Oracle flags off OpenWorld extravaganza


“Big” has always been an apt one-word descriptor for Oracle OpenWorld conferences.

This year even more so.

Here I am in sunny San Francisco – the venue of Oracle OpenWorld 2006.

After a nine hour trip from Toronto (that included a three hour stop over at Denver airport) I’m finally here – along with some 41,000 other quite eager, but slightly bewildered mortals who have descended on the Bay Area for OpenWorld.

The blogger who facetiously dubbed this extravaganza the “grandmother of all events” was right on the money.

Even the two sprawling buildings of the famed Moscone Centre are not adequate to accommodate the hordes of attendees and countless OpenWorld sessions this year. So the “show” has expanded beyond Moscone to nearby hotels like the Hilton, Marriott and Fairmont.

Conundrum of choice

And then in addition to the big numbers you have the big names. Head honchos of some of the largest companies on the planet will be presenting at OpenWorld 2006.

CEOs/chairmen delivering keynotes include Michael Dell of Dell Computers, Jonathan Schwartz of Sun Microsystems, John Chambers of Cisco Systems, Mark Hurd of HP, Hector de J. Ruiz of AMD – and, of course, Oracle’s irrepressible Larry Ellison.

For a great many Oracle aficionados – customers, partners, employees – OpenWorld 2006 will present a problem of too much choice.

Try these for size:

• There are 1,625 sessions this year – each averaging one hour – that’s more than 1,600 hours of content right there

• There are 650 product demos being offered – some conducted by the 3,200 Oracle experts present at the conference

• There are 22 industry tracks – ranging from aerospace and defense to automotive, communications, consumer products, education and research.

• I did a search for all sessions under a single sub-track (CRM) —and located 94 separate sessions!

Here are some additional bits of trivia that I picked up from at Oracle president Charles Phillips keynote address on Sunday evening:

Setting up this conference took 45,000 hours, collectively attendees will account for 68,000 hotel room nights (a business bonanza for the city) and 187 shuttle buses have be put into service to ferry attendees from various hotels across the city to the Muscone Centre and then back to their hotels.

I sympathize with Michael Siebert, an Oracle applications architect. “If only I could develop a cloning script for myself.” exclaims in Siebert in his blog. “Given my background and interest in both Oracle Technology and Oracle Applications, there are moments when I’ll need to flip a coin to determine which session to attend when conflicts arise.”

Blogs create the buzz

Talking about OpenWorld blogs, there’s no doubt they are fuelling much of the buzz around this event (the blogroll around this year’s event began months ago).

One kind hearted soul – a Portland-based Oracle application developer called Edward Awad – has taken the trouble to identify and list some really helpful blogs.

For those perplexed or intimidated by the range of sessions, bloggers like Steven Chan have done a good job of providing useful tips and recommendations. Chan, director, applications technology integration at Oracle is himself presenting/chairing a few sessions this year.

“Advanced planning” and strictly “limiting [one’s] focus” is the sage counsel offered by Floyd Teter a systems engineer based in Pasedena, Calif. Teter has been working with Oracle products for 16 years and Oracle apps for nearly a decade. He’s been to scores of Oracle conferences, and says in recent years he’s had to make quite a few adjustments to his free-wheeling attendance style.

The opportunities to network and to putter from session to session back in the days of Apps World are gone for good, Teter says in his blog. The teeming thousands at OpenWorld makes ad-hoc networking or walking into a session without pre-registering quite impossible, he warns.

Cool tools

Oracle has provided some snazzy tools on its Web site, that make navigating through the morass of tracks, workshops, sessions and speakers, and selecting those that most appropriate for you a little less exasperating. I found the Content Catalog a good starting point as it allows you to search for sessions, exhibitors or demos by key topic, track, keyword, speaker/company name or a combination or some or all of these parameters.

Once you’ve identified sessions you’re keen on, you can use another tool – Schedule Builder – to reserve priority seating by using the username and password created during your registration. Once you create your schedule, you can modify, print, e-mail, and even export it to a PDA.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t use the Schedule Builder capability to pre-select sessions I wanted to attend.

As a member of the press, my registration was done by Oracle and the confirmation e-mail sent to me provided a registration ID number, but not the username and password required to log on to Schedule Builder. I’m not sure if other media persons attending received the log on information. Last Friday the Oracle spokesperson informed me that “in terms of providing you access to the sessions, it doesn’t look good [as they] are already at maximum capacity.”

1,625 sessions…maximum capacity….go figure. I feel like the Ancient Mariner: “water, water everywhere – but not a drop to drink.”

As for the user name and password, I tried all day on Saturday to get them (calling and e-mailing the registration desk as well as Oracle PR) – but all to no avail. A user name and password was emailed to me when I reached San Francisco but they didn’t work.

Not-so-open face of OpenWorld

I’ve been covering Oracle conferences for the past eight years – and one-on-one interviews with Oracle execs have generally been a fixture in the press agenda.

Sometimes we would have to tactfully urge our PR host to limit the number of executive one-on-ones – so as to make time for other tasks (such as customer interviews, attending sessions, visits to the Exhibition Halls and so on).

This year, however, it’s a different story.

A couple of days ago I learned that at this OpenWorld, there will not be any one-on-one interviews between Oracle executives and members of the media.

It was apparently a last-minute decision because as late as last Tuesday I was sent a list of Oracle execs, their topic areas, and their availability – and asked to select those I would like to talk to personally (in slots of 10 -15 minutes). Then a couple of days later I was informed the individual interviews were off – not just for me, of course, but all media.

In its lieu, journalists (200 of them from across the world: Canada, the U.S., Africa, Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East) as well as analysts have been invited to a two-hour “press and analyst briefing” with a bunch of senior Oracle execs.

While, such a briefing has its place (it’s been done in previous years as well) eliminating the one-on-ones altog

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