COMMUNITY: Up Close
Growing with OracleBy Jeff Erickson
A user group leader helps members manage an expanding range of Oracle technologies.
The trip from the Seattle airport to the Oracle Days conference held by the Puget Sound Oracle User Group (PSOUG) takes you past the headquarters of Amazon and Boeing before you veer east toward Microsoft and into Bellevue, a city in the throes of a Shanghai-like building boom. I pulled up to the conference hall determined to ask Dan Morgan, Oracle ACE director and PSOUG education chairman, how his group helps members from these large strategic partners keep up as Oracle grows its product line and continues to integrate new technologies. Soon enough I got the chance.
“We look for niches where we can share expertise,” said Morgan, who teaches at the University of Washington. “We focus not on things that Oracle teaches, such as how to manage a RAC [Oracle Real Application Clusters] cluster, but on specific installation and configuration techniques.”
It’s a strategy that works. In the past five years, PSOUG’s membership has grown from 700 to more than 4,000. Along the way, the group has opened a first-class computer lab with donated equipment, instituted weekly classes, and built its Web site into an online resource with almost two million hits per month from 183 countries. “We’re in a community where a lot of very large companies use multiple database products from multiple vendors or multiple generations of them,” said Morgan. “We get people who are experienced at [Microsoft] SQL Server who need to learn Oracle and come to the Oracle user group as a way of getting that cross-training.”
When Morgan and PSOUG President Jack Cline took over PSOUG in late 2003, there were no meetings scheduled, no facilities, no Web site, and no telephone number. But go to Oracle Days and you’d never guess it. This year, the five-day conference offered three days of paid classes with experts such as Joe Celko, formerly of the American National Standards Institute committee; Cary Millsap, of Method R; and Oracle’s own Tom Kyte. The last two days of the conference were free and open to anyone who wanted to attend. “We’ve got about a half dozen members of the OakTable Network and about a half dozen Oracle ACEs and ACE directors providing classes during the open conference,” said Morgan.
Now that the conference is over, PSOUG members have other activity options. “We’ve put together our own training lab and facilities,” said Morgan. “Vendors know it can’t hurt future sales to have people learning on their equipment, so we’ve been able to equip the lab with top-tier hardware.” The group has developed its own training materials independent of Oracle Corporation. “A lot of members are with Boeing and other strategic partners of Oracle,” said Morgan. “They provide advice on how to make our classes as real-world as possible. So a lot of things we teach are practices that have been proven over the years to work.”
PSOUG is branching out from the database to other Oracle technologies. “The traditional view of an Oracle user group was: either you are a database user group, or you are an apps user group,” said Morgan. “But that no longer reflects Oracle and its product line. We are maintaining our focus on the database, but at the same time we’re trying to provide support for middleware, the application server, identity management, and [Oracle’s] Hyperion [applications].” PSOUG now supports Oracle E-Business Suite and has plans to help members with Oracle’s Siebel products in the future.
Jeff Erickson is a senior editor at Oracle Publishing. His blog is at techspectator.com.