The Jelastic Spotlight: Oracle Tablespace Report and Mats Stromberg

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The Jelastic Spotlight – June 22, 2012

This week’s Jelastic Spotlight is on Mats Stromberg and his application OTR (Oracle Tablespace Report). He was kind enough to share some of his time with us for this interview and we are excited to have him in this 5th installment of the Jelastic Spotlight! He’s been in the programming and startup world for a while and has a pretty cool story.

So, Mats. Where do you live?

I’m based in the city of Basel, Switzerland. I was born in Sweden but moved to Switzerland in 1999.

What do you do for a living?

I work for a Swiss Company called LC Systems-Engineering AG as a Senior Oracle Engineer.

Do you have a family?

Yeah. I actually got married when I moved down to Switzerland (my wife, Sue, is from Switzerland). We have 2 kids, Joy and Chris. They are both standing firm on their own feet and I’m pretty proud of both of them.

Tell us a little about your background.

My background. . . well, pretty much anything concerning computers. Started back in the early 80’s shortly before IBM went into the PC market. At that time, I worked in a small computer reseller company that mainly sold Comodore PET Computers and in the end of 82 IBM stepped in and we switched over to the IBM brand.

LOL That’s awesome! I actually have two of those that I bought off of eBay. . .

In the years after we became the biggest reseller for IBM in the Scandinavian market. In ’87, I left that company and started my own consulting company. From ’94 and on we started doing a lot more Internet stuff, developing Web pages and Web portals.

Around that time, I learned about and started using ColdFusion. I’ve been using ColdFusion or CFML ever since, although since 2001 I’ve been more devoted to Oracle Databases, working as an Oracle DBA and Oracle Engineer, and I still do today as my main business. Any free time besides my Oracle day job is devoted to the CFML programming world. . . well, some of that time is also devoted to my family.

Well, that secret is out! Before you were working with LC, what were you doing?

Before this. . . well need to define where “Before” begins The answer to that actually has a bit to do with what I am doing now with Jelastic, so I’ll tell you a little about the app that I have running on Jelastic since it is intertwined with what I was doing “before”.

Okay. So tell us about how Jelastic and your app involved.

What I am working on right now is an Open Source Project called OTR, or Oracle Tablespace Report, built using the Open BlueDragon CFML Engine.

It is a tool that collects Tablespace and Storage statistics on a weekly basis. This started back in 2005 when I was working for T-Systems in Switzerland as a DBA. There, we where running a pretty big farm of Oracle Databases where many of the Instances were Shared Oracle Instances. A Danish friend of mine, who was also working for T-Systems back then, had created a reporting system which was mainly just pure SQL and PL/SQL to do reports and weekly snapshots of Tablespace usages. Since there were so many shared Oracle Databases, we needed a tool that could calculate how much space each customer was using on each of these databases. This way, we would have some reasonable system to figure out what we should charge each customer or project.

In 2007, I moved to a new company which was a small, private bank in Zurich, Switzerland. There, I had between 80-90 Oracle Instances, some 100 UNIX/Linux Servers and 6 NetApp Storage systems to handle. Alone.

Wow. That’s a lot of stuff to be looking after.

Yeah. It was. That’s when I started to re-develop what we had written back in 2005. I needed an easy tool that anyone could handle and that would connect and make use of Oracle Grid Control. I had my CFML background and had run into Open BlueDragon before, and that’s how this whole thing got started. It’s now a totally web-based system. The tool collects snapshots of Tablespace usages and Storage Usage on NFS or Oracle ASM. Since I was all alone with this load of DB’s, I had to find a way to solve daily issues like a tablespace running full. After a few years, I realized I couldn’t be around 24/7 so I had to find a solution that would allow anyone to be able to manage the situation if they had to do it on their own. Now it monitors Tablespaces and Alerts on critical thresholds as well. With just one click on the alert it will increase a Tablespace or add a new file to it so it can continue to grow.

Since I built this using an Open Source tool and the people behind Open BlueDragon are such a great team, I thought that if I could give something back to OpenBD and at the same time help other DBA’s having the same issue that I had, then I would do it as Open Source as well. This way I can promote OpenBD and CFML to the world and at the same time help Oracle users.

Yeah. The OpenBD team is great. It’s also quite cool that you are sharing all of your hard work with others. You seem to be, and have been, on the cutting edge of computing for a while now: like a constant startup environment!

Yeah. I have a feeling I’ve been in the startup scene for some 30 years now. Back in the early 80’s, I was involved in starting up the bigest PC retailer company up in Scandinavia, like I mentioned before. This really took off at the end of ’82 when IBM stepped in to the market with the IBM PC. In ’85 I was involved in starting up a technical division within this company which was devoted to the area of CAD/CAM and related stuff.

To elaborate a little more on what I told you before about my consulting business–in ’87 I started my own consulting business continuing in the CAD/CAM space: doing a lot of AutoCAD trainings for companies around Sweden and developing add-on software for AutoCAD. I had always been fiddeling more on the technical side. At this time I ran into a Horse veterinarian working mainly with Trotting Horses at a breeding farm down in the south of Sweden.

Wait. . . what do horses have to do with startups?

Well, this guy needed a system for handling all the veterinary journals and be able to do analysis on them so that he could make sure he was providing top notch breeding quotes. Trotting Horses, as well as racing horses, are expensive stuff and someone who wanted to get their mares bred from a stallion worth $35 Million had to pay quite a lot, and they wanted to make sure they, 1) got a little foal as a result and, 2) that this little horse would have the highest possible chance of getting the “good genes” from his “dad”– so that it would win a lot of races and help recoup their breeding costs and then some.

After we developed this software we thought that there had to be more breeding farms around needing this type of software, so we started a company together trying to market this in the area. One of my customers was very interested in what we where doing and ended buying 50% of my company. Together with him, we built up the biggest Internet Portal for Trotting Horses and news about races and breeding. We were running live broadcasts on almost every big Trotting race around the world. We simply needed someone at the track with a mobile phone calling in to our servers and then we broadcasted this live using RealMedia. This portal was created with ColdFusion, but before ColdFusion was based on Java. (One funny thing about this Portal was that it was run on the domain www.kgb.se. It has nothing to do with the Russian KGB though:the founder’s name was Karl G Bertmark)

What did you do after all that?

I sold my part of of this company in ’98 and took a year “off” and worked for a manufacturing company for a year helping them convert some old computer systems and then in ’99 I went down to Switzerland and was gonna start back on the Trotting Horse portal. The plan was to do a special portal devoted only to the American scene. We had found a an American partner who was one of the top names in the Trotting business over in the US. Unfortunately, this guy suddenly died of a heart attack and my Swedish partner suddenly lost all interest and I sort of just got dropped. I had to find something fast. I need to get a steady income again.

I ended up joining one of these air balloon Internet companies that created some CMS systems for its customers. I knew from the start that it wouldn’t last long before this company had to close it’s doors, but that was how it was in the early 2000’s in the Internat business: these BIG Internet companies didn’t really have a clue what they where doing. I finally joined another small consulting company and there got my first real Java experience. We developed some special software for one of the biggest Banks in Switzerland. At that time I was not really a Java fan. I used to joke that Java wasn’t really a programming language, just a Syntax and Marketing gag from SUN 😉

It was around this time that I also started my Oracle learning and got more and more into the Oracle scene. Parallel to that, I was still doing my Internet stuff using ColdFusion on the side. When I finally ran into tag Servlet, what then became BlueDragon and OpenBlueDragon, I really saw the power of Java. Today I mix my CFML development with pure CFML and since I can use pure Java code within my CFML thanks to OpenBD, I still do Java stuff from time to time. To be honest though, most of my code is pure CFML.

How did you discover Jelastic?

I saw a blog post about getting Railo up and running on Jelastic, and then later I saw a similar post with OpenBD. I figured that I had to try it out and I was amazed how easy it is to deploy CFML apps on Jelastic. Really, hats off for your work with this Cloud Service!

What are you plans for OTR?

Most likely I’ll be adding more standard, common tasks that needs to be done for keeping an Oracle Instance up and running. It is a tool that is sort of an add-on to Oracle Grid Control (or now Cloud Control). It was never meant to be a replacement for Oracle’s Enterprise Manager, so I will keep it that way in the future. I’ll just add more functions and more reporting functionality and what ever the users might need and that makes sense.

What would you say you like most about what you do?

In this industry, you never know enough: one learns new things every day.

Do you play any musical instruments?

Well, I don’t play any instruments today besides my iMac keyboard. Back in the days, between the ages of 15-20, I did play guitar and harmonica in a small Blues band up in Sweden; but the IT business took more and more time and I never got enough free time to continue with that. Still listening a lot to music though.

So, do you have a favorite hobby?

I don’t have a lot of free time these days, but I would say that Open BlueDragon, CFML and everything around that is my hobby, that and continuing to develop the OTR Project. But, I am taking holiday soon: we are going up into the Swiss mountains this weekend. We got a weekend in a nice wellness hotel as a present from our daughter at X-Mas, and we’ll finally be using it.

Would you say you have a favorite website?

This is a hard one. There are so many good websites around, but to keep it simple, I would say Google. Google is your friend when u get stuck.

One last question–one that I’ve been asking everyone: do you have a philosophy that you live by?

Give recognition to people when they deserve it. In that theme, I have to give you guys a hats-off for creating such a great and easy to use Cloud Service. You’ve really done a great job.

I also would like to thank the whole team behind OpenBD for creating the best OpenSource CFML tool available. I know there are other tools around like Railo which also drives the open source movement forward, which is great. I just haven’t had the time to try their version out: I just got stuck on OpenBD back in the days of tagServlet. Both of these companies deserve thanks for driving open source forward. They are one of the reasons that got me to put my Oracle Tablespace Report tool up as open source.

Thank you for your time and the kind words, Mats, both for Jelastic and OpenBD.

If you would be interested in learning more about Mats and his app, you can go to http://www.project-otr.org/. There you will not only find the app, but documentation on it as well.

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