Oracle Unwraps Skills Exchange

Known as OTN-Xchange, the skills exchange will enable Oracle developers to buy, sell and auction their technical know-how, hunt for Oracle-related jobs and manage development projects, according to Rene Bonvanie, vice president of e-marketing at Oracle.

Bonvanie thought up OTN-Xchange after observing the trend to establish B2B (business-to-business) Net commodity exchanges for facilitating Web-based transactions. He was looking for ways to both accelerate the adoption of Oracle software and provide Oracle developers with a place for meetings and transactions.

Having a meeting place as part of OTN-Xchange will enable prospective employers to check out what Oracle developers are capable of, in terms of the software components and technologies they've contributed to online communities, along with their resumes, Bonvanie said.

As for transactions on the skills exchange, "the idea would be a developer in China could have a transaction with a company in the U.S.," he said. "It would be a lot more than a transactional exchange, they could collaborate on a project."

Not only could the two parties discuss the project and the Chinese developer submit his or her work online, but OTN-Xchange will also facilitate payment services, project management, code management and quality assurance services, Bonvanie said.

If the parties only use OTN-Xchange as a meeting place, the service will be free of charge. Certain unspecified fees will come into play when people use the exchange for managing relationships with developers or for submitting code, he added.

Bonvanie doesn't think IT consultancies should be overly concerned about OTN-Xchange and its possible encroachment on their business, particularly with the continuing global IT skills shortage. "No one exclusively controls the market at the moment, it's an open economy," he said. "You can row against the stream or row with it. Oracle is rowing with it."

Nor should IT recruitment consultants fear Oracle's global skills exchange, Bonvanie said. "We're not at all after their business, it's pure syndication," he said. In fact, Oracle is forming partnerships with a number of recruitment consultants for the job network piece of OTN-Xchange, including Developers.net, Niku.com, Opus360 Corp., SkillsVillage Corp. and WorkExchange. Oracle developers will have access to Oracle-related full-time and contract job listings via OTN-Xchange.

English will be the language in use on the skills exchange, as it is elsewhere on OTN, with Oracle planning to launch only one translated site, for Japan, on Sept. 11, according to Bonvanie. He quipped that OTN-Xchange's real lingua franca is XML (extensible markup language) since much of the discussions and transactions will relate to software code.

Oracle developed OTN-Xchange in partnership with collaborative software development services provider and open-source advocate Collab.Net Inc.

Also Monday, Oracle announced the immediate simplification of its Oracle Certified Professional (OCP) program so that application developers and DBAs (database administrators) will find it easier to become certified on the company's Internet software. "Developers need a rubber stamp," Bonvanie said.

Oracle found it necessary to change the program in order that developers and DBAs can achieve certification in line with the release of new versions of Net software.

Under the terms of the new system, developers and DBAs can now combine examinations from different releases of Oracle certification tracks to meet certification requirements for both the most recent and previous versions of the company's software. Oracle's certification tracks include Oracle 8i DBA, Java Developer and Internet Application Developer tracks.

Although a few years ago the OCP program didn't take off as Oracle had expected, it's now one of the company's most successful programs on OTN, Bonvanie said. So far, more than 30,000 people around the world have been certified on Oracle software, with the numbers of those achieving certification growing by about 1,500 per month. The program has been international from day one, and there is a higher percentage of certified OCPs in Asia than in Europe and the U.S., he added.

Oracle is also making electronic ibooks available on OTN, Bonvanie said. Members will be able to access a wide range of technical publications from ibooks.com via OTN-Xchange's home page. Developers can then preview, buy and download the publications via any standard Web browser as well as have remote access to their own personalized digital bookshelf of publications, he added.

Finally, Oracle for the first time is making content available on OTN specifically aimed at DBAs. The content includes information on security, integration, performance and scalability issues as well as software downloads, Bonvanie said.

For the past two years, Oracle had concentrated on promoting its other Net software, but it now is keen to educate developers further on its database, he explained. "Some people still don't understand that they can use our database as part of their Web applications," Bonvanie said. "They need to leave their client/server mindset behind and move to the Net."

He added that the rate of adoption of Oracle's latest database release, Oracle 8i, had far exceeded the previous migration when users moved from version 7 to version 8. There have been 500,000 downloads of Oracle 8i from OTN to date, he added.

Looking ahead, the next major section on OTN is likely to be focused on mobile technology, Bonvanie said. Currently, OTN contains a small section on WAP (Wireless Application Protocol) applications. "We will WAP-enable OTN as well as any other area on Oracle's Web site," he added.

OTN today has nearly 1 million [M] members, up from approximately 200,000 a year ago and 35,000 in 1998, Bonvanie said. The network is growing by about 3,000 members on weekdays and 1,000 members on weekends.

In terms of the regional makeup of OTN's membership, it almost follows Oracle's revenue model, with approximately 52 percent of members in the U.S. and Canada, about 23 percent to 24 percent in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA), and the rest in Latin America and Asia, he added. In Asia, most OTN members come from India, Pakistan, China and Japan.

Oracle's OTN efforts cost the company "in excess of US$50 million [M] per year in investment," Bonvanie said. The software vendor tries to differentiate its developer network from those of rival companies by keeping most of what's on offer free of charge, he added.

OTN can be reached via the Internet at http://technet.oracle.com/, while more information on OTN-Xchange is available at http://otnxchange.oracle.com/. Oracle, based in Redwood Shores, California, can be reached at +1-650-506-7000 or via the Internet at http://www.oracle.com/.

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Clare Haney

PC World

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