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12 May 2014

Might I learn something from Oracle Support?

Might I learn something?

I might and there’s a strong possibility you might as well.  Read on and find out about a new initiative that Oracle Support are running to help you get the most out of, well, Oracle Support.  I cannot see how you would not want to do this unless of course you find nearly endless searching through what is a huge website whilst your boss/clients/peers are beating on your head with, “Did you figure it out yet?  Do we need to file a SR?  Did you figure it out yet?  Did you?  Did you?  Did I mention that it’s really important that you figure this out?  Right now would be a good time to do so.” to be oh so enjoyable.  No, probably not.

What oh what oh what is this all about

If you are an Oracle customer, or an Oracle partner of Gold level or above, you have the ability to browse Oracle’s Support site, download patches, log Service Requests (SRs) if you are a partner  of Platinum or higher (customers can always do this so long as their maintenance is current), and download patches as well.  

There are many resources out there on the web:  blogs, message boards, Twitter and they are all (well most – I don’t get the blogs that are copy and paste regurgitations of the documentation; I also understand although I do not approve of sites that simply take Support KB articles and replicate them) pretty good.  But nothing trumps the breadth and depth of Oracle Support.  I like to think of this as the difference between paid troubleshooting, workaround finding, and general knowledge dissemination and those who do it for free, like yr. obdnt. srvnt and many others.  I don’t think one replaces the other (okay, except for those illegal sites – and no, I am not going to link to one as they are depressingly easy to find), they are instead complementary.  A blog like this one might cover a function or feature in one of the many EPM tools; Support will tell you how to fix one of those systems and even help you prevent problems.  I can only do the latter if you hire me and maybe not even then.

As I alluded to in the introductory paragraph of this post, Oracle Support is big.  Big in terms of content by product, big in terms of products, big in terms of sheer size.  Like I wrote, just big.  And with size comes confusion as one must filter out all of the other products that Oracle sells.  I seem to remember Thomas Kurian mentioning at an ACE Director briefing (note to all -- this is as close as I come to the Oracle power structure) that there are over 2,000 products with the Oracle brand and Oracle Support covers them all.

To reduce this potential confusion Oracle Support have launched all manner of education in how to use Oracle Support.  The latest initiative is an Oracle Support accreditation exam.  Italia Norwodworska of Oracle support sent me an email suggesting that I might like to check it out.  As I am one of those who is often confounded by the Support website, this sounded like a really good opportunity to learn more about a site I don’t often use, but when I do use it, I really need to use it as efficiently and effectively as possible.  Remember those quotes in the introduction?  Those were real life examples.  Ah, stress, how I don’t enjoy you.

What does it look like?

The Level 2 Accrediation for Business Analytics (I seem to have skipped level 1 but as always I do not let a lack of proper technical preparation slow me down) exam is a series of videos that explain how Support works and how to best use it.  Going through every one of the videos is recommended unless you really do know it all.  For the most part I just listened to it and jumped back to the videos when something I really didn’t understand was discussed.  The nice thing about videos like this is that you can play them as many times as needed till you grok the subject.

In case it is not obvious, you watch (or half-watch and listen) each of the subject areas and then take the test at the end.
This being the age of social media (and inexpensive animation) you will get pictures like the below to help drive a concept home:
Hmm, she reminds me of a grade school teacher telling me, “Cameron, you are a moderately bright boy, but you do not pay attention.”  True, that, even today.  But I did try to pay attention and as you’ll see from my not totally stellar score, I did manage to mostly pay attention.  The school-like aspect of this exam will become obvious later.

I’d like you to meet Joe

Joe is a stock photo and considerably better dressed than any Essbase admin I have ever met.  And I say this as someone who is just rolling off of an Essbase admin gig (don’t ask and I am officially the World’s Worst Essbase Admin as I kept on proposing new and hopefully better practices instead of just doing my job).  Here he is – I think his eyes follow me wherever I go in a room.  Creepy.  OTOH, Joe has what looks like a wicked cool 17” laptop so maybe he isn’t all bad.  At the same time, he never seems to move.  As I wrote, creepy.
All kidding aside, you will get to meet Joe at the beginning of every video and then Stalker Joe (as I have named him) goes away.  He’s just a bridging device and really isn’t so bad.  Having had a good look at those of us in the EPM community (and I most definitely include myself in this category), perhaps it is best that Oracle used a model.

The heart of the matter

Snarky (and really, unworthy) comments by yr. obdnt. srvnt. aside, this exam is quite valuable.  Dave Farnsworth, former EPM consultant (sadly now retired) once told me about buying books on one’s own nickel:  “If I get one new idea out of a book, just one, it’s paid for itself.”  I managed to learn at least four new things from this exam.  Did I mention it was free?  Quite the deal.

Things I should have known, but didn’t, and now do

What is a PowerView?

It’s the way you filter products within Oracle Support so you don’t get KB articles on how to get that bucket of prop wash for the IBM Series 360 (I am making this up in case it isn’t obvious) but instead just focus on the products you want to use.  It’ll be available the next time you log into Support.  I always wondered/was too lazy to figure that out, but I should have.

Terminology, vocabulary, and definitions

What’s the difference between a Patch Set, a Patch Set Update, and a Patch Set Exception?  Damfino.  Actually, now I do.

Patch Set

Patch Set Update

Patch Set Exception

Just to recap:
  • Patch Set = Large number of merged patches, are cumulative bug fixes, and change the release number.  Remember all of the posts on 11.1.2.3.500?  That was all about a patch set.
  • Patch Set Update = Low risk, cumulative patches, designed to be applied on a regular basis without forcing product recertification.
  • Patch Set Exception = Single fix for a single problem, applied via Opatch, handed out to customers with lots of pain.

I must shamefacedly admit that I have had no idea what these have precisely meant since, oh, 2007 and Oracle’s acquisition.  There’s lots of good information like this in the videos.

Art following reality

Here is a generic boss woman (sensible heels, suit, short hair) dealing rather adroitly with the geek in glasses.  Hmm, lose the blue eyes and the tie and it could be me, right down to the Rocky from South Philly at the Art Museum looking down the Ben Franklin Parkway towards City Hall pose.  Yeah, I come from Philly.
Let’s see if we can read some other truths into this screen shot:
  • Jolene (for I have named her such) has way better fashion sense than the geek.  This is damning with faint praise, but still it is worth noting.
  • She will be his boss in six months if she isn’t already.
  • Jolene secretly hates Cameron the geek and likely for good reason as she can run technical circles round him.  Also, she doesn’t think she’s Rocky Balboa.   Cameron shouldn’t either.  Look at that physique – he’s fooling himself.  The physical similarities (right down to the big head and glasses) are perhaps a bit too close for comfort for this writer.

Some fairly obvious advice that is surprisingly often not followed

I can think of many times where servers, usernames, and even passwords get posted to public forums.  Don’t Be That Guy.
Seriously, the above is really good advice.  Heed it or rue the day you posted confidential information for world+dog to see.

Teacher is going to ring my bell    

Class cutup, clown, or idiot? Only the exam can tell the tale.

Clicking on the Take The Exam link moves you to an Oracle University exam.  Gulp.
It’s a 30 question multiple choice exam – shades of school all right.  Most, but not everything, on the exam is in the videos (there is an assumption that you actually use the tools) and it took me about five minutes to go through the test.  You can review questions at any time and all in all it’s an effective interface.

Read ‘em and weep

I did actually take the videos seriously although perhaps not seriously enough:

A passing score, but will it get me into the university of my choice?  There’s that report card again with “Must try harder” in the margin.

What have I learnt from all this?

A couple of key things:
  1. The videos are quite good with information that I should have known but did not.  Sad but there it is.
  2. Even if I got a fair-to-middling score, I learnt new things, cf. the above comment.  This is all that really matters.
  3. It is pretty painless to watch these videos and take the test – I reckon you will need just under 40 minutes if you do it all at once.
  4. Sit up straight, no slouching, and pay attention!  Sorry, that was just a PTSD school moment – Oracle are actually quite friendly.  They want you to succeed as it’s better for all concerned.

I really applaud Oracle for coming up with this – it’s straightforward, entertaining (I wouldn’t have written all of those mildly funny comments if I didn’t enjoy it), and informative.  Take the test and I’ll bet that you too will learn from it.

The proof of the pudding is in the eating

Oh sure you say (you do say this, don’t you?), Cameron is merely shilling for his corporate masters.  Au contraire.  I dream of the massive amounts of dosh, cash, moola, bread, cabbage, simoleons, and spondulix that the various companies I write about send me.  In my dreams alas and alack, because it is actually the other way round.  Also, I have no corporate master.

What I mean by that is that I just stumped for a lovely, shiny, good-for-365-days Gold Partner agreement.  That’s $3,000 + tax of my not-terribly-big company’s money.  Why?  Gold Partners can access Oracle Support.

Yet another example of why being an independent ain’t all beer and skittles but Oracle Support is worth it and my money is where my mouth is.

Be seeing you.

3 comments:

Celvin Kattookaran said...

Isn't 11.1.2.3.500 a PSU? However if we go by the number of bugs, patches merged then it is a good candidate for Patch Set. Let's call it 11.1.2.4 V1 ;)

Cameron Lackpour said...

Celvin,

I agree that it is called a PSU but I'm not sure how one could call 11.1.2.3.500 a series of low-risk bug fixes given the definitions provided by Support and the enormity (Hybrid Essbase, massive changes to Planning, etc.) of the updates.

11.1.2.4 would have been a better name or maybe even 11.1.3.0.

Regards,

Cameron Lackpour

John A. Booth said...

The PSU's also get tricky when they have a PSU that technically requires a prior patch for the same product module -- e.g. Planning PSU's on the 11.1.2.2 line have done this a few times thus breaking the rules of what a PSU really should be e.g. a comprehensive patch from a base line product. Very much agree on the numbering convention which is confusing at best.