COMMUNITY: Up Close
IT SupermanBy Caroline Kvitka
Architect by day, user group leader by night: IOUG President Andy Flower guides his organization on a powerful new course.
The growing international membership of the Independent Oracle Users Group (IOUG) means that outgoing president Andy Flower sometimes gets mistaken for a famous international cricket player by the same name. But while that Andy Flower might be an expert batsman, he probably can’t manage a database or run a growing global networking and knowledge-sharing group.
IOUG’s Andy Flower is actually a mild-mannered Kansan whose day job has him focusing on strategic information architecture and integration solutions. And he does have an alter ego: this IT Superman has doubled as IOUG president since 2010. He got involved with the group almost by accident: In 1998, his boss at the time asked Flower to take his place on an IOUG conference committee at the last minute. “And 13 years later, here I am: president of IOUG,” he says.
Now Flower, who has been an IOUG board member for six years, is wrapping up his term as president. I caught up with him at Oracle OpenWorld 2011 to discuss the evolving role of IOUG, his experience with the organization, and what’s next.
Networking and Communication
IOUG’s primary role is as a networking and knowledge-sharing organization. “We want our members to participate, network, and talk about how they can optimize their Oracle products and get the most out of their investments,” Flower says.
The group’s secondary role, which has grown and improved over the years, is communicating with Oracle. “We let Oracle know what our members are thinking and give them direct feedback about products, contracts, licensing, and the pain points of being an Oracle customer,” Flower explains.
IOUG leaders take pride in listening to the needs of their members and relaying those needs back to Oracle. The organization regularly surveys its members in targeted ways to find out what’s important to them. “The surveys help us see the trends and understand the challenges that our members are dealing with, such as big data,” Flower says. Survey results in hand, IOUG leaders meet with Oracle executives to convey the issues of importance to their members. Oracle has been very open to this information, Flower says, and has responded to requests related to Oracle Database, virtualization, and security, among other topics.
While the group’s core interest has always been Oracle Database, the scope has expanded as Oracle has grown to include a complete Oracle technology stack and more. One of the hottest topics among members these days is Oracle Exadata Database Machine. “It’s still new and not known for those who haven’t had a chance to touch it,” says Flower. “Members are looking for more information about engineered systems and their benefits to organizations.” In response, IOUG is creating more Oracle Exadata-related programming and networking opportunities, both in person and online. For example, COLLABORATE 12 (April 22-26, 2012) will feature more than 30 Oracle Exadata-focused sessions that are nearly all customer-led, and an all-day boot camp, Flower says. The group has active Oracle Exadata special interest and LinkedIn groups and also offers monthly Webinars on Oracle Exadata topics.
In addition to Oracle Exadata, other hot topics include Oracle Exalogic Elastic Cloud and Oracle Database Appliance. “I think IOUG is at an interesting point in its history,” Flower says. “There was a period of time where the only thing we had to talk about was the next big [Oracle Database] release. Not that that was unimportant, but it wasn’t a massive sea change. Now, with the 'Exa’ machines, there’s a whole lot more to talk about.”
It’s an interesting time for Flower, too. As he steps back from IOUG, he is planning to spend more time with his family and at his day job and to look for new opportunities to give back. “I have a feeling that I’ll find a way to continue to contribute to IOUG, but perhaps I’ll find other outlets for some of my volunteer time—maybe something more local and closer to home that has an impact on my community.” Just don’t look for Flower to take up cricket any time soon.
Caroline Kvitka (firstname.lastname@example.org) is senior managing editor of Oracle Magazine and Java Magazine.
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