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Larry Ellison allegedly tried to have a professor fired for benchmarking Oracle (danluu.com)
660 points by pavel_lishin 45 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 233 comments



> If we look at major commercial databases today, two out of the three big names in commericial databases forbid publishing benchmarks.

I see many people bashing Oracle/Ellison, but they are not alone in this. MS does the same thing as well. The really worrying thing is that such practices are deemed to be legal. The entire principle of Free Markets is underpinned by consumers having accurate information about the goods they are purchasing. Having licensing agreements that are expressly designed to prevent the dissemination of product-information, goes against everything that Capitalism and Free-Markets stand for.

The fact that there are no government regulations against such behavior, is precisely what leads people to think that we are living in a Corporatocracy, and not a Free Market.


> The entire principle of Free Markets is underpinned by consumers having accurate information about the goods they are purchasing. Having licensing agreements that are expressly designed to prevent the dissemination of product-information, goes against everything that Capitalism and Free-Markets stand for.

I agree with where you are going but I entirely disagree with your description of Free Markets and Capitalism.

free market - an economic system in which prices are determined by unrestricted competition between privately owned businesses

There's nothing in there about consumers having accurate information. If anything, caveat emptor. Moreover, if you are a free market entrepreneur then the absolute last thing you want is fairness to your competition or fairness to your consumer. Those are costs of doing business, to be avoided if possible. Naturally, Larry is only trying to avoid them.

That's why we have regulation. That's why civilization has evolved to have government. That's why Libertaristan isn't on any maps. That's why The Fountainhead is such a misguided fantasy where entrepreneurs can do anything and it's always better and governments can do nothing and it's always worse.

Free Markets and Capitalism don't stand for anything. That's not even a criticism of them either. Civilization might stand for something although that something is a provisional something at best but then that provisional something is better than nothing.

The requirement for consumers having accurate information is a government regulation. In the United States, it's enforced by the Consumer Protection Agency. It isn't a free market requirement.


> There's nothing in there about consumers having accurate information.

Yes, but practice has taught us that it is an important part of any functioning market.

> the absolute last thing you want is fairness to your competition or fairness to your consumer.

I completely disagree with your assertion here. I want an advantage over my competition, sure.. but I still want it to be fair. An unfair market is a fickle and unreliable one. That's not good for anyone.

Further, if my consumer walks away from the deal feeling that it was unfair then I've really done myself a disservice in the long term. It's a reason why "Goodwill and Brand Awareness" are line items in the world of corporate accounting.

> Free Markets and Capitalism don't stand for anything.

They stand for the implicit agreement that we are all created equal.


>> Free Markets and Capitalism don't stand for anything.

> They stand for the implicit agreement that we are all created equal.

All men are created equal is a quotation from a government document, Jefferson's phrase from the Declaration of Independence. It has nothing to do with free markets or capitalism. The colonies were royally chartered corporations and these men revolted from their owner. They kept slavery but that's another matter.


Economically nobody is created equal and as important as it is to liberty its meaningless when applied to economics.


>> the absolute last thing you want is fairness to your competition or fairness to your consumer.

> I completely disagree with your assertion here. I want an advantage over my competition, sure.. but I still want it to be fair.

Thank you for that. I really dislike the common model of capitalism where the entrepreneur is viewed as a robot whose only goal is to maximize profit with the law being the only boundary.

In my social bubble the landlords that I know care about their renters' wellbeing even if it costs them a bit. I only know a handful of entrepreneurs personally but for all of them fairness and dignity have greater value than profit. Also the millions of small shops in cities around the world that are content just selling enough every month to make a comfortable living with no goal of maximizing anything.

Yes, huge cooperations are different than the guy selling Kebab at the corner. But still I would appreciate if people would see entrepreneurship and businesses not so statically as money-maximizers.


> I really dislike the common model of capitalism where the entrepreneur is viewed as a robot whose only goal is to maximize profit with the law being the only boundary.

It's something you can do if you want to. Nobody will stop you as long as it's legal, so there will be a non-trivial amount of companies doing just that. It doesn't matter that the guy on the cornerr is trying to be fair. At some point he'll be screwed by a kebab chain which pays the minimum wage and can use the economy of scale in deliveries.

And that's even before we talk about companies that go for risk*penalty<gain situations where they can ignore the law.


>> for all of them fairness and dignity have greater value than profit

the one I know too... until the definition of fairness comes from some else than them... My point is that IMHO it takes extraordinary capabilities to make money by selling someone elses's work and maintaining high moral standards when it comes to solidarity, helping others, sharing profits, etc.


"They stand for the implicit agreement that we are all created equal."

Uh, no. We are not. Both nature and nurture deal unfair cards. And markets and capitism most certainly alone do not promote solidarity. That is, in any real world scenario plaid out so far.

On the contrary, completely free markets often lead to oligopolies, monopolies and cartells.

Or is it supposed to be a bad joke in empirical economics, to start with a population with equal chances and see it tumbling into a winner takes all pyramid of distributions of wealth?


To make it clear: I believe we should treat fellow humans as equals, but we are not objectively equal in our capabilities (we are not clones), and effective business is a game. Not a zero sum game, but game never the less, that gives no bonus for fair treatment.

In a completely fair game we could choose not to do business with known unfair players. Real world does not work this way. As soon as there is capital surpluss, someone will get an upper hand in negotiations. The wealth allows the other party more negotiation tactics. Hence, anyone who can use the full leverage of their wealth will come on top. In the average case.

Money isn't the only route to power, of course. Politics and violence are an inseparable facet of the negotiation dynamics of our species, even if they don't affect every business deal. For example, by imposing dominion over supply trade unions can increase leverage of employees over employers, who then may under some situations use government sanctioned violence to increase their leverage - or vice versa. Etc.

I don't have a formal proof of this. It just seems to be the way the game is played.


Ethically, you are standing on firm ground. Unfortunately, he’s talking about free markets, where price and demand are set by the market, free of any government interference. Those who truly believe in the Free Market believe that buyers will ultimately see through deception and poor conduct and make purely rational and pragmatic decisions.

This being the Real World means pure free markets are impossible and in fact dishonesty and chincanery can utterly distort markets, leading to all sorts of perverse outcomes.

Ironically, for a free market to operate well, you must have reasonable constraints on market participants.


> free of any government interference

This is incorrect. Free markets rely on enforcement of contracts, property rights, and prohibitions on force and fraud. This requires a government.

For example, stealing from your neighbor is not a free market operation. Neither is delivering someone a Ford when you sold it as a Ferrari.


You selectively quoted me. I actually wrote:

> [in free markets,] price and demand are set by the market, free of any government interference

I said nothing about contract enforcement, property rights or prohibitions on force or fraud.


You also wrote in the next sentence:

> pure free markets are impossible and in fact dishonesty and chincanery can utterly distort markets

My point stands. Dishonesty and chicanery are not condoned by the free market, because they're fraud and theft.


That's a fair comment.


You're missing the important point that a "free market" has nothing to do with the mathematical notion of a market from economics. I suspect that it was intentionally named misleadingly to make it sound like it constituted a market, but it nearly never does.


> They stand for the implicit agreement that we are all created equal.

This narcissistic fantasy has passed it's prime.

The endgame of any truly free market, is the sale of the market. A market that is not for sale, is not a truly free market.

This is the antithesis of 'we are all created equal'.


That's not the definition of free market. For one thing privately owned businesses are not required.

"In economics, a free market is an idealized system in which the prices for goods and services are determined by the open market and consumers, in which the laws and forces of supply and demand are free from any intervention by a government, price-setting monopoly, or other authority." https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Free_market

The requirement is for individual trades to occurs without duress or manipulation outside of the trade. Also, prohibiting information exchange by government regulation is not allowed as that interferes with the market.



That's a simplified version, the actual oxford dictionary is not free online and should look like this: http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/52325

Between them you have : http://www.oxfordreference.com/view/10.1093/oi/authority.201...

1 A market that is free from government interference, prices rising and falling in accordance with supply and demand.

2 A security that is widely traded on a stock exchange, there being sufficient stock on offer for the price to be uninfluenced by availability.

3 A foreign-exchange market that is free from influence on rates by governments, rates being free to rise and fall in accordance with supply and demand.

So, I can see why that was used, but it's not definitive.


I think you and I might agree on "how things should be", but have different definitions for the term Free-Market. I understand that there are many different ways of defining this term, and that there is no right or wrong answer here. When I referred earlier to the ideals of Free-Markets, I was referring to the economic ideal of one with Perfect Competition. This is an ideal that can never be realized of course, but I believe that the closer we come to this ideal, the better off we will be. Banning of price-fixing, false-advertising, and trust-busting, are all examples of public policy that betray Libertarian principles in order to further Perfect Competition, and that's something we need a lot more of today.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perfect_competition#Idealizing...

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perfect_information


Yeah, I think we agree on how things should be. But Perfect Competition and Free Market are two very different things. I think a lot of free market nutjobs would think of perfect competition as socialist interference in free markets.


Err sort of... perfect competition is an ideal that has reasonably close analogues in the real world--otherwise the idea wouldn't be very useful. For example, some agricultural products are this way without the kind of government interference you are suggesting.

And your assertion about information asymmetry having nothing to do with free markets is actually addressed in the economic literature on perfect competition.


Perfect competition is actually not a very useful concept in the real world. In Silicon Valley, we live and die with patents which are term limited monopolies. That's as far from perfect competition as you can get. The entire concept of intellectual property is anti-competitive.


There are a lot of examples where markets are far from perfect competition; actually most markets are like this. It's just useful to the extent we can see markets that come close to this appear to function well, and so we should use regulation to bring markets closer to this.


IMO, when discussion shifts to the squabbling over semantics, it has degenerated. The free market question is whether the market can force producers to provide consumers with good quality information

> The requirement for consumers having accurate information is a government regulation. In the United States, it's enforced by the Consumer Protection Agency. It isn't a free market requirement

Yet, when Oracle prohibits publishing benchmarks you can find benchmarks about MySQL, Mongodb etc on the web


Yet, when Oracle prohibits publishing benchmarks you can find benchmarks about MySQL, Mongodb etc on the web

You can find all the benchmarks you want here http://www.tpc.org/default.asp including Oracle.

The thing is, a skilled DBA, given two databases and told which one should be the winner, can easily construct a benchmark that seems perfectly plausible, but favours one over the other. The MongoDB guys did it very blatantly e.g. by comparing Postgres writing to disk with them writing to memory, but that's because they don't know anything about databases and lacked the skill to do it subtly, e.g. by finding pathological edge cases in query optimizers. That's what the commercial vendors are most worried about.


I would never rely on TPC for any benchmarking. Just read their history, founders and membership structure carefully and you'll get an idea what type of `neutral` benchmarking they do )

http://www.tpc.org/information/who/whoweare.asp

http://www.tpc.org/information/about/abouttpc.asp


Just read their history, founders and membership structure carefully and you'll get an idea what type of `neutral` benchmarking they do

How do you mean? Many of them are direct competitors, they all have a vested interest in not allowing any other to game the benchmark.


>...That's why Libertaristan isn't on any maps.

I do wonder why people go out of their way to misrepresent libertarianism. This shouldn't have to be pointed out, but libertarianism != anarchism. To have any kind of working market, you need a functioning government that can protect property rights, provide for compensation if a contract is broken, etc, etc.


Because libertarians often misrepresent their intentions:

I heard way too often from them how "government does everything inefficently" and "everything would be better off served by private for-profit entities" or even "taxes are theft", when in reality they just want a bit smaller taxes and a bit less regulation.

Those might be extreme statements even for libertarians, but it's hard to recognize them as such when they infect almost every discussion about the topic.


I suspect anyone who has been interacted with a government agency would say ay "government does everything inefficently" - you don't have to be a libertarian to notice that. Any large organization and particularly one that has no competition will tend to be inefficient.

I doubt many people who consider themselves libertarian would say something so absolute as "everything would be better off served by private for-profit entities" much less "taxes are theft".

>...when in reality they just want a bit smaller taxes and a bit less regulation.

Most libertarians would likely also consider this incorrect. For example, the 2 major political parties share major policies that libertarians are opposed too and would like to reform or stop. For example, both republicans and democrat parties support: the war on drugs, the increasing militarization of police, the national surveillance state, the Patriot act, registration for the draft, the TSA, etc, etc. I suspect that the average voter is opposed to at least some of these policies, so that is maybe why the those invested in the two major parties will try to stifle any discussion of these topics and why groups that oppose them are mischaracterized or attacked with straw man arguments.


Well I heard those statements a lot, even on HN you can see them frequently.

And I don't think government does everything inefficiently, at least in our country (cz).

So what do libertarians represent really? Quick search for "libertarian manifesto" shows https://mises.org/library/new-liberty-libertarian-manifesto which talks about abolishing nation state and such. That is hard to reconcile with your PoV.


>...And I don't think government does everything inefficiently, at least in our country (cz).

I think smaller government is often more responsive. The Czech Republic is closer in population to some of the US states.

>...So what do libertarians represent really? Quick search for "libertarian manifesto" shows https://mises.org/library/new-liberty-libertarian-manifesto which talks about abolishing nation state and such.

I think Rothbard is probably promoting anarcho-capitalism there. Many libertarians would probably consider themselves closer to classic liberals. For example, here is a quote from a professor at NYU:

"...I consider myself both a libertarian and a classical liberal. … So there are important differences among liberals and libertarians but I view these are differences along a spectrum. Some are principled (“Never, ever, initiate the use of force”) and some are empirical (“Many public goods can be provided privately”) and some are hard to classify (“The NSA should not collect masses of meta data”). Some people will want to take these differences and harden them into different political philosophies with different names and so forth. But I suggest that libertarians and classical liberals have too much in common for any divorce."

https://thinkmarkets.wordpress.com/2014/02/05/libertarianism...

More practical ideas can be found in the works of groups like the Reason Foundation. As I mentioned in a different reply, at reason.org and you can probably find hundreds of pages of commentary, practical solutions, reviews, etc. The top story on the site looks like it is on the details of the current state of the air traffic control system. You can read the digital version of their magazine for free and in fact every issue they have ever published for close to 40 years. Another group is the The Institute for Justice (ij.org). IJ is a libertarian non-profit law firm that in their words:

>...Since 1991, IJ has come to the aid of individuals who want to do the simple things every American has the right to do—including own property, start and grow a business, speak freely about commerce or politics, and provide their children with a good education—but can’t because they find the government in their way.

IJ have brought 5 cases to the US Supreme Court, winning four. The case they lost was the Kelo case but there was a big enough outrage on that decision, that a number of states put in protections to their eminent domain laws.


That sounds way more reasonable, thanks for the writeup / links!


The arguments are very basic, for instance government inefficiency. Every big organization is inefficient, be it government or a private entity.


If you need an example of trying to offer practical solutions, go to reason.org and you can probably find hundreds of pages of commentary, practical solutions, reviews, etc. The top story on the site looks like it is on the details of the current state of the air traffic control system. You can read the digital version of their magazine for free and in fact every issue they have ever published for close to 40 years. I don't think it is far to say that groups like these don't add anything to the national debate.


The difference is that inefficient private organizations have to compete and are replaced by more efficient ones, while governments don't.


> free market - an economic system in which prices are determined by unrestricted competition between privately owned businesses

No. A free market is when people freely exchange goods and services. The prices are determined by free negotiation. Force and fraud are proscribed.

Note that this does not require perfect information. But defrauding someone is not allowed.

> if you are a free market entrepreneur then the absolute last thing you want is fairness to your competition or fairness to your consumer.

The most successful companies, and most successful salesmen, are the ones that please their customers, because repeat business is necessary for long term success.

> It isn't a free market requirement.

Again, the free market does not allow defrauding customers.


Without perfect information, fraud is impossible to proscribe.


Consider the perfect information case. Let's say you're at a dealer to buy a car. Is the dealer obliged to tell you that the car you want to buy is available cheaper across the street? Are you obliged to tell the dealer that he's offering the car for way less than the dealer across the street?

Those would be perfect information. I don't see how this could be a reasonable requirement, and it certainly is not necessary for the free market to function.

Consider the dealer selling you a car that disintegrates a week later. I'm not a lawyer, but there's a doctrine of reasonableness and fit for purpose going on here, and you're entitled to recompense if the dealer did not disclose this to you - i.e. it's fraud.

If a grocery store sold you milk poisoned with lead, and did not disclose it, that's fraud as well as assault.

Truth in labelling laws are merely a convenience for that, so instead of things being decided case by case in civil court, having a blanket standard on how food should be labeled, and sanctions when it is fraudulently labeled, is entirely reasonable and makes for efficient operation of the free market. It is not "perfect information", which is by its nature rather absurd, and I've never seen it listed as a requirement by any free market economists.


“Free Markets and Capitalism don't stand for anything”

Sort of. They do stand for something, even though we were meant to believe they’re the natural state of affairs.

Saying free markets “stand for nothing” presumes that markets are the natural state of affairs among humans and that classical economists were merely specialized anthropologists observing behaviour in the wild. That’s not accurate though - Karl Polanyi and his great old book the Great Transformation really explores this (and the causes of WW1).

The “free market” was deliberately imposed on western society in the 18th-19th century by politicians believing classical economists WERE these anthropological soothsayers rather than just crafting a social science, secular religion (“the invisible hand”), and belief system out of what once was a niche trading technique used between communities or in actual bazaars (market trade). It was better than mercantilism which was the previous prevailing theory among the powerful, but also societally unworkable. Reciprocity was the system most used through history, not free markets. It does stand for something, or at least lassez faire does: all societal power and behaviour should be organized and controlled by price and property. This is why libertarians have such a hard on for the free market, in their view, the market IS society, the market IS human behaviour, rather than one niche aspect of it. The fact we don’t have free markets is because humans tend not to want to subordinate every aspect of their life to a number (price, wealth, property). Sometimes market inefficiency is called for.

Capitalism is different from the free market theory, as classical economics implies the markets shouldn’t actually tend towards profit, it should tend towards equilibrium. One can also have capitalism without a fully free market, as most of the world has never had a fully lassez faire market for very long. And China is seeing how far one can go down this path. Capitalism really has to do with the pattern of market disequilibrium, profit making/taking, investment and re-investment of these profits to enable growth rather than a static economy of a fixed set of commodities (the unrealistic assumption of underlying classical economics). One might consistently agree with the benefits of capitalism over say, state-controlled investments, while disagreeing with completely free markets.

For that reason I think it’s a bit misleading to suggest that all businesspeople and entrepreneurs just want an unfair playing field, as the “free market” really doesn’t care. There are many perspectives out there as to the right set of constraints on the system. There never has been a “natural” set of constraints as they’ve all been human contrivances anyway. (Bitcoin fanatics railing against “fiat” also haven’t figured this one out yet). An entrepreneur might want fairer markets regulation. They might not. It’s in the eye of the beholder.

This was pendantic, sorry. I agree, Ayn Rand is a fairy tale for people that haven’t figured out that they’re not the protagonist of the world’s story, they’re just another jackass, hopefully trying to solve more problems than they cause.


There's a lot that I agree with there. Capitalism is different from the free market theory. Yep.

However, left to our own devices, I do think that businesspeople and entrepreneurs just want an unfair playing field. I sure do. I don't like Thiel but competition is for losers captures what I'm trying to say here. We may start with Don't Be Evil but if we can be evil, we will be evil and we can be evil. That is why we have evolved to have laws and regulations and then that is why we have further evolved to regulatory capture. It is our nature.


Yeah I figured you had Thiel in mind. He’s IMO the representative of an extreme position and should be contained....


> The requirement for consumers having accurate information is a government regulation.

But there are many areas where self regulation works better than government regulation. Print media is a prime example. If one newspaper accepts a bribe for promoting a product, the bribe could come to light and destroy the trust the newspaper has (an intangible asset).

To get back to the topic of databases: This is bad press for Oracle. Are they hiding some edge cases where the performance is unacceptable ? Mission critical systems should rather be built on open source databases, which have been properly scrutinized.


It's well known that Oracle and other proprietary databases have special configurations for cheating benchmarks similar to VW emission cheating tricks.

Since databases aren't regulated and don't cause health hazards those fake benchmarking configurations don't matter much to people.


Yes and I can exclusively reveal what that is, so you can benefit from it as well. Just add the following setting to your initSID.ora

    make_db_run_faster=true


I have no objection to your overall sentiment, but, TBH, much of the reason they do this is it is trivially easy to use very authentic looking benchmarks to effectively lie. The net is that the academic ideal of a free market is effectively unachievable in real life - perfect information does not exist.

I don't know how to get around this problem of course.


I agree that we can never get to the ideal of a free market, but at the very least, we can ban business practices that are expressly designed to undermine the free market. We already have anti-trust laws that prohibit companies from some practices, such as price-fixing or false-advertising. We really need to strengthen such laws to ban modern practices such as benchmark-bans.


much of the reason they do this is it is trivially easy to use very authentic looking benchmarks to effectively lie.

...and that is what the companies themselves do for their own products when they show benchmarks, to make them look better than they really are.


We can fix the problem of a possibly unfair benchmark with open source. Anyone can inspect the code of the benchmark used, build and run it themselves, criticize it or build an alternative.


> much of the reason they do this is it is trivially easy to use very authentic looking benchmarks to effectively lie

Have you ever paid attention to how GPUs are marketed, or the dirty tricks the drivers use under the hood? In spite of this, it's still pretty easy to find out which GPU at a given price point is faster.


So it's only ok for Oracle to lie in their own benchmarks?


Yes: lies, damn lies and statistics - but I feel like there should be some sort of truth that comes out of the aggregate of these things.


I haven't read the EULA recently but I seem to recall that it was forbidden to publish benchmark results. I don't think there is any rule against performing your own benchmarks. Both Oracle and Microsoft have free evaluation/developer licenses that would allow you to do that.

I know it's a lot of work, but anyone whose business is dependant on database performance needs to know how the system will perform with their data and their use cases. I think they would also like to put some effort into working with the database to see how well the associated tools work. It would be nice to have synthetic benchmarks to review as a starting point and I suppose those exist for the open source engines such as Postgres, Maria and MySQL. It should be safe to assume that Oracle and MS-SQL are at least as fast and a little testing should verify that.


A business is often, maybe even entirely, opposed to free markets and competition. There are numerous transparency and disclosure regulations to inhibit such behavior. I'd put this in the category of fraud: deception intending to result in financial gain. The problem is politics, in particular the Republican variety, is too forgiving, or even servile, when it comes to accommodating big business fraud under the auspice that all regulation is bad, and it is regulations that inhibit free market behavior, rather than encourage it.

Strong anti-fraud and competition (anti-trust) laws are absolutely necessary to have something even crudely approximating a free market.


The starting point of basic contract law is that we can choose what we want the terms of a contract to be.

If either party doesn't like the terms of a proposed contract, they can just not execute that contract.

If you don't want to agree to the Oracle license then don't agree to the Oracle license. It's pretty simple.

The market will react to this. Oracle is still really popular, but open source databases are cutting into the market.

To me, that sounds like the free market in action.


Ideally consumers care about access to information enough to produce a negative impact on sales for DB engines which don't allow benchmarking, making regulation unnecessary

Ideally, ofc


>The really worrying thing is that such practices are deemed to be legal.

What is your basis for this claim? Are you aware of a single successful lawsuit on the basis of a clause like this? If not, you can't claim that it's "deemed to be legal", since only a court can do such deeming.


> The fact that there are no government regulations against such behavior, is precisely what leads people to think that we are living in a Corporatocracy, and not a Free Market.

Amen, brother. Many folks who criticize capitalism don't actually realize that actual bogeyman is cronyism, not the free market.


Why does this need to be regulated? Why would anyone buy software with such an obviously malicious contract like that? I think the problem is we've put up with EULAs for too long. No one would agree to sign a 50 page document when purchasing almost any other product.


Because almost nobody who buys an Oracle license do so with the intention to run and publish these benchmarks. In other words, the EULA doesn’t affect how the vast majority of Oracle’s customers intend to use the software, and so they don’t feel it impacts them. Of course it actually does, because they might not have chosen Oracle, if they’d had access to accurate benchmarks when they made the buying decision, and maybe the fact that the EULA prevented such benchmarks from being published should have been a red flag. And maybe it would have been if Oracle was alone in this practice, but as the article states, it’s close to the standard practice in the industry.


>Because almost nobody who buys an Oracle license do so with the intention to run and publish these benchmarks.

Obviously, but it's still a huge red flag, as you note yourself. Would people buy any other product if it came with a big disclaimer that you couldn't review it? I can't think of anywhere else that is done.

>And maybe it would have been if Oracle was alone in this practice, but as the article states, it’s close to the standard practice in the industry.

Well it had to have started somewhere.


A lot of the problem stems from the fact that many software products use the license legal framework instead of the purchase legal framework. Under current laws, companies have much more downstream control over licensed products than over products that are outright sold.


What I don't get is how these licenses are particularly binding, in that it's only whomever is installing the software that is actually party to the license. After the software installation has been completed, say by some rando from craigslist, the copy residing on disk is constrained by only copyright.

It seems like their chilling effect is mostly due to people not wanting to be harassed by legal goons, rather than the concern that the backwards company would actually prevail in court.


If you have enough load to make database performance an important issue then it's easy enough to benchmark SQL Server and Oracle (or any other database). Just purchase a regular license and run a performance test on your own application. Those vendor license restrictions on publishing benchmarks are annoying but realistically the minor performance differences on typical workloads don't matter to most customers and the customers who actually care have the technical sophistication to figure it out for themselves.


I took a databases course under Professor DeWitt - it was one of the most rewarding and memorable classes that I took at UW Madison. Many years later I heard Larry warmly refer to David DeWitt. I forget whether that was at an all-hands meeting or a conference keynote.

On an unrelated topic, I was taking the course while US v. Microsoft was proceeding. DeWitt kept getting called as an expert witness. At one point he noticed someone wearing a suit in the classroom. He interrupted the class and asked the guy to hand over the subpoena so that he could continue on without being distracted. It turns out that the overdressed student was just prepared for an interview that was happening after the class.


DeWitt clauses have spread outside of databases too, unfortunately. John Regehr got a nastygram from Coverity/Synopsys when he tried to post static analyzer benchmarks (not even his own; the benchmarks were done by researchers at the Toyota InfoTechnology Center):

https://blog.regehr.org/archives/1217

This has effectively dissuaded me from trying to perform benchmarks of Coverity and other commercial tools using LAVA [1], so I can attest to its chilling effect.

[1] https://seclab.ccs.neu.edu/static/publications/sp2016lava.pd...


That sounds like something SciHub would be very useful for --- "the benchmarks they don't want you to know."


Sure, someone could post a paper like this anonymously. But anonymous papers don't benefit from all the incentives of the standard academic publishing system.

As a fun aside, here's an example of one of the few fully anonymous papers I know of:

http://census2012.sourceforge.net/paper.html


The EDA (Electronic Design Automation) industry is full of such clauses. Every software in that industry is selling based on its quality of results or faster processing time. Every tool claims 10x improvements but there is no way to verify it. To be fair to them, understandably designs are different and may yield different quality of results.


I did not know that there is a clause in the license agreement about not being allowed to disclose benchmarks of databases.

Recently I came into discussion regarding why someone chose to use Oracle instead of Postgres; the argument that someone brought up was that they did not know how Postgres scaled. After pointing out that the data that will be stored will be most likely be a few hundred GB (in an exaggerated worst case scenario) and that Postgres is said to handle 100's of TB of data, they capitulated and said that customers trust Oracle (even though they never see or touch the database).

Personally I would be very interested in seeing comparisons between PG, Oracle and MSSQL as well for different data-sets/use-case scenarios. This would really help as a reference in the future when someone else is making critical decisions which might not appear to make sense.

EDIT: This sounds like a very shady clause; anyone with law insights know whether this would be enforceable in the EU?


There is a direct comparison, it’s called TPCC TPCD TPCE TPCR family of benchmarks. Each company tries to make themselves look good with those, but they have to follow the rules.


I haven't dealt with those for a while but, as I recall, all the hardware and software companies in the benchmark (which isn't a comparison except insofar as other companies have also published a benchmark) have to agree to publish. Furthermore, the results are audited and there are various rules about how you can use and talk about the benchmark. (And they cost BIG money to run--into the millions $.)


It is very shady, but also very prevalent. I think that even FreeRTOS - an open-source embedded RealTime Operating System library - had it until Amazon recently MIT'd it.

"If our code is not the best, you MUST NOT TELL ANYONE." Yeah, that's healthy...


Postgre doesn't handle hundreds of TB of data.



It's postgres or postgresql, not postgre.


Law professor here again.

For those who are interested in the legal and policy aspects of this, I highly recommend a book called Boilerplate by Margaret Radin. This is just one of many examples of comically abusive and bizarre contract terms that companies impose by imaginary consent.


How are clauses like this even legal? One could argue they limit people's personal freedom and is essentially an anti-competition clause without an upside. Legitimate question, as I am finding it hard that a court would allow this.


I haven't looked into the enforceability of this kind of contract in particular. That being said, there are arguments in the abstract that I'd apply---essentially, the argument that this kind of contract is against public policy because of those kinds of anti-competitive effects.

Without doing the research, it wouldn't surprise me if the extent to which these clauses were enforceable varied state-by-state. States tend to diverge a lot on these kinds of "unenforceable because against public policy" arguments.


whenever I encounter a deep gray area contract like this my first thought is that its a play on cost of discovery. so long as it is ambiguous enough it just boils down to who can afford how much legal expense. when comparing deep pockets like oracle and some random reviewer/blogger its a done deal.


Yes. This is often true of all kinds of legally shady behavior, not just contracts. This is why things like class action litigation can be important, and other aggregation mechanisms. (There might be something to crowdfunding challenges in cases like this)


This isn't limited to commercial software. Until its recent relicensing, GPL FreeRTOS had this turd:

Clause 2:

FreeRTOS may not be used for any competitive or comparative purpose, including the publication of any form of run time or compile time metric, without the express permission of Real Time Engineers Ltd. (this is the norm within the industry and is intended to ensure information accuracy).


Wouldn't a major usage restriction that make it incompatable with other GPL software (and possibly make it tagged as non-free by FSF and OSI)?


I suspect this makes it incompatible with FreeRTOS itself too, as the GPL allows redistribution only if no additional restrictions are stipulated. So there was legal way to redistribute it.


>this is the norm within the industry and is intended to ensure information accuracy

I like how even they understand that it's a bullshit clause, and try to justify it.


Don' worry, next it will ISPs with a no-benchmark / speed test clause.


I can definitely understand their fear of misrepresentation.

I wonder if demanding inclusion of their feedback on benchmark into benchmark article (intro or summary) would be more fair than conditionally gagging it..


Somebody who apparently had to deal with the company once told me that Oracle is really an acronym for "One Rich Asshole Called Larry Ellison".


I'm surprised these clauses manage to prevent benchmarks. Surely someone with no Oracle contract can still publish them? Leak a benchmark, benchmark on someone else's system, whatever. It shouldn't be too hard to publish a benchmark for which this clause can't be enforced.


I find that with contracts in general, lawyers will throw in all sorts of clauses that may or may not be enforceable and hope they stick. That's why they add something to get you to agree "if one part is found to be invalid or unenforceable all the other parts are still valid".


>>> if one part is found to be invalid or unenforceable all the other parts are still valid

Also an invalid clause. They don't get to decide what is valid or not, that's up to the judge.


They're called severability clauses. Courts frequently uphold them independently of finding other unenforceable or invalid clauses. Any contract written by a lawyer worth their salt has one and it's usually based on wording that has been tested in a court.

I am not a lawyer, this isn't legal advice.


Still, it's invalid.

It's up to the judge to decide what is valid and not. The court has the power to decide on each clause individually and the contract as a whole.

It's the normal outcome that when one minor clause is deemed invalid, only that clause is dismissed, not the whole contract.

It doesn't costs anything to write it down to clarify. That's exactly why it's written in every standard contract. There could be a different jurisdiction somewhere one day that decides to invalidate entire contracts by default for any stupid reason, I don't know of one in the western countries but I suppose it's possible.


It's up to the judge to interpret law, which includes following precedent set in previous cases. Severability clauses have been upheld, or struck down, in a number of different circumstances which can be compared to new examples.

It is reasonably predictable for most situations how a judge would rule, which is why contracts have common boilerplate.


Actually, I will rephrase, the clause appears to have no effect.

In the event that one part of the contract is nullified, it's up to the court to determine if that modification will nullify the contract or not, it depends on the circumstances.

The presence of the clause cannot prevent to cancel the contract, the absence of the clause doesn't mean that the contract is cancelled if any clause is found invalid.


If I want to completely escape a contract, as opposed to only part of it, I care very much about whether a severability clause will be enforced.


(I rephrased the last message)

If you want to escape a contract, you need to go to court and make a case that the contract should be nullified.

If you want to cancel a part of a contract, you need to go to court and make a case that a part of the contract should be nullified.

They are 2 completely different things. The clause is irrelevant, it's not gonna change your future strategy.


I don't think that clause is generally enforceable.


It's in the EULA–simply using the software is enough to be bound to that term.

Sure, the benchmarks can be leaked, published anonymously, etc…but the term is enough to prevent an academic from publishing it as a peer-reviewed, credible piece of research.


I think what the OP meant was that you accept the contract and the EULA when you buy/install the product. Anyone connecting to the database and using it does not have to accept the same.


How would they get the software legally?

Oracle would probably sue them for piracy or something. If you bought it, they would probably say you violated the agreement and no longer have a valid license.

Not saying it's right, but since it's commercial software, they can probably play some tricks. It's one of among many reasons to use commerical software where possible.


You can legally get Oracle DB completely free, for "development":

http://www.oracle.com/technetwork/indexes/downloads/index.ht...

http://www.oracle.com/technetwork/licenses/standard-license-...

Of course there's the anti-benchmarking clause, but other than that, they offer the downloads free (as in beer).


But you have to register.

If you publish the benchmark, Oracle will sue you for obtaining the software illegitimately or sue you for not conforming to the license.


docker pull sath89/oracle-12c?

In sane countries licenses don't have magic powers. I'm allowed to publish a benchmark no matter what Oracle things.


Now I am intrigued. Do you have a benchmark you could share?


probably not. it is still a lot of work.


Did you mean "reasons not to use..."?


Oops yes! Unfortunately HN expires the ability to edit the comment after awhile.


Can someone explain how this agreement can be binding? For instance, if I buy their DB, then publish benchmarks, at best they can deactivate my license or something right? So if I am willing to forego the cost of the license, I can do whatever benchmarking I want, publish it, and say goodbye to the DB?


If you publish a benchmark, you risk a lawsuit. That will be time consuming and expensive. It may result in fines and having to take off the benchmark from the internet.


This has often been abused by these companies to attack open source software that allows benchmarking (because what kind of open source license would ban that?). The company can perform a "benchmark" of their product and the open source product. They'll then release the results as a whitepaper. Even if they perform the benchmark correctly, they can always choose which results to actually publish.

But since the proprietary software has a "no benchmarking" clause, open source projects cannot respond to the whitepaper by performing their own benchmarking. They would need the permission of the proprietary vendor!

For example, here is an IBM blog post comparing the performance of IBM MQ and Apache ActiveMQ (https://webspherecompetition.wordpress.com/2015/03/12/ibm-mq...). I've tried to find a copy of the IBM MQ EULA to link, but cannot find one anywhere. But last time I reviewed it (several years ago) I believe it also had a "no benchmark" clause.


The blog post says in the end that IBM does allow benchmarks.


I don't see that. It has tools for running the benchmarks yourself, but that doesn't give you permission to publish benchmark results. And even if it did, a blog post from an employee cannot give you permission to do something that the EULA takes away.


From the OP:

> IBM is notable for actually allowing benchmarks: > Licensee may disclose the results of any benchmark test of the Program or its subcomponents to any third party provided that …


Oh geez, thanks both for pointing that out.


(edit: congress forbid review gag clauses last year)

I've pointed this:

https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2016/11/congress-passes-...

out to my employer's lawyers, who responded with "well, yes, but we'd still get sued, by Oracle, so... no."


Hm. I was going to say that I'm doubtful that the consumer review protection law applies here. But reading through both the law and oracle's license agreement, I'm not so sure anymore: law: https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/15/45b oracle's license agreement: http://www.oracle.com/technetwork/licenses/standard-license-...

While the consumer review protection law concerns individuals not companies (check the "form contract" definition), the license agreement seems to explicitly allow for individuals ("or as an individual"). There might be further license agreements after the download, but for that I'd agree to the terms of the license...

IANAL.


These evil clauses are called Dewitt Clauses, since the original purpose was to attack DeWitt.

Unfortunately, the law that protects reviewers does not protect people who publish benchmarks in software. These DeWitt clauses should be illegal in the United States on First Amendment grounds, but the problem is that to get software at all you have to agree to the license, and the licenses often have these nasty things. I think these Clauses should be straight up illegal, but very few people have enough money to pursue this in court.


> Unfortunately, the law that protects reviewers does not protect people who publish benchmarks in software.

I'm not convinced that's generally true. The form contracts language [1] clearly talks about individuals, but at least one of the DB vendor license agreements allows for individuals. https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=15888236

If an individual were to decide to do such a benchmark, I don't immediately see how the DeWitt clause would be still valid. Not many people are going to risk that obviously.

> hese DeWitt clauses should be illegal in the United States on First Amendment ground

I agree that they shouldn't be allowed, I however fail to see how 1A applies. You willingly enter into a contract with a private entity. That contract has rules, and there are some consequences for breaking them.

I think the government has an important, and imo somewhat neglected, role in providing rules around valid contracts, but that's not 1A.


The first amendment only applies to government restrictions on speech.


Can Oracle/Microsoft actually enforce "no benchmark clauses," as in could they take you to court and win?


There’s a reddit thread benchmarking SQL Server vs Postgres where the all named references had to be removed IIRC.

Edit: here https://www.reddit.com/r/programming/comments/2mhpwp/postgre...


> Edit: I'm told this proprietary database vendor dislikes users publishing benchmark results comparing their software to F/OSS databases. I'd argue that this is more of an anecdote than a benchmark; but just in case I edited the comment to remove the vendor and product name from the parts that talk about performance.

That doesn't really sound like they were forced to do anything.


Do you want to fight a corporation with endless money for lawyers in court?


No, of course not. But I'm still interested in what a court would ultimately decide and whether anyone has actually been taken to court over this.


The answer is that it is impossible to know. I don't recall any case ever being taken to court up to the end. We can't know the result if there is no precedent.


I suspect not, you should be covered by the first amendment. However, I don't think most people have the money to find out. The ones that do seem keen on following Ellison's example.


The first amendment doesn't apply to contracts between private entities. The government cannot forbid you to publish benchmarks. However, it can also not prevent you from signing away your first amendment rights in most circumstances.


The first amendment only protects you against the government. NDA clauses in contracts hold up in court all the time.


How can database vendors make benchmarking illegal? Saying "we don’t allow benchmarking" in their EULA don’t make it illegal if the clause is abusive. Maybe it can work in some juridictions but I don’t think it is enforceable worldwide.


How can database vendors make benchmarking illegal?

Nothing is stopping you from running your own workload on both Oracle and Postgres within your organisation, then deciding to go with Postgres. What is forbidden by the license is issuing a press release saying "Postgres is better than Oracle and here are the numbers".


I'm not a lawyer so I don't really have any clue :). But I suspect the defense would be that it's an agreement between two parties: you want to use their shit you agree to use it by their terms. The debate around these things has always been more or less centered on what it meant to agree, i.e. did I agree when I opened the shrinkwrap on a box? But with Oracle licenses there is not much doubt about what it means to agree, there being reams of paper evidence that you agreed, and large checks written to make that agreement concrete.


I suppose you could also go at it from the angle that it's an anti-competitive practice and no license should be able to restrict you from publishing truthful benchmarks.


Yeah I don't know, you'd need a lawyer to weigh in on that. Contract law and all the stuff around mutual agreements and consideration (the monetary kind) is pretty fundamental. You can always walk away and use a different database. If they put a set of x conditions on a doc and you sign it and hand over a huge check I'd guess a condition would have to be actually illegal for a court to invalidate just that part of the agreement.


You could knowingly publish incorrect, fictional, or fabricated results. When they sue, you won’t have violated any license. But at least oracle will look terrible.


This sounds like a terrible idea. Maybe if one is a 15 year old kid, sure, for shits and giggles. Why would a researcher do this, damaging their reputation in the process? And what good does it serve anyone?


Mostly because it’s a better world than one where Oracle can control the image of their shitty db.


Then they'll just sue for libel instead


You can clearly label it ad fictional and explain. Really the point here is to have some portrayal of oracle’s performance that is legal but pisses off Oracle.


The one time such a clause was challenged in court it was struck down, but on narrower grounds related to the specifics of the particular case. The actual issue of whether such a clause is enforceable was not answered by the court. https://academia.stackexchange.com/questions/28511/has-the-d...


Standard "enterprise software" company operating procedure. I think VMware is equally jealous of their benchmarks.

It could be worse though. Cisco pressed criminal charges against this guy[0] for wanting to 3rd-party-service their equipment.

Happy 2017, peasants!

[0-0] http://www.vancouversun.com/news/Cisco+deceived+Canadian+cou...

[0-1] https://www.computerworld.com/article/2507735/cybercrime-hac...


For a time I really idolised Larry Ellison. Then I saw a documentary on Oracle early years and someone said - "There was no Oralce v1, as Ellison, "knew no one would want to buy version 1". This sounded both stupid and an urban legend. Till I checked the Wikipedia entry:

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oracle_Database#Releases_and...

It not only changed my perspective of the man but also the company. One can know a lot about a company's practices from the way it was founded. Now there is nothing about Oracle which surprises me any more.


>There was no Oralce v1, as Ellison, "knew no one would want to buy version 1"

Of the "bad Larry Ellison" anecdotes ITT, most of which do paint him in a very bad light, this one doesn't offend me at all; more like smart marketing advice you can use.


That's a very bad marketing advice. In case someone finds out what you've done, it's a red cross mark on your brand.


It's no different from pricing your product at $9.99/month instead of $10/month, or $9.99/month instead of $119.88/year. Or more pertinent, marketing Java 1.8 as Java 8, selling products with random alphanumeric names like "A-Series 7340X", retroactively renumbering previous software versions, or going straight from Windows 8 to Windows 10.

Software version schemes are often started at 0, or other times 1, so why not any other integer? I don't expect software version numbers to mean anything except that higher is (probably) chronologically later. That said I would probably still start numbering internal/beta versions at 1 or 0 and use 2 for the first release.

It's not even in the same league of dishonesty as ubiquitous practices by blue-chip tech companies such as using trial pricing in advertisements, selling "new versions" of software with only trivial changes, selling "extended warranties" on hardware that don't cover the most common causes of breakage, or claiming customers have access to "expertise" developing intelligent zero-downtime SaaS solutions on the blockchain with the deep learning algorithms powering our global AR/VR-enabled IoT cloud.


"Version 1 was internal and not good enough, we waited until version 2 to start selling"? I don't see the issue.


Both Apple and MS has skipped product numbers recently and people think of it as nothing more than a curiosity.


> For a time I really idolised Larry Ellison.

I'm so sorry. I don't think he's literally Satan, because from what I can tell Satan has some principles.


Satan was an angel once. Larry Ellison was just born that way.


I'm more interested in which cloud provider doesn't allow benchmarks.


Given his employment history, I'm guessing MS: https://twitter.com/danluu


Not sure that's true, given easy-to-find examples of Azure benchmarks (and it doesn't even do well in this one):

http://www.acmebenchmarking.com/2015/11/benchmarking-cloud-p...


No, because he says he's supposed to avoid using it. It would be absurd to prevent a Microsoft engineer from using a Microsoft product "to avoid the appearance of impropriety"


Eulas are toiled paper in EU, so just benchmark here. You can even buy the software second hand and avoid touching EULA completely. Oracle learned this the hard way, losing the lawsuit.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/UsedSoft#ECJ_ruling


Larry Ellison long ago was an engineer, he turned to the dark side a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.

There are reasons for companies not wanting benchmarks public i.e. unequal or fixed results. But ultimately one can no longer be an engineer if you are excluding metrics from software for business/legal reasons.

I have had to run many systems on Oracle and the developer is not their customer, it is a painful experience in Oracle enterprise. The extent of it is they have Ask Tom fill in the gaps. Luckily most of the Oracle work was moving systems from massive Oracle setups to swifter (and hundreds of thousands of dollars cheaper) architecture on MSSQL, PostgreSQL and MySQL (until Oracle bought them) now MariaDB.

I like platforms that put the developer and their workflow as a top priority, not how many rounds of golf you play with the C level execs. Oracle would be the latter type of "enterprise" company.


Alright, this isn’t news. It’s pretty well known you can benchmark Oracle, it’s just always referred to as Database X in the literature (Sometimes MSSQL gets this treatment too)


Got any examples? Googling for benchmark enterprise database X doesn't give anything useful.


http://db.cs.yale.edu/hadoopdb/hadoopdb.pdf

Sorry, it’s actually “DBMS-X”


Why would you have that clause? If you believe in your product you want me to benchmark it, and if you don't believe in your own product, why should I?


They don't want MS to pay an "independent" 3rd party to poorly configure their database then publish benchmarks that show them in a negative light. Therefor if you want to publish benchmarks you have to (pay to) keep Oracle in the loop so that they make sure you don't screw it up.

You see this all the time with Mysql and Postgresql benchmarks. Typically when I see the two compared it is by someone with a decade of experience with one of the systems, and none with the other one. They use a workload that is optimized for their usual system. They also don't have a clue how to create a high performance version for the competitor, nor do they know how to configure it.


Most of the benchmarks are done by competing companies with competing products, not by a random engineer. They make sure the benchmark put their own products in a good light.

It's also true that the testers usually don't configure all the products equivalently. It's usually not (only) incompetence, they are pushing an agenda for their product or consulting services.


Because they don't believe in their own product, but hope that their salespeople convince you otherwise.


Benchmarks can be slanted by the person doing them, perhaps they want to present themselves in the better light. There are official benchmarks that are supposedly on even ground,see TPCC, TPCE and so on.


Buried quite a ways down in the article is an interesting concept of using semi anonymous markets to distribute and pay for benchmarking.


Why don't the competing proprietary databases go right at Oracle in their ads to business class at airports.

"Oracle won't let you read or publish benchmarks, maybe too many of their customers would get fired if they did...?" Or variants on the "why do they need to hide?"

Haven't seen a case where going with postgres up front on pure prejudice has backfired. Maybe there are times, it would be interesting to know what and when.


We don't do benchmarks. Our network security team verifies VPN transaction performance and ensures packet security using general purpose scripts that, strangely, look like they're doing basic db operations on different servers and systems. The unfortunate side effect are numbers related to network latency and, I suppose, system performance. But of course we don't care about that.


Does anyone here have direct experience with being sued for releasing a benchmark online? I’m interested in seeing how common (and enforceable) it really is.


I published one, not on oracle but on other expensive entreprise databases.

Never got a complaint. However I received a nice email from one of their sales guy to thank me and say it was great to show to their clients.


As far as I know, it is very easily enforceable and quite common for enterprise software.

In certain countries that is even illegal to publish "benchmarks" like this one. I remember that there was a law like that in Germany - not sure whether it has changed with EU.


> In certain countries that is even illegal to publish "benchmarks" like this one.

My understanding is that in some places it's illegal for companies to publish benchmarks "proving" that their software is better than their competitors', the idea being that you're unlikely to show a fair comparison. I've not heard of it being illegal for a third party to post such a thing, though. Do you have a link? (I'm genuinely curious.)


Wow, seriously? That’s unfortunate. I have a significant amount of bare metal storage space and computation resources and would be happy to host benchmarks like these.


Meanwhile, Aurora on AWS has an explicit performance assessment guide

https://d0.awsstatic.com/product-marketing/Aurora/RDS_Aurora...

With Oracle going all in on cloud, this mindset of Larry surely doesn't bode well?


Wouldn't it be relatively trivial to create a set of data and code, plus a deployment script to spin up some DBs on a cloud service and compare the results? If you're doing it in house without publishing the results so that you can determine the best db for your needs, would it run foul of the TOC? Would the vendors even know you're doing it?


I guess I have never read the EULA, as I have benchmarked the speed vs accuracy of EM simulators and published the results online.


So how good does Oracle perform im comparison to mssql and postgres? For example with just INSERTs and SELECTs?


I hadn't a chance to read Oracle's or SQL Server's license, but one thing is not clear to me: is the used forbidden from performing benchmarks or from publishing them?


Maybe it's time to start shorting Oracle stock. In the age of AWS and Azure, I don't see their 10 year prospects as being very good.


Oracle Cloud!

It's not in the Azure/GCP tier, but they're investing a ton in it (seven figure offers) to pull in engineering talent from AWS/Azure/GCP. And Oracle does have some definite ... "structural" advantages.


Oracle has been in the death throes for decades. There's loads of money on keeping the existing Oracle shops hostage for decades of betting the farm on Oracle-specific tech.

Unless you won the Powerball and want to live on Ramen for the rest of your life, don't do this.


You know it's called shorting for a reason. You can't just short a stock for as long as you want before covering at some arbitrary point in the distant future.


Everyone knows that Oracle products are poor quality. They were never about the product... Always about sales and litigation.

Oracle has firmly established its reputation and I'm confident that someday they'll pay for it.


> someday they'll pay for it

I'm not holding my breath though. Maybe my grandchildren will live to see Oracle bought as a Kickstarter project started by Postgres devs.


Are there really no anonymous benchmarks in the wild?


Probably, but non-trivial comparative benchmarks of many types of commercial software, performed using well thought out methodologies, are neither easy nor cheap to run.

Furthermore, an anonymous benchmark (like many other anonymous product comparisons) is going to make many people suspect that it's a fraudulent result. Imagine there's an anonymous benchmark that isn't simple to replicate because of software and/or hardware costs that shows some proprietary software whipping an open source project on some dimensions or other. How many people here are going to immediately jump to the conclusion that it's the proprietary vendor planting false information?


Anonymous benchmarks are usually affiliated to at least one of the products being benchmarked. It's usually not hard to figure out which one.

Either way I wouldn't expect a real world benchmark to be reproducible, it's too hard to reproduce and takes too much resources.


Just post them anonymously. I think if there was enough public shaming against blocking benchmarking, companies would give up on this, just like shaping for sexual harrasment finally accumulated enough weight to knock out harvey weinstein.


This should be marked (2014).


And remember,

> Do not fall into the trap of anthropomorphising Larry Ellison. You need to think of Larry Ellison the way you think of a lawnmower. You don't anthropomorphize your lawnmower, the lawnmower just mows the lawn, you stick your hand in there and it'll chop it off, the end. You don't think 'oh, the lawnmower hates me' -- lawnmower doesn't give a shit about you, lawnmower can't hate you. Don't anthropomorphize the lawnmower. Don't fall into that trap about Oracle. — Brian Cantrill (https://youtu.be/-zRN7XLCRhc?t=33m1s)

And

> I actually think that it does a dis-service to not go to Nazi allegory because if I don't use Nazi allegory when referring to Oracle there's some critical understanding that I have left on the table […] in fact as I have said before I emphatically believe that if you have to explain the Nazis to someone who had never heard of World War 2 but was an Oracle customer there's a very good chance that you would explain the Nazis in Oracle allegory. — also Brian Cantrill (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=79fvDDPaIoY&t=24m)


The other memorable quote I've heard is "Oracle is an acronym for One Rich Asshole Called Larry Ellison".


One Relevant Argument Counter Life Eternal


Other RDBMSs Are Clearly Less Egregious


"Oregon Ripped-off, America's Cup, Larry Ellison."


It probably worked better when Oracle was the race winner.


Wired did an article about high tech connected homes. The section on Larry Ellison had an anecdote about how Larry got frustrated with his system and threw the remote at a wall, smashing it.

He made one of the engineers drive out to his house with a new one on a Saturday night.

Now, the fact that this story is true is telling enough, but what sort of experience did the writers have with Larry that inspired them to put in that story that paints him as a petty, tyrannical manchild?


Ellison is the kind of guy who lands his private jet late at night, knowing he will have to pay fines for night noise, then sues over it.


I hadn't heard of this, but it's true: www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Judge-clears-Ellison-for-landing-at-night-2909426.php


"It is regrettable that a dispute about one airplane has consumed so large a quantity of human and economic resources and that the parties have found compromise so difficult"

So much hate. Just because someone has enough money to file a lawsuit and keep it alive for years doesn't mean the other side should somehow be penalized for not compromising with the fool.


Ehh...Larry has a point. If you care about noise levels, don't use weight as a proxy - just use noise levels. Why can a big, quiet plane not land at night, but a tiny noisy plane can?


As the other guy says, it's hard to prove in court which noise came from which plane, but besides that, they may have used weight as a proxy for distinguishing between military and civilian aircraft ("tiny noisy planes" tending to be military), and, also, perceived loudness[1] is a function of both decibel level[2] and pitch[3] (that is, a whistle will be at a higher decibel level than a drum we perceive as equally "loud"). It's intuitively plausible that larger planes tend to make lower-pitched sounds.

[1] amplitude

[2] amplitude * frequency

[3] frequency


Noise is ephemeral and therefore harder to prove.


I think the google guys did the same, no? Not that it makes the behavior better or normalizes it, but just that he's not the single exception.


It's Wired. Tangential anecdotes, the wilder the better, are their existence.


> He made one of the engineers drive out to his house with a new one on a Saturday night.

Did it occur to anyone that that engineer might be happy to be picked as the one to drive out and do that? To some people that is the way to get noticed and stand out with the boss (or king, whatever).

> tyrannical manchild?

Like any anecdote we don't know the full story here and exact circumstances. Just the fact that juxtaposed against what people have be told about Ellison it appears that he must certainly be 'a tyrannical manchild'.


This is the most Hacker News “please rich daddy notice me” thing I’ve read in years.


Maybe it was sarcasm? I hope it was sarcasm, at least, or that the OP is young enough and hasn't had the chance to learn yet.


    threw the remote at a wall, smashing it.
That’s a tantrum. Is there any empathetic version of this story where someone over 45 looks like a grownup doing it?


I kind of feel for Bryan Cantrill and his blood pressure. Getting this worked up cannot be healthy.

But damn, few people are that much fun to listen to when ranting.


There's another aspect, which is that some people find his aggressively dismissive style personally abusive and distressing.

I don't know enough to validate this perspective, but it's something for all of us to consider:

https://blog.valerieaurora.org/2016/10/22/why-i-wont-be-atte...


It's the first time I read this blog post (thanks for sharing) but it's not surprising to me.

I always cringe when I see people quoting Bryan because that's exactly my experience interacting with him on mailing lists or watching him give talks.

At this point I don't have the energy to deal with people like him. I just accept him as a natural occurrence in our field. I certainly praise does who do have the energy for fighting that.


I'm also quite combative in discussions. And then someone told me: be careful not to win the battle (current conversation) and lose the war (attention and possibly the respect or friendship of the person you're talking to).


> some people find his aggressively dismissive style personally abusive and distressing.

Thank you for pointing this out.

There are many cases of what I call the "brilliant jerk" in programming.

Personally, I deal very badly with confrontational behavior. And it makes me rather sad. If I can deal with people by being friendly (or at least polite) and soft-spoken, it can't be that hard, now, can it?

And there are some examples of brilliant programmers that are also nice people and very pleasant to deal with. Richard Hipp of SQLite and Fossil seems to be this kind of person. If I cannot be as brilliant as him, at least I want to be as friendly and respectful as him.

It seems that a lot of software projects have begun adopting codes of conduct. I tend to feel a little ambivalent about this phenomenon, because it attempts to codify things I think should be the natural state of people interacting. But maybe in the long run, it is necessary to be a little more formal about this.

And still, when Bryan Cantrill gets sufficiently worked up about a subject, he is very entertaining to listen to.


Personally, I have a hard time favouring diversity and safe spaces over good software and solid architecture where the two goals compete. I'm also aware that the competitive streak in me pushes me to excel, and without it - without an element of technological one-upmanship in my personality - I'd be much less ambitious and I'd have achieved far less.

So overall I don't think Bryan is wrong, per se, to take the tack he does within the pool he plays in; it's just a pool for type-A personalities (in the system dev domain), and not the right place to play in if you're starting out, or are otherwise fragile. Build up your skin and chops in smaller ponds first. Stay out of them if you don't feel comfortable swimming there, because the discomfort of competition actually serves a purpose for those swimmers.

(Yes, some people can pursue and sustain excellence without the heat of competition. But not everyone is like that.)


> (Yes, some people can pursue and sustain excellence without the heat of competition. But not everyone is like that.)

Sounds like an argument for pluralism, not for "one size fits all".


I was deliberately invoking the irony of using diversity to promote competitive environments, yes.


I'm not sure how extreme a claim you are making. What you wrote could also be interpreted as asserting that the status quo (macho, competitive, whatever) should be preserved because of the contribution made by guys who thrive on that. And that it's too bad if some other people choose not to contribute as a result.

I can't imagine how collaborators on a single codebase could self-select into different groups with different communication styles. By Conway's Law, the codebase would have to be restructured and factored into parts that the groups could work on in relative isolation. This is a big architectural obligation to incur for the sake of preserving some casual braggadocio or competitive inconsiderateness.


While I agree with the lawnmower sentiment, should we really write off unethical behavior by comparing humans to machines?


Machines are one of the only things most people are familiar with that don't hold to all the same values that living beings (humans, other mammals, most vertebrates) usually do. (You might call Ellison a "force of nature", but that might not play well for people who attribute an "eventually-consistent omnibenevolence" to nature.)

Really, without the metaphor, what's going on is that Larry Ellison has modified himself to hold the values that a corporation holds, in order to more efficiently drive said corporation toward optimizing on its corporate goals (i.e. increase share value, etc.) Where human values and corporate values are in conflict, Ellison has chosen to forget about his human values and, effectively, become the avatar of the corporation's interests. He's the "ideal CEO", in about the same way as Locutus of Borg is an ideal CEO.

A better analogy for this effect, for those who understand it, would be to compare Ellison to a https://wiki.lesswrong.com/wiki/Paperclip_maximizer, but that's not really that well-known a meme.


I am seriously disliking the current debt-based economy now for this reason and more. There are other examples of its effects like Mozilla, Google, and VCs (I have several Twitter threads with @BrendanEich about that one). Sun and Oracle are probably worth mentioning here too, including Jonathan Schwartz.


What values are shared by all mammals?


Care for the young?


Their own young, a fair few species (lions come to mind) kill the young sired by other males.


> Really, without the metaphor, what's going on is that Larry Ellison has modified himself to hold the values that a corporation holds, in order to more efficiently drive said corporation toward optimizing on its corporate goals (i.e. increase share value, etc.)

Hmm. I wonder why this augmentation is newsworthy/nontrivial/frightening. Perhaps our human frailty makes this feat truly difficult even for an average CEO?


I suppose because (like the Paperclip Maximizer analogy mentioned in this thread) maximizing your immediate profits is not the same thing as maximizing shareholder value. It is unlikely that trying to get a professor sacked does anything but reduce your shareholder value. This kind of behavior does not make you the ultimate CEO and other humans know it, it makes you an asshole. So it's not difficult, it's just worse.


Ah, so it's that only Ellison has managed to make such a PR blunder under this modification (and thusly reveal he is modified). Makes sense.


Why is it frightening for somebody to focus solely on accumulating lucre and not to care about other people or society at all? Because hurting people is bad.


In our society, hurting people is usually expensive, so it goes against the first goal unless it is done in a way which isn't expensive.


If you watch the video, Brian Cantrill most certainly does not write off Oracles’s bad behavior, quite the opposite actually.


I can't tell you if it is right, but it does effectively communicate the lack of decency in anything Oracle does.


I highly recommend his recent talk on technology leadership:

https://youtu.be/9QMGAtxUlAc


I was under impression that "no benchmark clauses" is many ToS and license terms. Are there any enterprise software which allows that?


Could it be that these provisions are there mainly to prevent other companies from publishing misleading benchmarks? Instead of fighting in the court if the benchmarks are done properly and give correct picture, maybe it is just easier to outright ban them.




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