Yesterday I attended a Banner/Oracle user conference at Wellesley College. This annual, one-day event of largely peer presentations was a great opportunity for networking and knowledge exchange. Here are some of the take-homes I got out of this conference in no particular order. These are just my observations and opinions and pertain to the scope of our institution and environment.

Oracle Database

Marc Kelberman, Oracle pre-sales engineer for higher-ed gave a presentation on RAC/Grid control and SQL Developer.

Very few have moved from 9i to 10g. Those who have, or will soon, are going straight to 10gR2.

It is important to go to the latest patchset for 10gR2.

Oracle’s RAC/Grid technology is very cool, but it is unlikely it would offer much to our small (6,000 student) university. Larger universities may benefit from it.

Grid/RAC requires a shared storage architecture.

It would take a great effort between systems, networking and database administrators to implement RAC/Grid.

Around 75% of the institutions I spoke to were running Oracle on Sun Solaris.

None of the institutions I spoke to were running Oracle on Linux.

None of the institutions I spoke to were running clustering/RAC/Grid Control.

Several institutions are running some type of network attached storage (NAS) to store their data files.

One institution (I believe this was the host institution, Wellesley) is running their Oracle home directories on network attached storage. This allows them to maintain only one oracle home per database version saving hours of work per upgrade.

Most institutions are still relying on cold backups as their primary backup method.

Only a couple institutions I talked to have adopted Oracle RMAN for backups.

Oracle SQL Developer

Marc did a good demonstration of SQL Developer, but this product is hard to appreciate until you’ve used it. Thankfully it’s free, so there’s no good reason not to test drive it.

Identity Management

Dan Sterling, Chief Technology Architect for SunGard Higher Education presented on SunGard HE’s plans for identity management. It looks like they will focus on integrating with third party tools via open standards.

Banner Student Information System

One university mentioned that when a user asks for a modification to their student information system they require that the user submit a request for product enhancement with the vendor before a local modification is made. This seems like a good policy.

Final thoughts

The relatively small number of attendees made this conference great for networking. It’s very interesting to interact with universities of different sizes. Some of the universities in attendance had one administrator for their Oracle databases, application servers and application support, while others have a large staff and highly individualized positions.

Though this conference happens near the end of the academic year it was a nice diversion from summer planning. Beyond the networking, the take-homes are more than worth the day out of work.

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