Arup Nanda is an Oracle DBA, author, speaker, mentor, and frequent contributor to Oracle Magazine. Nanda recently sat down with Oracle Magazine Editor in Chief Tom Haunert to talk about how he got his start with Oracle technology, where Oracle technology has taken him, and what technology he plans to start on next. The following is an excerpt from that interview. Listen to the full podcast at oracle.com/magcasts.
Oracle Magazine: How did you get started with Oracle technology?
Nanda: It was an accident, actually. I have an undergraduate degree in engineering. After that, I went to a business school to pursue my MBA, and after that, I joined a consultancy company, where we were developing software for a bank. And because I came from a business background, I was put in charge of design of the application for foreign exchange. I was the only one who understood credits and debits on the whole team of engineers. As we were developing and designing, I was a DBA, developer, designer, and client support person all rolled into one.
After about six months, I must have been doing something right there because people came to me for advice, and I got a reputation for knowing what I was doing. And after a year, I kind of fell in love with the product—Oracle Database—and I decided to stick with it. And 18 years later, I’m still working with it.
Oracle Magazine: You won your first Oracle Magazine award several years ago. Tell us about your Oracle career to that point, and tell us something about the specific task or project you were working on when you won that award.
Nanda: I got my first Oracle Magazine award in 2003. I was working on Oracle8i at that time, and that particular project was very interesting.
We were building a tool to identify mistakes or patterns of mistakes in a medical claims system. The database was the key component of the system, and I was designing the database component, along with a team of other engineers who were doing the front end.
The challenge was not the database size itself but the response time, which had to be less than one second to make everything possible. We had to use materialized views to make sure that people could access the system very quickly. We also had to add more and more providers and data as well. So I used Oracle Partitioning heavily to make sure that we continued to add providers, as well as time elements, and at the same time, not recompute the old data in the materialized views.
Being a practicing DBA, I face the same problems most users face, and I try to see how a new feature solves a problem or changes it.
In addition to that, we used Oracle Virtual Private Database. In fact, the very first article I wrote for Oracle Magazine was about Oracle Virtual Private Database—about what I used in that project. That project got the attention of Oracle Magazine editors at that time, and one thing led to another, and I was selected for the award.
Oracle Magazine: How did writing about Oracle technology start for you, and where has it taken you?
Nanda: Well, the first article I wrote for New York Oracle Users Group—that was my home Oracle user group—was about 12 years ago. I was very hesitant and apprehensive about writing something in a public paper.
Remember, in those days there were no blogs. You had to send your article to somebody for review, approval, and so on, to be published. So I put an article together, and the response from readers was phenomenal, so I was very encouraged to write something else. About two years later, I wrote for Oracle Magazine, and I’ve been writing since then. So far, I have written about 500 published articles, not counting blogs and other content.
Oracle Magazine: Other than articles, what types of Oracle technology content have you written?
Nanda: I have coauthored five books on Oracle technology. Everything from Oracle Recovery Manager [Oracle RMAN] to security to PL/SQL and more.
In addition, I have presented about 300 sessions about Oracle technology in 22 countries. I also deliver something called the Oracle Celebrity Seminar Series, where I design my own two-day tutorials or courses, and I go and present them in different parts of the world.
I also speak and mentor a lot of DBAs and developers about Oracle technology, again for different user groups around the world.
Oracle Magazine: How do you keep up with the latest releases, identify the key features, and get to work writing and speaking about those features?
Nanda: Well, the first thing is that I have participated in all of the Oracle Database beta programs since Oracle9i Database. So that gives me early access to new features. Second, being a practicing DBA, and also being a mentor and a very deep participant in the Oracle user group community, I know what people are doing and thinking and what challenges they’re facing. So that gives me an idea for what to look for in a new release.
In fact, in addition to participating in the beta program, I also generate a lot of requests for Oracle product managers to include new Oracle Database features. Being a practicing DBA, I face the same problems most users face, and I try to see how a new feature solves a problem or changes it.
Oracle Magazine: You wrote some of the earliest technical “how to” articles on Oracle Exadata, Oracle’s first engineered system. What led you to do that?
Nanda: When Oracle Exadata was first introduced, there was a lot of criticism, such as, “Oh, this is a unicorn. This is one of a kind. Things will be very difficult if you don’t go for training,” and so on.
At that time, my company also acquired Oracle Exadata. And one of the reasons we got it was really simple: We wanted to continue our investment in Oracle technology, the knowledgebase, and the user community. We didn’t want to retrain people, and at the same time, we wanted to make sure that we got the best performance possible. Oracle Exadata gives you much better performance, but without requiring that you change a single line of code.
So when my company got Oracle Exadata, I got the machine, and I got the manuals that came from Oracle. I wanted to prove the point to everybody that it doesn’t take too much effort to become a master of that technology. Because at the end of the day, it’s specialized Oracle hardware and software that does certain things in a much better way, but that’s it. There’s nothing esoteric or challenging about it.
I wrote articles about Oracle Exadata for Oracle Technology Network and Oracle Magazine. I wanted to show everybody that I don’t work for Oracle; I’m a regular user, just like anybody else; and I don’t have any special access to any Oracle executives or technology or code. So as a regular user, using the Oracle Exadata technology, I could write content that is useful to a lot of users.
That should speak volumes about how easy it is to use the Oracle Exadata product.
Oracle Magazine: Where can people see your presentations and follow you?
Nanda: One way is my blog, arup.blogspot.com. I try to publish at least three or four blog posts in a month, and sometimes more. And whenever I present something, I also post the content—unless it is copyrighted—on the blog, so people can download it.
I also tweet (from @arupnanda) when I have something new. So those are the two ways to get information.
And my e-mail is pretty public—if you do a search, you’ll find it. I try to respond to people, but at the end of the day, I also work for a living, so sometimes I don’t get time to respond to everybody. But when I can, I certainly do.
Oracle Magazine: What kind of advice or suggestions do you have for budding, intermediate, or advanced Oracle technologists who have thought about writing, speaking, training, and so on, but haven’t started on that journey yet?
Nanda: My first and last advice would be: start writing something—anything, anything at all—and don’t wait for something to happen. We, as human beings, are programmed to disseminate our ideas, to collaborate with other humans. We collaborate, and that’s how we have survived. So the art of collaboration, the instinct to collaborate and spread ideas, is in our genes.
Don’t suppress it. Just start acting and delivering on that, and you’ll be surprised that there are a lot of people out there hungry for ideas. And if you think your story is not good enough or not important enough, you’re wrong. Almost everything has an interesting element. There must be somebody out there who has faced the same problem, or is facing the problem right now. And your blog or your article or your presentation could be a boon to the person facing that problem.
When I first started, about 10 or 15 years ago, the blog concept wasn’t there. The only way to collaborate was using a conference or an article or a magazine. Today, you have plenty of ways to do it. So I suggest start writing a blog. Blogs are free; you can write anything you want; you don’t have to get approval. And if you feel that you don’t have something interesting to talk about, again, you’re wrong. Start something that you think is important. You will be surprised to find out that somebody will like it.
And that will encourage you to go further and further and further. Again, start something. Start today.
Oracle Magazine: Arup, what’s your next technology?
Nanda: The thing I’m pretty excited about today is big data. Big data is becoming important because businesses now see the value of it. Value drives demand, and the affordability and value of big data are coming together. Big data is a new thing for me, and I’m training myself to be an expert in that area.
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Photography by Tim Scharner, Unsplash