at user group meetings. My outreach efforts included writing white papers and books and answering questions on my Web site. The spirit of user group members sharing tricks and techniques—learning from each other's experience—impressed me.
Oracle user groups have always been independent, relying on members for information and action—a true "by users for users" phenomenon. This way of doing things has been helpful as Oracle's growth over the past 30 years expanded to middleware and applications, thus expanding the role of Oracle professionals such as DBAs.
These IT professionals must now know how to solve larger-enterprise infrastructure issues such as enterprise security, replication, high availability, disaster recovery, application interoperability, enterprise backup, and much more. In user groups, each person can learn from the other—and just one good solution or new way of managing Oracle can make all the long meetings worthwhile.
In the past few years, Oracle has clearly increased its participation in user group events. Oracle values user groups now more than ever, from the top leadership down. President Charles Phillips, for example, regularly speaks at user group conferences such as Collaborate, which includes the Independent Oracle Users Group (IOUG), Oracle Applications Users Group, and Quest International Users Group.
The IOUG is now one of the major Oracle user groups, maintaining lines of communication between Oracle and its users. The IOUG also plays a central role in helping user groups communicate with each other. I joined the IOUG and increased my involvement with the group, becoming a member of the board in 2003. One of my projects was to help refocus the user group Web site: improving the content, developing the strategy, and building a virtual community. Eventually, I became executive vice president and have served as president for two years now.
So what might be in store for the next 30 years of Oracle and Oracle users? An easy prediction is that the company will continue its lead in technology, and Oracle users will continue to share information and build relationships—and, by doing so, they'll lead each other in the use of Oracle products and technologies.
Ari Kaplan (firstname.lastname@example.org) is president of the Independent Oracle Users Group (IOUG) and a senior consultant at Datalink. He founded Expand Beyond, a leader in mobile IT software. He has been involved in Oracle technology since 1992.