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The Good, the Bad and the Code: Oracle Code London 2017

Author: Amr Gawish

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Oracle Code Conferences started in March this year, in the red city itself - San Francisco. The event is doing the rounds worldwide, and I attended my local one in London last week with my Infomentum Colleagues. My initial thought was that it was really interesting to see how Oracle is attracting a different audience this time around; more technical oriented attendees, with a bigger spectrum of technical skills.

Oracle Code is sponsored by Oracle Developers (previously known as Oracle Technet). They had a great pool of presentations and technical sessions, talking about all subjects like Microservices, Node.JS, CQRS and more. The sessions were great, and I personally enjoyed all that I attended. Luckily, all sessions are recorded and watchable via their Youtube channel for those who couldn't attend. But now on to what you really want to know...what's direction is Oracle going?

The Good

I loved the new approach Oracle is taking with its audience. Oracle understands now that empowering developers will increase adoption and exploration of its different Cloud offerings, and with these events I'm guessing Oracle stock between developers is going to increase. With this in mind, I constructed a small list of things that Oracle correctly nailed with this event.

1. Simple"r" Cloud Architecture

Oracle is now starting to provide developers with a lot more options to fit different requirements. Oracle Cloud Container is one example, and the recent acquisition of Wercker is another example that Oracle is embracing the containerization approach. Another example is Oracle Application Cloud Service, which focuses more to empower Microservice / Serverless styled application - and with their simple RESTful APIs and Command Line Interface (CLI) SDK, it can be automated within any Continuous Integration environment.

2. Giving a chance for other Technologies and Frameworks to shine

One thing that was obvious in the event (that I believe was intentional), was Oracle showing it is not a Java-only company anymore. There were a lot of presentations about Node.js, and more focus on the right language for the task using Microservices, rather than showcasing a single language/technology stack, which was definitely welcomed by developers.

3. Offer something for different sizes of businesses

Oracle is pushing the "Pay as you go" approach, which can fit all different sizes of business and can provide a good alternative to Amazon, Google and Azure. It also revamped the whole cloud infrastructure using Oracle Bare Metal, and at first glance it looks very promising.

4. Following the trends closely

Oracle code was also showing that Oracle is aware of different technological trends, and is giving developers options to utilise them instead of forcing its own agenda - which is a great approach in my opinion.

The Bad

While Oracle did an amazing job in the event, there a few things that I would have loved to see or get answers for. However, since this is not an official Oracle conference, they were not obliged to do so!

1. Middleware stack fate

Oracle PaaS was the strength Oracle used to get into the Cloud market. This is changing right now, and while these PaaS products still there, there were no mention of any of the Middleware stack and how these products are going to adapt to change in the future.

2. Oracle Cloud checkout is still hard!

Oracle Code gives $300 in credit for Oracle Cloud. Claiming that is a different story though. You have to provide payment information regardless (and the payment fails a lot for some reason!) and adding cloud services to your account, whilst simpler than before, is still missing a lot of features (a simple search feature would be nice!). While this is not really Oracle Code's fault, it just shows that Oracle still needs some housekeeping in order to compete more effectively in the cloud space.

3. Current Oracle product developer base

Oracle Code Conference focused on gathering a lot of technical skills. Most of the talks and sessions were more focused around trendy subjects, and it is quite unknown how current Oracle developers can adhere to the new ways Oracle is pushing. Again, this is not the event's fault, but it would have been nice to gain some insights about these questions. 

Conclusion

Overall, I think it was a great conference. I had a great time, and I got a free t-shirt to show for it!

Innovation through a different lens

In the words of Annie Dillard, “If we are blinded by darkness, we are also blinded by light”. Paradoxically,Prof Venganti speaking at Oracle Modern Business Experience being in the light and having too many ideas can be as fruitless as being in the dark and having none. These were the opening words of Professor Verganti’s talk at Oracle’s Modern Business Experience London conference, which caught my attention. Two minutes in, I had my notepad out. For a long time, I had been a believer of ‘the more, the merrier’ when it comes to ideas, and had somehow paid no attention to how that compromises quality and value.

The digital era we live in enables us to access creativity; we don’t struggle to think of ideas. In fact, we have even devised processes to help us generate them. What we struggle with, is filtering them. Ideas are commodities. If we chase everything, we get nothing. The challenge of innovation is finding which ones are meaningful. How do we design meaningful products in a world awash with ideas?

The answer lies in the relationship between people, meaning and solutions. People create the meaning (the ‘why’) which leads to the solution (the ‘how’).

Let’s take a look at two examples:

Candles. Why did people buy candles in the 70s? What meaning did candles have for them? They bought them because they wanted their house to be lit in the event of a power cut. Today, in the 21st century when power cuts are almost unheard of, Yankee candles are becoming more and more popular. Why? Because the meaning of Yankee candles is different to that of traditional candles, despite them practically being an almost identical solution. Yankee candles were not designed to keep a house lit; they were designed to create a warm and welcoming atmosphere. People fall in love with the why, not the how.

We can apply the same logic to photography. Kodak held a dominant position in photography for the majority of the 20th century. Why? Because Kodak focused on the meaning of their solution being memories. Today, with the hype of social media and the world of ‘online’, this meaning has changed. Understanding that change brings innovation. Snapchat approached the meaning of photography differently. The meaning now was communication - people being able to communicate quickly using short-lived photography to pass a message, for example, sending a selfie in front of the Big Ben with the caption “Exploring the capital!”. It was not about creating long lasting memories anymore. This realisation was important enough to attract 156 million users worldwide within 5 years of the app’s initial release.

The standard text on innovation suggests gaining input from outsiders. This can be effective at improving products, but it does not capture bigger opportunities in the marketplace. Innovation does not come from users, it comes from vision – candle users of the 70s would never make us think of Yankee candles. The vision is created from the inside out. It is ideation which happens from the outside in. In other words, don’t start from the market; start from the organisation.

In a world where ideas are abundant but novel visions are rare, innovation driven by meaning is what makes a difference. If something is meaningful both for the creators and the consumers, business value will follow.

Based on Prof Roberto Verganti’s talk at Oracle’s Modern Business Experience Conference, 2nd Feb 2017.

http://www.verganti.com/

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