back to article Why Oracle CEO Larry Ellison had to go ... Except he hasn't

What's the difference between God and Larry Ellison? God doesn't think he's Larry Ellison. So goes the title of Mark Wilson's 2003 biography on Ellison, Oracle's now former chief executive – a man who by force of will forged a multi-billion dollar software empire. In the process, Ellison became not just the best-rewarded CEO …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not a fan of Ellison.

    At all.

    However, I can see that he *is* Oracle. I suspect that the board would be scared to cut ties in such a manner because they can see the value of having him in place, especially now the transition in mainstream architecture is back to Borging into the 'cloud'*

    Without the force of a personality that pervades certain companies, you can see them starting to suffer the insecurities of shareholders and make, what they consider to be, safer and more defensive decisions which I foretell will result in them in little more than IBM. Yes IBM are still a massive, global company, but it seems more like a, well, best thing I can think of is the Masons.

    Google are the only heavy hitters that look completely faceless. Apple, well I can't wait to see what happens to them in 20 years...should I make it that far.

    Microsoft have shown how out of touch they have become with the whole 8 fiasco (and this is actually being typed on my 8.1, ironical IBM^H^H^H^HLenovo Thinkpad) in blatantly trying to out-Apple Apple's ecosystem and missing the point, or rather the Start button.

    So now, with data being the core of everything, Oracle's protection racket has started to be under threat and I suspect Larry felt it, as seen by his acquisitions in recent years.

    Oracle without Larry would be Apple without SJ. What M$ is without BG. Google are different. They seem really weirdly faceless, except for Schmidt, but I cannot take him seriously.

    God forbid Linux without the steering of Torvalds. I am under no illusion of how control by committee would work out. I wish Beos flourished.

    I could be very wrong, btw, but then that is why I comment and don't write articles. :)

    *I really hate that term.

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: Not a fan of Ellison.

      I agree with what you have said about personalities as it applies not just to IT industries but almost any industry. Look what happened to McDonnell-Douglas when the old man died, for example. Part of the personality thing is "vision" or a passion. If the top dog doesn't have it, the company flounders and chokes. And the Hurd Turd doesn't have personality, vision, or passion.

      1. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

        Re: Not a fan of Ellison.

        I would take it a step further, and say any kind of leader (not just CEO) needs to have passion and vision for what they're doing.

    2. keithpeter
      Windows

      Re: Not a fan of Ellison.

      "God forbid Linux without the steering of Torvalds. I am under no illusion of how control by committee would work out. I wish Beos flourished."

      Torvalds steers only the kernel, and does not have to cope with the overhead of running a business. He remains neutral on user space issues other than the occaisional eruption when frustrated by some stupidity (e.g daughter needing admin password to connect to a networked printer). Sensible. Protect one bailiwick.

      The rest of your analysis looks fine to me.

  2. Robigus

    I'm more of a fan of "Posgtres" myself.

    Ellison and Putin - Both consider themselves Imperator Imperpetuus.

    1. N13L5

      Re: Imperator...

      I don't speculate on Putin's personal desires, but...

      Putin knows there's nobody else with even a faint chance to steer Russia through Nato's and the EU's continual encroachment on Russia's turf. Of course our western propaganda tells us, that we're in the right and he's in the wrong, but as usual, what we're doing is in no way the claimed bringing of democracy, (which took the place of 'bringing Christendom') as the excuse de jour for a blatant land grab.

  3. Chris Miller

    CTO?

    I've always viewed Larry as the world's greatest salesman (OK, perhaps third after Tony Blair and Bill Clinton) - but is he anyone's idea of a technology leader*?

    * Yes, I know that the concept that any manager should have a clue about what they're managing was a silly 20th century delusion.

    1. Amorous Cowherder

      Re: CTO?

      Same here and that's more or less how the biography shows him to be, he's a smart guy but he's more tech manager smart not shop-floor tech smart. When he founded the SDL it was Miner and Oates putting in all hours to make the Oracle v1 meanwhile Ellison is taking money from petty cash to wine and dine clients. I admire his drive and ambition but when you read his story he really is the world's biggest dickhead but I suspect he himself would happily admit that and add, with his customary arrogance, that he's also one of the world's richest!

    2. LDS Silver badge

      Re: CTO?

      More or less like Jobs, just in the enterprise space and not in the consumer one. Both could understand what their market would need,a nd find someone to create it. Both very rich and arrogant.

  4. Mark #255
    Coat

    [...] hardware is dragging Oracle down, down, deeper and down.

    I guess that's why the status quo couldn't continue.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Cloud

    Ellison's comments on cloud were bang-on, it was (and is) overhyped rubbish. What he didn't expect was that the marketing droids would seize on it and blow it up into todays next big thing. Now no-one can afford not to be in cloud computing, at least until it evaporates. Does anyone seriously think that any of the big cloud suppliers are there for any reason there than because they can't afford to be seen not to be? That goes for Oracle too.

  6. Irony Deficient

    Aged 70, Larry is three years past the official US retirement age.

    Gavin, given his year of birth, his “official US retirement age” (i.e. when he qualified for full Social Security benefits) was 66. People who were born after 1st January 1960 are the ones who’ll need to reach 67, presuming that the Social Security Trust Fund still has something in it to pay out then.

  7. El Gokri'x

    "One blogger"?

    That's Bryan Cantrill, the dtrace guy.

  8. Mage Silver badge

    Oracle is now late on cloud

    Bananas

    Cloud is just marketing remote hosted services.

    Thus logically every cloud provider is a potential customer. But Oracle licensing doesn't suit cloud providers and their DB is overpriced for everyone.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Down, down and down ?

    Really? Down, down and down?

    For sure Oracle missed it's forecast but it's still growing steadily. If you you look at the share price over the last year, Oracle is up 25%, whereas Amazon's share price grew by less than 5% and IBM and SAP are pretty much where they started.

  10. ni@root
    Mushroom

    Oracle Hates @miss_sudo

    All of your data are belong to someone else.

  11. Crazy Operations Guy

    Hardware

    The problem wasn't the hardware, its that they didn't know what to do with it. Like what HP is doing: they have a bunch of neat parts, but don't know how to put them together. With HP, they have a full Data-center stack: networking, servers, storage, desktops/laptops/thin clients, software (OS and management) and even racks. Yet there is no compelling reason to buy their kit other than it all being form the same shop.

    The Old Guard is dying while white-box companies are stealing their lunch, all because they are moving away from what made them successful: making premium kit that when put together gives massive boosts in performance, and becoming the gold-standard.

    Oracle was built on the concept of proprietary and the performance stemming from that, trying to embrace open-source and standardized hardware will kill them (I'm certainly not saying that would be a bad thing...).

    Oracle tried to get into the commodity hardware market when they should have moved more towards specialty hardware.

    The first thing they should have spun up was to create a whole new architecture to optimize the software:

    *Build a new File System specifically for databases, possibly to the point where partitions/directories/files no longer exist, only databases/tables/lines

    *Build a new processor centered around SQL commands, allow database locations in place of addresses, etc.

    *Forgo Linux and Solaris in favor of building out their software to run directly on bare metal

    1. Roo
      Windows

      Re: Hardware

      "*Build a new File System specifically for databases, possibly to the point where partitions/directories/files no longer exist, only databases/tables/lines"

      Err, like Pick in the 80s/90s, and like what Microsoft has spent 15+ years trying to do but has repeatedly shit-canned. Oracle are *weaker* than Microsoft are building that kind of software at present (IMO)...

      "*Build a new processor centered around SQL commands, allow database locations in place of addresses, etc."

      It's pretty clear that 40 years of microprocessor design has passed you by, there are some very good reasons for ISAs being the way they are right now. There is quite a lot of material available on odd-ball designs and the strengths/weakness of various approaches. A few years back Teradata came up with DB specific hardware - worth a look at some white papers if you are genuinely interested.

      "*Forgo Linux and Solaris in favor of building out their software to run directly on bare metal"

      I really can't see how ditching ~45 years of OS expertise is going to move them forward... They'll have to write an awful lot of drivers again for a start off - which is a time consuming and painful process at best... Presumably they'd be writing their own network stack as well... I really can't see that one working for a R&D dept run by Larry, Hurd & Safra.

      1. Crazy Operations Guy

        Re: Hardware

        The problem with Microsoft's attempts at making a DB-based file system was that they wanted to do more than just store a database on it, what I meant was not a file system, per se, but of just taking the data out of the database itself a slapping that crap right onto the disk itself

        My intention for the processor design was to have a heterogeneous processor architecture, there'll be a couple standard chips in there to do some management, but a huge number of SQL-specific cores thrown in there too, similar to modern supercomputers and using GPU to do the heavy lifting. Also, hadn't heard of teradata, I'll go give them a look.

        Yes, Linux and Solaris have 45+ years of OS expertise, but almost all of that is on things that aren't databases. I mostly mentioned ditching it since the GPL would cause a huge legal clusterfuck. AS for drivers, you;d only need a very small number when designing new hardware (with proper hardware design, the drivers could be pretty tiny). Network stacks aren't all that hard to write (I've built a few myself to run on controllers) especially when you know what is going to be sitting above it.

        In fact, if everything is set up correctly, it wouldn't be so much of an OS, just enough code to:

        take in a packet,

        verify permissions,

        pass the command to the processor

        verify results

        Pass the packet back to the requester

        It'll all be a walk in the park if they hadn't layed-off all the smart people they got from SUN.

        1. Roo
          Windows

          Re: Hardware

          "I meant was not a file system, per se, but of just taking the data out of the database itself a slapping that crap right onto the disk itself"

          People have already done that with RDBs as standard operational practice... Still not seeing what's new or better here.

          "a huge number of SQL-specific cores thrown in there too, similar to modern supercomputers and using GPU to do the heavy lifting"

          That particular wheel of reincarnation has made several revolutions already... I really don't see how your approach would yield anything that hasn't already been tried or yield a better result than previous efforts. Today general purpose processors such as ARMs, Xeons and POWER8s come with app specific acceleration HW.

          "Yes, Linux and Solaris have 45+ years of OS expertise, but almost all of that is on things that aren't databases."

          Yeah right, all that boring stuff that isn't database specific, but also happens to be absolutely essential for modern DBs such as resource management, I/O, authentication, access control, diagnostics, networking, device drivers, etc, etc, etc...

          "I mostly mentioned ditching it since the GPL would cause a huge legal clusterfuck"

          Err, they could pick up a BSD licensed OS instead if that's really a problem.

          "Network stacks aren't all that hard to write (I've built a few myself to run on controllers) especially when you know what is going to be sitting above it."

          Sure, but with a modern DB that just isn't the case, these things plug into networks that are host to all kinds of surprises, subtle networking bugs and belligerence, all of which is outside of your box's control.

          I suspect at some level we share a preference for simple modular systems, although my perspective is colored by studying 50+ years worth of whacky systems, some of which failed, some of which flourished, and many features of which have now ended up borged into mainstream systems. :)

          The surviving architectures are the product of decades of innovation, optimization and winnowing, I'm fairly confident that they are not wildly off the mark in terms of trade-offs.

          1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

            Re: Hardware

            "I meant was not a file system, per se, but of just taking the data out of the database itself a slapping that crap right onto the disk itself"

            People have already done that with RDBs as standard operational practice... Still not seeing what's new or better here.

            Indeed. If memory serves, Oracle on UNIX machines typically used a raw partition, accessed through the block device driver, at least as far back as the late 1980s. A Usenet search (via Google's increasingly-broken "Groups" function) agrees.

    2. LDS Silver badge

      Re: Hardware

      'Build a new File System specifically for databases, possibly to the point where partitions/directories/files no longer exist, only databases/tables/lines'

      Ehm, did you ever give a look to ASM?

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Co-CEOs...

    ...because that worked so well at RIM.

    Oh, and since the team is basically a COO (Hurd) plus a CFO (Catz), it's pretty clear who is still the real CEO.

    On the plus side, the "Hurd'n'Catz" moniker promises to provide El Reg with plenty of headline material while it lasts.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    How anyone still uses Oracle RDBMS these days I've no idea

    Does the installer still make you sit around for ten minutes while it compiles a links a bazillion libraries? I could barely understand it doing that in 1984 but to still be doing it 20 years later was bizzaro. anyone know why this was required? I don't recall sybase's installer doing anything like that.

    1. Jack of Shadows Silver badge

      Re: How anyone still uses Oracle RDBMS these days I've no idea

      If it were my design, the reason would be optimizing the DBMS for the underlying OS and hardware. Whenever I'm setup one of the Unices here, my first action is to recompile everything. (I log everything so I have a detailed customization record. Unless asked, no way would I even offer that to a client. I die, client could be screwed.) Oracle maybe has that in mind. Or! to make it ever more unsupportable by anyone else. Which buys into why Unbreakable Linux even exists.

      Pure speculation as I rarely have any direct contact. My design/engineering tools grok Oracle and I've done such work in the past but detailed down to bit-twiddling level? Nope. One of the largest concerns on the planet... No Oracle.

  14. Morten Bjoernsvik

    Opensource can do the job

    You can now easily get 512GB in any server. You can then host native structures in memory/disk like Redis, Elastic Search, Hadoop. There is less need for an utterly expensive database system.

    I have a >1Billion rows table where most of the collumns are not indexed. An unindexed table scan query in DB2 takes 20minutes (ZOS Mainframe), in Redis it takes 45sec(My workstation). the table uses ~55GB in memory and takes 4.5min to load initially. I only do simple queries for collumn statistics and variance for fraud scoring. But my workstation can now do this in 30minutes, while it may take 20hours on a IBM mainframe running DB2.

  15. DoctorNine

    Force of will?

    He didn't forge his company by force of will, he did it by pandering to the intelligence community and government agencies. And they rewarded him with billions in taxpayer money. The best thing for everyone, will be his exit from this whole field. Then perhaps the technology can grow naturally, without a CIA finger in the pie.

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