Monday, November 02, 2015

Alfidi Capital Visits Oracle OpenWorld 2015

I had enough white space on my calendar this autumn to accommodate the other big San Francisco tech conference besides Dreamforce. That would of course be Oracle OpenWorld 2015. I love these big brand-driven showcases for the latest enterprise computing things. I also attended parts of Oracle's JavaOne 2015 even though I have no clue how the programming language works. All I know is that installing Java updates on my computer used to require changes to my browser's advanced options TLS and SSL checkboxes just to keep pop-up reminders away. I think the Java people finally fixed that bug.

A whole week of tech keynotes includes free food and booze. I scored access to multiple receptions during the week. I listened dutifully to product pitches while enjoying snacks and libations. The food was always excellent. I had more meatballs and sauteed shrimp than a mere mortal could handle. I did not leave one Oracle reception until I tried all three varieties of boutique whiskey on hand. Mission accomplished. My buzz wore off every night. It was nice to score free granola bars and banana bread during the day thanks to my high-powered tech connections. One vendor was very generous with pastries and smoothies. I learned a new cloud computing term: "Happiness as a Service" (HaaS). I think it means the consultants smile and say nice things while they migrate on-prem apps to the cloud.

Oracle's Java mascot "Duke" awaits the JavaOne opening keynote. I high-fived it as I entered the keynote hall. Duke has way more personality than some people I used to serve with in the US military. I spent some quality time at his namesake "Duke's Cafe" blocking Taylor Street during Oracle OpenWorld. I scored so much free coffee there that I may as well run on Java myself. I was tempted to find out what happens when tea mixes with beer. I did not have as much time as I did last year to probe vendor pain points on the OpenWorld trade show floor. One vendor gave me a mimosa but did not scan my badge. That scores a booth marketing fail.

Arriving early to the JavaOne opening act means sitting in front of giant screens like the one above. I have never done drugs in my life. When I see these wild animations at major corporate tech conferences, I think, "Oh, that must be what drugs are like." I get high on life, people. I must say, this corporate keynote canned warm-up music is really dreamy. One of my Spotify playlists is devoted to ambient music. I could spice that playlist up with this upbeat corporate conference house music.

The first JavaOne keynote covered orientation to their mini-conference, along with what sounded like product announcements. I don't see what's so earth-shattering about announcing that versions of Java now run end-to-end on Intel and other platforms. Java has always worked pretty well on all of the Intel and AMD desktop PCs I've used, so mobile use is the only real hurdle remaining. I missed the whole Geek Bar, Maker Zone, and on-site immersive experience celebrating 20 years of Java. That's what happens when an on-demand genius like me gets over-scheduled.

Oracle does listen to its developers' pain points when updating Java releases. Maybe that's how they solved the pop-up thing I noted above. I could have used a good definition of generic programming while the Java experts were discussing their innovations on stage. I did comprehend their explanation of how data laid out across different caches takes longer to process because electrons must travel farther. Their solution was to increase the number of instructions per clock cycle so data speed would increase. I could not understand why one Java presenter stood silently while two Java-enabled toy cars' onboard sensors sent cloud alerts to a display table. I know it was recorded, but he could have at least talked us through what was happening instead of waiting until the pretty graphs and tables came up at after the simulated data load. Sheesh, even engineers can learn to make running commentary.

The fun part was Scott McNealy's surprise video appearance wearing a classic Sun Microsystems sports jacket. In case you're too young to remember, Sun created Java when Mr. McNealy was its boss, and then Oracle bought Sun and everything. He did a top-ten list of inside jokes that only Java developers could truly appreciate. The video gave me flashbacks to the mid-1990s with magazine covers talking about how great the Internet was going to be. It turned out great, all right.

Java engineers celebrate the 20th anniversary of their programming language. I was tempted to take a selfie with the cake but I did not want to miss the next keynote. The OpenWorld opening keynote was the next thing in the Moscone North hall after the Java engineers cleared off the stage. I wanted to make time for their Modern Finance Experience sessions but I didn't think my lowly Discover pass would get me access. Hey there Oracle, I had a full-access analyst pass to Dreamforce 2015, so next year you folks need to upgrade my status. I'm a bona fide thought leader around this neighborhood. The discussion of data center optimization made me wonder whether Intel and Oracle consider data center HVAC and facilities management as pain points their solutions can mitigate. Run the Cloudonomics numbers, folks.

Speaking of cloud economics, the brief mention of cloud KPIs like variance/swing, workload, IOPS, and latency deserve more explanation for the non-engineers at OpenWorld. The CIO people throwing those terms around at their CFOs and COOs need to show that they've actually calculated the economics on how more IT spend will improve those metrics. Every CFO needs to ask for the CIO's data proving their proposed innovation has the promised higher IOPS and lower latency.

Oracle allowed Intel to introduce their "Trusted Analytics Platform" during the opening keynote. The platform enables domain experts and data scientists to run analytics during real-time data collection. Bay Area startups have been claiming they can do this for years. Some critical mass of acqui-hires and internal development now allow the big ERP providers to dominate this action. It is the natural end result of all of the knowledge management (KM) and business rule management system (BRMS) trends I have tracked for several years.

Larry Ellison came out for his portion of the OpenWorld initial keynote. His biggest disclosure was about how Oracle gradually discovered it must operate in all three cloud layers in response to competitors' moves. I inferred that Oracle has not driven the cloud sector's innovation. They are reactive rather than proactive, and it explains their acquisition strategy since buying Sun. I do not recall hearing Larry mention Workday as a major cloud competitor at last year's OpenWorld, so mentioning them here was news.

Security is very much on Larry's radar. The new Oracle stuff about automated backup and restoration with no human intervention is an omen for the end of human system administrators. Even engineers will now face a jobless future as the cloud sector matures. Larry moved Oracle to open standards so enterprise cloud accounts will be more portable between providers. He also thinks the full transition from on-prem to cloud will be sufficiently long to require a decade or two of continued on-prem support. Predictions of long transitions remind me of the migration from 1970s mainframes to 1900s client-server architectures. The client-server paradigm reigned supreme throughout the dot-com boom-bust cycle until the cloud was ready to replace it.

I liked Larry's improvisation without his glasses. "I don't have glasses . . . I can still do this" was his mantra when he ran his live tutorial of Oracle Learning modules showing employees how to pitch Oracle cloud products. I noticed one of the Oracle executives sprint past my near-front seat to go backstage; I wondered if she was going to fetch Larry's glasses. I couldn't LOL because that would be classic teamwork and loyalty. I would have done that for any boss, but my bosses never appreciated me with huge compensation packages like the ones Larry gives his people.

Tuesday's keynote was Oracle co-CEO Mark Hurd's chance to offer his predictions about the cloud sector. I gleaned his live insights into CEO thinking. He argued that CEOs care first and foremost about current period performance, i.e. survival. Growth, agility, and new markets are all secondary because CEOs don't have the luxury of long-term thinking if they don't meet short-term earnings expectations. He confirmed an assumption I have long held about how enterprises cut IT spending when their revenue growth stalls. Get ready for lean times in the next recession, people, and I've been harping on that note for a while. I was intrigued to hear the guy claim that the demographic shift to a gig economy will stress IT for rapid workforce development tools. I take that as another hint that Larry's demo of Oracle Learning is the next big thing. I agree with his prediction of an oligopoly coming to cloud, and you can recall my predictions from OpenWorld 2014 about how the sector's leaders would fare. The tech big shots from GE and AIG also came out to share how impressed they were with their own cloud stuff. Good for them.

The combined forces of Wipro and the Golden State Warriors in another keynote were instructive. Wipro thinks digital tech can reduce fulfillment cycles to two weeks, down from the current 8-12 weeks of design, production, and distribution in retail supply chains. I think there are implications for IT spending priorities if legacy records must migrate to the cloud before customer engagement systems migrate.

It was really awkward to switch narratives between the Oracle guy and the Warriors dude when they were on stage. They didn't even address the same subjects. The Warriors' building project and brand management are not the same thing as Oracle's cloud service scalability. I would have got their  points if they had stuck to leadership in renewing corporate culture, but the juxtaposition of the moderator's questions made no sense. The whole point was to enhance Oracle's brand by association with the Warriors. The experience of watching a Warriors game is not completely scalable with tech. The TV or mobile audience can only remotely experience the two dimensional visuals of the game.

I liked the coffee bean bag props thrown on stage during the video vignettes about how some IT bit player could use Oracle's open-source solutions. I could have used come coffee at that moment. My big takeaway from the coffee escapade was how containerized databases enable linking data to apps with no coding. Non-developers can thus create new business functions in sales, discounts, incentives, and loyalty programs without learning to code. I like how spreadsheet uploads mean mobile users can do analytics and visualizations without access to data warehouse. Darn it, these mobile sales people now have all kinds of on-demand OJT modules for prospecting and closing that I never had when I was in sales. I hope all of these Oracle things work as advertised.

Getting an early seat in Larry Ellison's keynote on Tuesday had its perks, like the seat photo I snapped above. The legendary founder had to wait for the warm-up acts from Infosys and GE. Infosys wanted everything automated because it reduces full-time employee headcount. Now I'm getting a clear impression that all tech CEOs want a jobless future for the rest of us. Here comes the bad news. Everyone who does not attend these tech conferences is doomed to be either a ward of the state or a peasant on some CEO's plantation. Now for the good news. I promise to be a benevolent plutocrat to my subjects, because I'm a really nice guy. The GE person said ERP must move faster, but I wasn't sure whether he meant with faster data processing or faster ERP deployment. I had no chance to ask him for clarification because I was sitting in the audience among thousands of Larry Ellison fans.

The long-awaited Larry Ellison keynote on "Innovations in Security and IaaS" was one for the ages. Larry's tour de force through modern enterprise security placed every recent mass data breach into one context. The singular point of failure in ERP security to date has been software vulnerability. Hard-coding security protocols into silicon hardware may solve this problem. Larry announced an always-on memory intrusion detection system into Oracle's hardware, claiming they are the first software company to encode security into a microprocessor. Their "Silicon Secured Memory" uses color matching to compute a number key that locks memory.

Larry also noted that any cloud service provider DBA who can read client data represents a massive security vulnerability. He emphasized Oracle's storage of encryption keys on-prem for clients, and I got the impression that he prefers clients storing their keys on-prem instead of in the cloud. Larry also announced other initiatives like the "Private Cloud Machine" that replicates an Oracle cloud's performance for on-prem clients who just aren't ready to migrate due to regulatory requirements or geo-specific preferences. The guy covered all the right bases. His presentation style is different from Marc Benioff's persona at Dreamforce. Personal characterization is great as long as the software works.

The Oracle CX afterparty at Moscone West was memorable. I had to try this "Blue Lagoon" cocktail with Curacao, one of my favorite liqueurs. A neon dance troop (pictured above) materialized out of nowhere and jammed to the Party Rock Anthem. All we needed were some glow-sticks and it would have been a rave party. This is normal for a San Francisco tech conference afterparty. My contacts told me another party had dancing electric violin players, but I missed that to hear a former US Navy SEAL discuss leadership lessons. Long live Oracle OpenWorld.

I attended the final JavaOne keynote only partly for the free lunch. I really wanted to see how engineers have fun. IBM people kicked it off with an obvious pitch for IBM Bluemix as a PaaS solution for cloud apps touching multiple APIs. The dudes from Big Blue hit the right note by toasting Java's 20th anniversary with mini whiskey bottles at the podium. That is just totally awesome. I might have become a software programmer if I had role models like that as a kid. Containers, business logic, the API economy, and microservices mean so much more if you can drink whiskey on the job.

Oracle's Java engineers have a house band called the Null Pointers. They entertained us prior to the JavaOne keynote. I think the extra percussionist in back should have done a cowbell solo. The real "JavaOne Community Keynote" was one big interactive party with free beer, cute sketches, and Duke the Java mascot. The kickoff video featured a geeky coder powering up on cans of "Java" to impress his attractive female boss. The level-up cues from video games would impress the male geeks in the audience. I don't think the video was sexist, but tech parodies ought to feature women as something other than foils for a male-driven plot if the tech sector is serious about encouraging women to have careers.

The skits were low drama that only an engineer could love. They had a UK-style red phone booth on stage (pictured above) but pretended it was the TARDIS from Doctor Who with the soundtrack, time tunnel, theme music, and everything. Dude, every true nerd knows the TARDIS is a UK blue police box. Only Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure used a phone booth as a time machine. I didn't mind the mixed metaphors because these folks were on a budget. Duke was the central plot element in the skit series. The engineers were concerned when they saw him destroying San Francisco in 2035, so they time-traveled to various points in Java's developmental history to figure out how to stop him. The Paris programmers waved French baguettes and made inside jokes about development projects. The Brazil people used a "Future Communicator" to predict how Java would change. The outer space skit has a cute "soh-crates" mention of the Socrates character from Bill and Ted, which no one in the audience under 30 had probably ever seen. James Gosling, the father of Java, helped the skit engineers launch T-shirts into the audience. The JavaOne 2015 app revealed a secret code that enabled kid programmers to tear off Duke's angry mouth and save San Francisco from destruction. Wow, I have no idea why I noted all of these details except for the sake of posterity. If I had been an engineer instead of a finance person, I could have invented something that would have put me on stage. I did score a bite of some Java 20-year anniversary cake they had on stage, so I got my taste of nerd excellence for the week.

I did catch a few minutes of some workshops in the Modern Finance Experience after all. The door sentries generously let me in, so I guess they instantly recognized the pure genius of Alfidi Capital. I was shocked to discover that some SMBs still track financial reporting from geographically separate branches on linked spreadsheets instead of using cloud ERP. What is with those people? This isn't the 1980s. It's amazing that small-time CFOs and COOs now discover that automating some FP+A tasks reduces forecasting errors and saves time. That must have been how cave dwellers felt when they discovered fire. No kidding. The partner network people from larger firms talked about how Millennial generation employees expect tons of incentives even for marginal performance, because all of them got participation trophies growing up. I don't think those incentives will last long if the big-shot CEOs get the jobless future they expect. Millennials can expect zero self-esteem support when they're shoveling dirt on some plutocrat's ranch.

Oracle OpenWorld 2015 brought me more glimpses of the future. I didn't even need Duke's Java-powered time traveling phone booth to see the future, even though it was a nice touch. Here comes the standard Alfidi Capital mental jet-blast, so strap yourselves in for my genius. The future is a cloud full of encrypted silicon tended by a dwindling number of STEM graduates who slowly work themselves into obsolescence over the next decade or two. The early DBA and sysadmin dropouts still have a window of opportunity to create cloud service startups the bigger firms will acquire as they build their oligopolies. The final STEM survivors will be godlike analytics and domain experts keeping cloud systems running with AIs. The rest of the tech workforce in between these two forces will see their wages and career prospects gradually slide into nothing as everything they do is automated away. I will invest my capital accordingly so my perspectives survive indefinitely. Future tech conferences like Oracle OpenWorld are my path to salvation.