As Published In
Oracle Magazine
September/October 2009


Exploring New Territory

By Jeff Erickson

A DBA finds answers and adventure in the Oracle technology stack.

When her employer sends her to training sessions, Michelle Malcher—a DBA and Oracle ACE who is a recognized expert in database security—learns database skills such as performance tuning or provisioning. But when she goes to user group events, she likes to broaden her horizons by investigating middleware and applications.

“I get to explore the rest of the stack,” says Malcher. “I can sit in on a session about Oracle WebCenter or identity management and understand where my colleagues at work are coming from when they ask for permissions to access data.”

Malcher believes that she needs to know not only who is pulling data from her database but why. “Part of my job is to make sure that data is used wisely in terms of security and performance,” she says. “So when developers ask for permissions to pull data into their enterprise portal, I want to know enough to ask the right questions.”

For example, when developers use Oracle business intelligence (BI) tools to create reports and Malcher knows something about that middleware, she might be able to help. “If they’re pulling way more data than they need for that report, then they’ve got slow queries and I’ve got performance issues,” she says. At that point, Malcher can assess the situation and make changes that get the reports done without slowing the system down.

Malcher has channeled her enthusiasm for user group events into leadership roles in the Independent Oracle Users Group (IOUG), where she is director of membership. “I work with the board to ensure that we expand in BI and middleware to address the needs of our member community. More of our members are joining for this kind of information, and I’m here to make sure my DBA colleagues also take advantage of these shifts.”

IOUG has been collecting middleware content and expertise since it formed the Oracle Fusion Middleware special interest group (SIG) in 2005, and in 2008 Malcher helped fellow IOUG leaders launch the Oracle Fusion Middleware SIG portal to better share this material. “Now,” says Malcher, “a DBA can sit in on a middleware session at an event and follow up on the SIG portal.” 

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Another benefit of user group membership is the big-picture thinking that happens at user group events, according to Malcher. “I can see where my company’s strategy aligns with Oracle’s product direction and how it compares to what other users are doing,” she says.

Malcher works with the IOUG board to find ways to enhance these synergies. “We talk about scheduling sessions in a way that encourages cross-pollination in technologies,” says Malcher. “We recently initiated a corporate membership so a company can get the benefit of having more of its people discovering and using group resources.”

Oracle events are important, says Malcher. “But at a user group event I get to hear from a peer who has implemented [a new feature] and found new ways to deploy it,” she says. “They might have architecture similar to mine and have already done an implementation that I’m about to do. That’s insight that I can use right now.”

Malcher shares what she learns through her blog, DBA Unleashed. “I enjoy being part of the user group community, and I think the blog reflects that,” she says. “My family has no idea what I’m talking about half the time, but there are people out there who understand what I do and can commiserate with my struggles and appreciate my advice. That’s why I enjoy my work so much.”

Malcher says that because Oracle delivers the entire stack—database, middleware, and applications—DBAs can know more about where and why their data is used. “I used to say, ‘The application managers will take care of that,’” she says. “But with an integrated stack, I can go to a user group event to investigate other technologies and get better at my job.”


Jeff Erickson is a senior writer with Oracle Publishing. Follow him at

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