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Oracle screw over Solaris experts with new certification rules 2 comments

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I can cut Oracle a lot of slack – they’re a big, slow organisation, and having swallowed Sun there are sure to be some bouts of indigestion, in between a few burps as the more troublesome bits get expelled.

But the latest update on how certifications are granted is ridiculous. Read the note on Oracle’s Education website:

Important Changes to Java, and Oracle Solaris Certifications

Beginning August 1, 2011, Java Architect, Java Developer, Solaris System Administrator and Solaris Security Administrator certification path requirements will include a new mandatory course attendance requirement.

The summary is – even if you pass the certification exams, you cannot be certified unless you attend a relevant hands-on course.

Your experiences may vary, but personally I have always found vendor-run training courses to be useless. They are not teaching you skills you need – they are teaching you how to do things the way the vendor wants you to. Training courses are not always the best way to learn things, and on every single one I’ve been on, there’s been someone who hasn’t bothered with the course pre-requisites – and so the training slows down to the pace of someone who is a total beginner. That is not the way to learn.

Perfect case in point – Sun used to say that to add a user, you’d fire up the admintool GUI. This even came up in the certification exam, and if you said anything other than ‘use admintool’, you’d fail that question.

Meanwhile, in the real world, people were editing passwd and shadow, running useradd, or hacking away at NIS and LDAP. No-one used NIS+ – so naturally, that too featured in the certification exams and the courses.

Vendors want to teach you how to use their specific tools to increase sales and penetration. Fine. But that isn’t teaching you the useable, transferrable skills you need to be a really good sysadmin.

By forcing course attendance, Oracle are making it clear that to be an ‘expert’ in Solaris, you have to a) have paid them lots of money for that bit of paper, and b) know how to use Oracle tools, over and above any real skill or understanding of the OS.

This is short-sighted, greedy, and stupid. It devalues the Solaris certifications by clearly showing them to be about making money for Oracle. It means that someone who invests heavily in Solaris and UNIX skills will be valued less by HR (and less technical managers) than someone who has paid Oracle a bucket load of cash.

It also unfairly penalises small businesses and consultancies. If you’ve got a few UNIX guys, why not pay for some books, let them self study, and then fork out £300 or so for a few exams? That’s a world away from having them out the office for 5 days, and paying upwards of £3000, for a course that is unlikely to give them any new knowledge.

This is wrong. This is ill-considered, and turns a useful way of showcasing your Solaris skills into a valueless exercise in fattening Mad Larry’s wallet.

Solaris 09/10 is out Comments Off on Solaris 09/10 is out

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Oracle have announced that Solaris 09/10 is out. Along with a number of new features, two things really stick out:

1) Oracle have begun putting a lot of effort into tuning and integrating Solaris and Oracle. If you’re an Oracle database shop and you’re not running Solaris, you need to be paying close attention to this, because it’s the future for Mad Larry’s database cash-cow.

2) Perpetual licensing. Gone is the stupid 90 day eval – if you’re doing anything that’s not production, you get Solaris for keeps.

Except for any included software package or file that is licensed to you by Oracle under different license terms, we grant you a perpetual (unless terminated as provided in this agreement), nonexclusive, nontransferable, limited License to use the Programs only for the purpose of developing, testing, prototyping and demonstrating your applications, and not for any other purpose.

Clearly the short sighted and ill considered “90 day evaluation” clause generated enough of a negative backlash from customers for Oracle to change tack. Hopefully with some of the confusion out of the way more people will be picking this up and playing with it.

OGB resigns, OpenSolaris canned – or is it? Comments Off on OGB resigns, OpenSolaris canned – or is it?

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As expected the OpenSolaris OGB have officially thrown in the towel. Plans have been leaked internally from Oracle showing that they are going to stop open development of OpenSolaris.

All pretty much expected, and hopefully this will be the ‘jumpstart’ that the OpenSolaris community needs to start pushing community distros and community code.

What a lot of the peanut gallery commentators have missed is that this doesn’t spell the end of any OpenSolaris development. Oracle will still release code, just after a long-ish delay. This is a clearly a tactic to address people like Nexenta, who are directly competing with Oracle in the open storage space – where there’s an awful lot of money up for grabs.

There are pluses and minuses for all of this – to get an idea read these posts from Ben Rockwood and Joerg Mollenkamp to see the view from both sides of the fence.

The big plus for existing Solaris shops – and yes, it is a plus – is the return of Solaris Express. Specifically Solaris 11 Express, which should be appearing sometime after OpenWorld.

The death of SX:CE was a massive mistake from Sun – OpenSolaris was too far ahead of current shipping Solaris versions, and it made any sort of planning or roadmap to implement new features impossible, especially in a large environment. You know, those big corporate Solaris/SPARC shops who paid Sun’s bills?

The return of Solaris Express gives these guys – the ones who pay big money to Oracle – a chance to evaluate new features, plan out a deployment/upgrade strategy. Which means it’s much more likely they’ll stick with Solaris, take advantage of the new features – and continue to pay money to Oracle.

Sadly for Oracle they seem to have handled Solaris with all the deftness and tact of IBM with OS/2. Getting all bullish with licensing and support costs without giving your customers solid roadmaps and upgrade plans is pretty amateurish.

Oracle Premier Support on Dell and HP – why this matters Comments Off on Oracle Premier Support on Dell and HP – why this matters

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So there were a rash of news reports about Oracle pulling third party support contracts for Solaris x86 – specifically with HP and IBM. It seems this was all a storm in a teacup, handled with the usual communicative excellence from Oracle (seriously, guys, *come on*).

Oracle have announced new support agreements with HP and Dell. This is important for a couple of reasons, which I’ll explain here as the mainstream press seems to have conveniently glossed them over in their rush to backpeddle on their previous “OMG Solaris is dying!” claims.

Firstly, it’s becoming clear that Oracle are having a lot more success than Sun when it comes to showing other x86 server suppliers who wears the trousers. Sun’s line was pretty much “Your customers want it, so go on, sell Solaris licenses and support – please”. Oracle’s new deal with HP and Dell is a lot more impressive:

Oracle today announced Dell and HP will certify and resell Oracle Solaris, Oracle Enterprise Linux and Oracle VM on their respective x86 platforms.

and:

Customers will have full access to Oracle’s Premier Support for Oracle Solaris, Oracle Enterprise Linux and Oracle VM running on Dell and HP servers. This will enable fast and accurate issue resolution and reduced risk in a company’s operating environment

It’s not just Solaris – it’s Oracle’s entire stack: Solaris x86, Oracle Linux, and Oracle VM. It’s clear Oracle are able to use their database sales .

The second big development has really been overlooked:

World-class Oracle Solaris support on any certified x86 system on the Solaris Hardware Compatibility List (HCL)

That’s right – Oracle are offering Premier Support for Solaris on all certified systems on the Solaris HCL. That’s over 500 server systems – all qualifying for Premier Support.

This is even more relevant when taken in the context of Oracle’s previous comments about increasing investment in SPARC. Why divert development effort to the low x86 end, when you can get your hardware partners to supply the really cheap, low margin gear? Give your customers a neat upgrade path, using the same Solaris OS on a tightly integrated Oracle x86 cluster.

Then supply the customers another upgrade path when they really need to scale – Solaris on SPARC, all the way up to beefy M9000s. The OS is the same, the database is the same, and Oracle can provide customers with a well defined and (relatively) painless upgrade path – which they supply.

This is a real shot in the arm for Solaris x86 and will go a long way to allay the fears of sites who’ve chosen to deploy on x86.

Mad Larry seeks to rule all with Sun/Oracle Comments Off on Mad Larry seeks to rule all with Sun/Oracle

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I’d still like to know what to call Sun once the merger is complete. Sucle is my favourite, although I suspect it’ll end up being something boring like “Sun, an Oracle company”. While busy decrying the EU investigation into the takeover costing Oracle $100m a day, Larry has also been addressing a technology forum on Monday, and was shy about laying out his plans for world domination.

Key takeaway points from his speech were:

“I would like us to be the successor to IBM”

“We think with the combination of Sun technology and Oracle technology we can succeed and beat IBM – that’s our goal.”

“We are keeping everything. We’re keeping tape. We’re keeping storage. We’re keeping x86 technology and SPARC technology – and we’re going to increase the investment in it.”

“Sun has fantastic technology. We think it’s got great microprocessor technology – it needs a little more investment, but we think it can be extremely competitive. It’s got the leading tape archival systems. We think the Open Storage on their new disk system is absolutely fantastic. Java speaks for itself. Solaris is overwhelmingly the best open-systems operating system on the planet.”

“I shall buy Sun for *seven* *billion* *dollars* muahahahhaha”

“I shall call [Jonathan Schwartz] Mini Me”

Wait, sorry, no – those last two I made up. Although I’m sure Larry is enjoying a Bond villain style evil laugh as he contemplates finally putting the boot in to IBM, whilst stroking his devil goatee.

Joking aside, he’s right – Sun has a lot of really excellent technology, and historically they’ve failed to follow through with most of it. Oracle’s ruthless sales methodology will be striking some fear into some Sun sales managers, but engineers (and customers) should be taking comfort hearing this sort of fighting talk.

Of course, the deal (still!) isn’t done, and it might be a while before we see some systems hitting the market on the back of this enthusiasm. Still, I think Sun have totally neglected the higher end systems, relying on Fujitsu to do the hard graft – with any luck, we should be seeing some big Niagra boxes coming soon.

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