Saturday, December 22, 2007

Virtualization, Green IT and Application Management

Besides sessions run by Gartner analysts, there were also many vendor presentations at the conference. The hot topics this year seemed to be virtualization and green IT.

In polls conducted at the conference, the majority of the participants indicated that they were already using virtualization technologies at their organizations. So in a way, virtualization was not a brand new topic. What were interesting were some of the spins that vendors put into virtualization. In fact, one of the vendor went as far as calling remote application access “display virtualization”, as it separates the box where the application is run, from the terminal device where the application is displayed.

Wow, by that definition, X Windows, VNC or even the web browser are really virtualization technologies. Hmm...

It may be cool to be able to display an application remotely, and it is certainly very, very good to be able to utilize hardware more efficiently, take snapshot and rollback system images, and migrate running systems. However, I think the truly exciting possibilities in virtualization are with the ways that it can change application management. For example, one of the biggest headaches in managing applications is deployment, as it can be pretty challenging to make sure that the application can co-exist with all the other software that run on the box. A certified virtual machine image that includes the application can go a long way in reducing that complexity.

In terms of green IT, IBM pointed out that many organizations are already spending close to 30% of their energy budget on running IT, and the figure is going up. The interesting thing is that using energy efficient CPUs only reduces overall energy consumption by 2%. Other practices, such as locating data centers closer to energy sources, cooling system redesigns, and turning on servers only when needed to handle workload, can have much greater impacts on energy consumption and energy costs. Supporting these green IT practices require more dynamic software that can be activated and deactivated with ease, and even greater emphasis on capacity management. For example, electricity costs may become a new parameter to consider when scheduling batch jobs.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Oracle Acquires Moniforce

Oracle announced that it has entered into an agreement to acquire Moniforce, a leading vendor for end user experience monitoring. Using its product, UXinsight, one could monitor the actual end user response time of applications, usage trends, and whether users experience any problems. These are all critical information that helps IT professionals determine whether their applications are delivering the service level demanded by their businesses. The UXinsight technology augments other end user monitoring tools that are already available in Oracle Enterprise Manager.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Establishing, Enforcing, and Marketing SLAs

Another presentation that I attended at the Gartner conference was David Coyle's session on “Establishing, Enforcing and Marketing SLAs.”

He started the session by asking how many service level agreements (SLAs) were established at organizations represented by the audience. 74% of the participants reported that their organizations have at least one SLAs established, and 15% have over 20 SLAs. This result was fairly consistent with a survey that we conducted at OpenWorld. Over half of the respondents in our survey also indicated that they are using SLAs at their organizations.

The question, however, is how many of these are formal SLAs, and whether these organizations can guarantee the delivery of the SLAs. According to Gartner's model, an organization has to be at level 3 maturity or higher in order to be able to have high confidence in achieving SLAs. This is because many of the supportive service delivery and service support processes need to be in place first.

Even though an organization may not be ready to fully deliver the terms of an SLA, it doesn't mean it should not be done. SLAs are important because they help drive continuous improvements by providing targets to aim for, and they help IT communicate the values delivered. In fact, David Coyle argued that regular, formal service level review meetings should be used to highlight successes.

In terms of enforcement, the key is to make sure that there are proper rewards and penalties to drive behavior. The leading organizations even link IT staff bonuses to SLA attainment. This kind of practice is still rather rare, and it was confirmed by a participant poll that only a small percentage of organizations represented at the conference had this sort of policy. Still, linking performance to compensation makes a lot of sense as long as the system is implemented carefully.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Gartner Maturity Model

I attended Gartner Data Center Conference this week. Since the show was held in Las Vegas, it presents a bit of a dilemma for bloggers like me, as the unwritten rule for Las Vegas is “what happens in Las Vegas stays in Las Vegas.” Well, I found a couple of the discussions interesting, so I am going to talk about them anyways.

The first session that I attended was Donna Scott and Jay Pultz' keynote on the Gartner Maturity Model. The concept of a maturity model is not a new thing. Models such as Software Engineering Institute's CMMI have been around for many years. What's interesting about the Gartner model is that it focuses specifically on IT infrastructure and operations (I&O) practices and it covers not only process assessment, but also organization, human resource and business management assessments.

The model classifies I&O maturity into 6 levels:
0. survival – no defined I&O practices
1. awareness – has dedicated resources for I&O
2. committed – has sufficient resources, but mostly operating in reactive mode; attempts to define informal operational level agreements
3. proactive – be able to forecast demands of various IT services and provision capacity accordingly
4. service aligned – formal service level agreement defined; organization has capabilities to achieve the formal service level targets
5. business partners – IT is capable of proactively suggest using technologies to transform organizations and bring new products and services to market

The model contains some pretty detailed classification criterion. I am not going into the details of them, since there is too much information to write on a blog and Gartner probably won't want me to give away the whole thing. Call Gartner if you want the details.

The most interesting part of the session was the live audience poll, in which the audience was asked to provide quick self assessments of where their organizations stand according to the maturity model. The overall distribution was fairly close to a bell curve but with a bit more concentration at the lower levels. Only 4 percent of the participants rated their organizations to be at level 4 or above.

I think the point about these maturity models is not necessary the specific details and the classification criteria. One could argue all day whether something should fall under level 2 or 3. The importance of these models is that they provide yardsticks to assess how organizations improve over time. For example, Gartner estimates that by 2012, 14% of large IT organizations would be at level 4 or above. We will see if this prediction comes true.

Does your organization use a maturity model to drive improvements? What sort of experience have you had in using them?

Monday, November 26, 2007

Oracle OpenWorld 2007 Presentations and Product Information are Available

Oracle OpenWorld 2007 presentations are available for downloading. Click here for sessions related to Enterprise Management, and here for the general content catalog.

Use cboracle / oraclec6 to sign in.

You may also download product collateral by clicking here.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Images of Oracle OpenWorld 2007

I originally planned to post photos during the show by organizing the shots on the BART ride home each night. Well, I didn't pull that off, so I edited all of them this past weekend. Here are some images from the conference.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Oracle OpenWorld 2007 - Day 4

Today was the last day of OpenWorld 2007. The last day of most conference is usually a slower time, and OpenWorld was no exception. There was no keynote, and we saw lighter traffic at the DEMOground. That said, there were still quite a bit of activities in breakout sessions and hands-on labs (we were both amazed and delighted that people showed up to the 8:30 a.m. SOA management lab after the main customer party last night), and we had several quality conversations with customers.

These conversations pointed to a couple common issues. For example, several customers asked us about the proper enablement of the Siebel Application Response Measurement (SARM) framework for collecting performance data. Others asked about the best practices for defining service tests. Both examples indicate that there are gaps between our products' capabilities and our customers' understanding on how to best utilize them.

The above examples are just some of the topics that I plan to cover in the coming months. Now that OpenWorld is over, I am going to return to my regularly scheduled program of talking exclusively about application management. I will cover several categories of topics: application management practices, Oracle Enterprise Manager, and specific issues for managing packaged Oracle applications.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Oracle OpenWorld 2007 - Day 3

Michael Dell and Larry Ellison gave their keynote today. Dell is a hardware systems company, so the talk naturally revolved around "boxes". One thing that I found interesting was that there was a very heavy emphasis on power consumption. Yes, I am aware of the power wattage and cooling problem, but I guess I haven't really spent extensive time thinking about it. In his speech, he even got to the details of how Dell's simplified packaging helps save a couple trees. I then started thinking - does application management have anything to do with preserving the environment? Hmm... Maybe. Maybe if we could tune the application better and utilize resource more efficiently, we would need fewer boxes. Need to think about this more.

During Larry's keynote, he reiterated that Oracle expects customers to adopt Fusion Applications at their own timeframe, and they could very well be running Fusion Applications side-by-side with existing applications during a multi-year transition period. This is the assumption that we have built into our appication management strategy. We want to enable customers to centralize the management of their existing applications on Oracle Enterprise Manager, plug in new Fusion components as they become available so that these components can be managed together with the older apps, and eventually retire their older applications and the management of these apps on Enterprise Manager.

I had Meet the Expert session immediately following the keynote, and one of the customers asked what needs to be done to prepare for Fusion Applications. There are really multiple dimensions to this questions. The general answer is to consider augenting existing applications using Fusion Middleware technologies that are available today to fulfill business requirements not met in the current applications. These Fusion Middleware components may include SOA, WebCenter, BI, Identify & Access Management, etc... From the application IT operationals perspective, it means planning ahead to manage all these new components together with the existing application, which is something that Oracle Enterprise Manager is designed to do.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Oracle OpenWorld 2007 - Day 2

Thomas Kurian started off this morning with a keynote showing a preview of Oracle Fusion Middleware 11g, the platform for our next generation Fusion Applications. On the Oracle Enterprise Manager front, we announced the availability of Oracle Enterprise Manager 10g Release 4.

10gR4 has quite a few exciting features that are geared toward application administrators. They include an upgraded and integrated transaction diagnostic tool for Siebel applications, an enhanced service test beacon for web-based applications, Application Diagnostic for Java (AD4J), integrated configuration management for SOA management, a new management pack for Oracle Business Intelligence Enterprise Edition (OBI-EE) and more. I will cover each of them in more detail in future postings.

As for my day, I spent most of the time at a customer lunch, a customer advisory board meeting, and the Enterprise Manager customer party. Basically, today was about listening to customer's feedbacks.

One of the notable discussions today was Campbell Webb's presentation on how Oracle IT uses Oracle Enterprise Manager to manage our IT infrastructure and applications. Customers always seem to be curious on how we use our own software internally, so his presentation generated quite a bit of interests. Working with our internal IT and OnDemand organization has become an integral part of our development process for many Oracle Enterprise Manager products. Oracle, being a pretty good size organization, provides a rather good test bed for validating our software. On top of that, we have engaged administrators in Oracle IT early in the product cycle to help design products and review our product plans. We hope that this "design for administrators by administrators" approach would result in better products.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Oracle OpenWorld 2007 - Day 1

Charles Philips and Chuck Rozwat kicked off Day 1 of OpenWorld this morning with their joint keynote. One of the demonstrations that they presented was using Oracle Enterprise Manager to manage the integration of Siebel, Oracle E-Business Suite and Oracle Process Integration Pack (PIP). In the demonstration, metrics collected by Oracle Enterprise Manager showed that E-Business Suite was not keeping up with orders submitted by Siebel because of inadequate database capacity. To correct the problem, Oracle Enterprise Manager's Database Provisioning Pack was used to add another node to the RAC cluster. This scenario really showed off Oracle Enterprise Manager's ability to manage the complete portfolio of Oracle software that many of our customers have. We have been talking about building a demo like this for the better part of last year, so it is really cool to see it come together.

On my own neck of the wood, OpenWorld really got started with the opening of DEMOground. That went fine. The real fun for the day was to head over to Marriotts to find out whether our hands-on lab equipment worked as we planned. That went fine too. Capacity utilization came way below our load test scenario. We probably had over-engineered this thing. Next came my session at 3 p.m. Would people show up? Well, they did. :) The PeopleSoft Management Pack session presented by my colleague Scott Schafer had good attendance as well, so OpenWorld was off to a good start for our application management products.

My talk was titled “Siebel Application Management - Tools, Tips and Techniques to Ensure Performance and Availability”. The key message of the presentation was:

1. Application Management is a process.
2. It covers all stages of an application's lifecycle.
3. Implementing the process properly, with the right tool, would increase the chance of success with application deployment.

I just got the presentation uploaded to the conference content management system, and I will be blogging more about the details of this presentation in the coming weeks and months. It has been a big long day. I am going to go to bed early so that I can get to Thomas Kurian's keynote in person tomorrow morning.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Oracle OpenWorld 2007 - Day 0

10:32 - at Moscone South Room 102

This is the absolutely final demopod staff orientation meeting. Usual staff - reminders of no eating at booth, no email, no Internet surfing, make sure we scan people badges... No leather pants!? Now that's something new that I haven't heard before.

11:20 - at Marriotts Golden Gate Room

Now we'll find out whether our "Extreme Data Center Makeover" was successful. Turn on all the boxes. Good, everything comes on. Why is box #6 not responding? Oh, the network port is not lighting up. We got a bad port. Tried another port and it worked. Wait, some boxes are connecting to box #9 but not #1. What is going on? Routing table not set up properly on box #1. How did we miss this one? Anyway, look like all the servers are working, but some of the PCs are not picking up IP address from DHCP servers. Network admins called. Let's hope they fix it.

15:29 - at Moscone West Oracle Speaker Lounge

We are now less than 2 hours away from Larry/Safra's Sunday Night Keynote.
Just checked out the demopods and they are good to go.

18:50 - at Moscone North Keynote Hall

Well, the keynote was interesting. Every company has a human side story behind it, and Oracle is of no exception. Larry recounted many of the war stories of the early days, from how he convinced Bob Miner to start Software Development Labs, which later became Oracle, to selling relational database software to the CIA (before development got started of course), to getting his house foreclosed on when they were running out of money and had to cut his salary, to his first encounter with financial statements. The rather chaotic really made me wonder how the company became the success of what it is today. Amazing.

Got to head out to grab a bite to eat, go home, and get ready for tomorrow. It's showtime!
CNET also has a blog entry on the keynote -

Oracle OpenWorld 2007 - Day -1

Day minus 1 – Are we ready? I think we are.

Alright, got to finish the demo today. I need to create a transaction bottleneck in the application in order to show off our transaction diagnostic tool. How do I put a sleep/wait statement in Javascript? What? There is no sleep/wait statement in Javascript. Great! Let's google for a workaround. Found it. It works.

Latest Status

Hands-on Lab Material – still need to get it to Kinkos; drop it off tomorrow on route to Moscone

Demos – done :)

1 day to go before it starts. 5 days to go before it ends.

Oracle OpenWorld 2007 - Day -2

Day minus 2 – Are we ready? Really close.

Whew, only 2 demo staff members did not register. I guess we will have to smuggle them onto the DEMOground somehow. We had our final staff meeting during lunchtime to go through all the logistics – what to say, what to wear / not to wear, schedule, transportation, etc... It was a big meeting, as this OpenWorld is going to involve over 100 people just from the Enterprise Manager team. We totally ran out of food, which usually doesn't happen at lunch meetings.

Latest Status

Hands-on Lab Material – done; just need to get it to Kinkos

Demos – still working on it; will be done by Monday :)

2 days to go before it starts. 6 days to go before it ends.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Oracle OpenWorld 2007 - Day -3

I posted a message about our OpenWorld lab preparation, and someone replied with a question for more information, so I guess maybe some of you are interested to see what it takes to put OpenWorld together. One of my fellow PMs compared OpenWorld to the Super Bowl. Seems about right. Both require a ton of preparations. I will try to give a little bit of the behind the scene look from my own corner at Oracle.

Day minus 3 – Are we ready? Well, almost.

Hands-on Lab Equipment Preparation – check

Hands-on Lab Material – 1 done, 1 to go; where is the nearest Kinkos to Moscone?

Presentations – check

Demos – still working on it; will be done by Monday :)

Send customer party invites – check

Set up customer meetings – check

Set up partner meetings – check

Arrange meet the expert session – check

Arrange staff for demopods – check; oh, is everyone on this list registered?

Pick up my badge – check; wait, am I registered to be a speaker and DEMOground staff, or just speaker? What is this Employee Standard vs. Employee Plus pass anyway?

3 days to go before it starts. 7 days to go before it ends.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Oracle OpenWorld 2007 Application Management Preview

OpenWorld is once again around the corner. This year's event once again promises to be even bigger than last year's. If you are an application administrator or IT manager, here are several activities that may be of special interest to you:

Presentation Sessions

S291919 - Top Down Application Management – Oracle's Blueprint for Managing from a Business Perspective (Moscone West, 2001 - L2, Rajiv Taori, 12:30-1:30 p.m.)

S291922 - Siebel Application Management: Tools, Tips, and Techniques to Ensure Performance and Availability (Moscone West 2001 - L2, Chung Wu, 3:15-4:15 p.m.)

S290704 - Case Study: Managing Oracle E-Business Suite, Using Enterprise Manager Pack (Moscone West 2014 - L2, Biju Mohan, 11:15 a.m.-12:15 p.m.)

S292003 - Enterprise Manager Application Management Pack for PeopleSoft Deep Dive (Moscone West 2012 - L2, Scott Schafer, 4:45-15:45 p.m.)

S291921 - End-User Monitoring: The Ultimate Judge of Application Performance and Availability (Moscone West 2001 - L2, Rajiv Taori, 9:45-10:45 a.m.)

S291924 - SOA Management: Runtime Governance of Your Composite Application Environment (Moscone West 2001 - L2, Nadu Bharadwaj, 4:30-5:30 p.m.)

S291925 - A New Approach to Diagnosing Java Application Performance (Moscone West 2001 - L2, Rajagopal Marripalli, 3:00-4:00 p.m.)

Meet the Expert Session – Informal Meetings with Product Staff

Application Management – All Apps (Moscone West Lookout #2) – 2:30-5:30 p.m.

Oracle E-Business Suite (Moscone West Lookout #2) – 1:30-3:30 p.m.

Visit this website for more details –


Moscone South

J4 – Application Performance Management / Service Level Management

D8, J7 – Application Management

J8 – SOA Management

B48 – Oracle E-Business Suite Management

Moscone West

P13 – PeopleSoft Management

Refer to this document for more details –

Monday, November 5, 2007

Extreme Makeover, Data Center Edition

I was a part-time NetWare administrator in my first job out of college. Since then, I have moved on and worked as a developer and product manager. This past two weeks, however, all the memories of my first job came back to life when I was asked to help set up our OpenWorld hands-on lab environment.

The task was equivalent to an Extreme Makeover, Data Center Edition. In less than two weeks, we had to transform a collection of 10 “bare metal” servers into the equivalent of a mini-data center, complete with 85 client workstations. We had to deploy Oracle E-Business Suite, Siebel CRM, Oracle Fusion Middleware, Oracle Enterprise Linux, Microsoft Windows Server, and Oracle Enterprise Manager into the environment.

Even though this project was really about setting up equipment for a training lab, we ran into the same kind of challenges that administrators face on a daily basis. First, there was the schedule. OpenWorld starts on 11/11, and it would start whether our environment was ready or not, so that target date ain't moving. On the other hand, our hardware arrived one week late! So we were way behind schedule before we even got started.

Second, we didn't get the hardware we expect to get. The vendor provided us with CD-ROM drives in our servers, and we had DVD media for our software. These are some of the latest multi-core Dell server boxes. Putting CD-ROM drives in these boxes is like putting cassette tape deck into a brand new Mercedes Benz! The CD-ROM media that we ended up getting was also the wrong one – 32 bit instead of 64 bit, and we didn't find out until we called in a developer to figure out why we could not run E-Business Suite's RapidInstall. These mismatches wasted some of our time, which we could not afford to lose.

Third, there was the unforeseen situation. A 5.6 earthquake hit the San Francisco Bay Area on one night while we were going to system test our client-server connection. That disrupted our work for the night as we didn't feel safe working in a mid-rise building not knowing whether there would be more shaking to come. More time was lost.

Oh yeah, we ran into some “unintended features” in our software as well.

These are just a couple of the server, network and software problems we ran into. The actual list is quite a bit longer than this. Let me put it this way, I feel your pain as administrators.
I did learn a few things from this experience, and I will cover them in a follow up post.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Introduction to Application Management Blog

Welcome to the Application Management blog. My name is Chung Wu, and I work at Oracle Corporation. I want to use this blog as a way for me to share what I have learned about managing applications through my professional work, talk about recent developments, and solicit your ideas and feedback. Since this is the first installment of the blog, and there seems to be varying definitions on Application Management, I am going to begin by first defining what I mean by Application Management and making the case on why it is important. If you agree or disagree with the points that I made, let me know. I want your feedback.

Application Management is the discipline within systems management that focus on managing the availability, performance, security, deployment, change and configuration of applications. It is a specific class of management discipline because of the unique demands that applications place, which cannot be met by traditional server, network and storage management.

Application Management is critical because applications are the first line of contact between end-users and the computing infrastructure. When a problem occurs, the first place that end-users see the problem usually is the application. For example, an application that freezes up may be caused by a lost of network connection to the database, yet the end-user may only see it as the applications' problem.

Furthermore, Application Management is critical because applications are critical. As people rely on applications to accomplish their tasks, and more and more business processes are getting digitized, application problems reduce people's productivity and may even lead to direct lost of business. For example, if an eCommerce application that acts as the online storefront of a retailer goes down, customers may switch to another vendor to make the purchase, resulting in lost of business for the retailer.

Since there are different classes of applications, the specific application management problems for a particular application differ as well. For example, for desktop applications such as OpenOffice, Mozilla Firefox and Adobe Photoshop, deployment may mean getting the physical files of the software packaged copied onto each of the PC and run their installers to get them properly registered with the operating environment. On the other hand, deployment of a web browser-based Enterprise Business Application such as Siebel CRM may entail distributing the Siebel server software on a cluster of servers, installing the schema of the application on a client/server database, and moving all the customizations that are stored in files and database from development/test environment to production environment. The client PCs that not touched at all during deployment, since the application is delivered to end-users via a web-browser.For now, I shall focus this blog on managing Enterprise Applications that typically come with a multi-tiered architecture.

Before I conclude, I also need to (Oracle's lawyers made me to :-) ) make a disclaimer about this blog - The views expressed on this blog are my own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Oracle. I also provide no warranty, guarantee, explicit nor implied, now or in the future, etc... etc... yade yeda ya... Read my stuff at own your risk. You get the idea. ;-)