> Oracle did not have a notion of a senior engineer or at least one equivalent to Gosling’s grade at Sun, where he was a fellow. “In my job offer, they had me at a fairly significant grade level down,” he said.
Says something about how they value technical people.
> The word came down that Oracle does not do employee appreciation events. So she forced the thing to be cancelled. But they didn’t save any money because the money had been spent – so we ended up giving the tickets to charities. We were forced to give it up because it wasn’t the ‘Oracle Way.’ On the other hand, Oracle sponsors this sailboat for about $200 million
This burned out several people (including myself). You can only wait for the implementation of "Technical Career Path" for so long.
Oh yeah, I forgot. Oracle is a marketing company. If you want a nice database, use Postgres. If you want a database that sponsors a sailboat, buy Oracle.
Every large company is a software company, whether they know it or not. Failure to provide a career path for software engineering professionals on the technical side of the fence is a poor strategy, period.
Big companies assume software projects will be failures, and treat their employees accordingly. Then they get what they expect.
(Hire a bunch of good programmers with good management, and you can get amazingly reliable software from a team of two. Hire a bunch of bad programmers, though, and a team of 100 produces something worse than most kids' intro-to-java app. But nobody but the best programmers understand this, and it looks better to the business to pay 10 people each $60,000 a year instead of paying 2 people $200,000 a year. When a big company "gets this", their software becomes a lot better.)
The question is, tho', "at what"? Oracle's product offering is VAST. And most of it is technically quite simple; it just does an awful lot. You can't use clever Lisp macros to do stuff like this: http://c2.com/cgi/wiki?WhyIsPayrollHard You just have to chuck people at it.
From where I stand, the cost of poor quality software goes beyond the production. It's more in maintenance, licensing, lost opportunities, and poor adaptability to changing business needs.
I can't be a senior engineer because developers can't be engineers at all - and only engineers are allowed to supervise staff.
So Gosling's boss would be a 21 engineer-in-training.
As a result, AT&T bought NCR for something like $9 billion, and ended up spinning it off for something close to $3 million. My mother was at the time an IBM exec (since retired), and she was ecstatic -- IBM was much bigger in the US, but until AT&T bought it, NCR dominated the international big iron market. AT&T effectively killed off IBM's biggest competitor, and a major part of that was the fact that the entire company culture was optimized around funneling talent into management or out the door.
Shortly after I'd been informed but before my last day, my replacement showed me two screw drivers and asked me which one was the FLAT head. At least I could have understood if she'd asked which was the Philips head (is Philips the flat one?), but no.
I think a lot of people get the same feeling I do for the same reasons, but then forget the whole "remind yourself" part.
I know many people who have done contracting and several told me a) the money _is_ very good b) other than the money, it's not worth it (stressful, uninteresting projects, high overhead).
Genuine question - who? The technical career path at almost every organization ends after about 10 years, then it's management or plateau.
Remember - companies are run by people who fundamentally don't, or can't, understand why everyone doesn't aspire to management...
That's just Larry's favorite toy, I'd imagine the IRS to be interested in that as a deferred payment rather than Oracles shareholders, whatever floats Larry's boat (pun intended) is fine with them, as long as he delivers.
Larry also owns a beach house in the mansions area of Newport, Rhode Island, aka sailing capital of the world (the main street connecting to the dwarfs is called America's Cup Avenue).
For good food at reasonable prices, try The Barking Crab.
I don't know much about Oracle but I have heard, FWIW, that they are one of the few remaining companies that really does and did whatever they could to not lay droves of folks off during the slow down. It's kind of hard to get a job there but they'll keep you forever if you do. I'm not sure how true that is or isn't.
Maybe not the sexiest titles but if that's true it shows that they do value employees.
It's typical of non-technical middle managers that their value is proportional to the number of people they supervise - so they all fight to keep the size of 'their' people.
It doesn't mean that conditions there are any good.
Oracle, by contrast, doesn't seem to give a shit and gets away with it.
The people who have the budgetary authority to buy Oracle's very expensive products very likely haven't been doing anything technical for many years, if they ever did. Programmers in organizations that use Oracle aren't asked if they want to use Oracle, they're told they're going to use Oracle...
Unless you get your kicks from working on a 30-year-old database written in 80's style C, I don't think there's much appeal to working for Oracle as a programmer.
But maybe, just maybe, I would first connect Oracle's prodigious moneyduct into a team writing a kick-ass Lisp compiler and then writing the best RDBMS using Lisp.
One can dream...
What I had in mind was that for anyone who is technically capable of maintaining the core Oracle DB code base, there are more interesting and rewarding things they could be doing instead.
Then I would use a more programmer friendly language on top of that. Something like Scheme, Ruby, Python and the like.
Stratified design, basically.
I am not sure about Haskell, but, from my limited experience, Erlang runs at levels very close to C (my C, at least)
SAP is a special case, as it has a more limited target audience. The financial environment has a heavy, erm, taint on the typical SAP developer. Most of them are in it for the money, so I don't think a lot of them care all that much. College students in Germany often joke about selling your soul to become a SAP consultant… Whereas most Oracle developers or DBAs I've met are still more engineers than business types.
Some companies just don't need a flourishing developer community. I think Oracle – especially after buying Sun – isn't one where this would seem advisable, but apparently they think different. Wonder how that will work out…
That has some big customers -- a large part of Disney's online infrastructure relies on SQL Server, for example.
But... although it's simple to appreciate the advantages of combining technologies, it's very very hard to actually do. For example, the IBM 360 project, of a series of machines of increasing power (and price), that were all compatible, so customers could upgrade, is a simple idea. But implementing this was a bet-the-company project, it was celebrated as an incredible, miraculous achievement, and the lessons learnt from it remain popular to this day (The Mythical Man Month, by the leader of the 360 project, Fred Brooks.)
To pull off these technical feats, you need the public superstar developers, but also the hidden superstar developers (the x100 coders; the people who, after working closely with them for a while, you observe, oh that guy's a genius); and then the x10 coders, who want to hang out with the geniuses and learn from them. It's places like HP used to be, where Woz wanted to work, at almost all costs (Woz himself being a x100 guy.)
If you only have x5 or x7 coders; and if you don't support them (with infrastructure, secretarial etc - not just compensation, adequate decision-making power, and some kind of recognition.), then, well, you can't do these technical feats. You may seek but not find; ask but it shall not be given; knock but it shall not be opened. Though this is not a disruptive issue, the same factors occur of the difficulty for an established successful company to change its culture and business architecture. And Oracle doesn't want to change anyway.
I'm not so sure about that.
For years x86 has been chewing up the market for Sparc processors, and one of the reasons that Sun had such poor finances is that it was selling x86-based servers more than Sparc based servers (they cost considerably less, and perform better).
Fujutsu's Sparc implementation significantly outperforms Sun's.
Contemporary Xeons outperform both these days.
Besides, Sun has had a long history of massive screwups -- and they put "don't tell anyone we screwed up" clauses in their support contracts. One company just gave up when they got their UltraSPARC3 rig, found that not only was it not nearly performant enough to meet expectations, but also in order for it to function reliably, they had to disable the 2nd level cache on every CPU, or else a cache glitch would bring down the entire server (32 procs).
It's not a great processor. It hasn't been for a long time. Sun has been the "flock of chickens" vs the POWER "bull" as a result.
"If you were plowing a field, which would you rather use?... Two strong oxen or 1024 chickens?"
- Seymour Cray
There are a lot of other great Cray quotes.
Sparc isn't failing because it's inferior to x86. Sparc is failing because Solaris is failing, and no other OS is built from the ground up for Sparc. You can run Linux and other Unix-likes on it, but given the choice between x86 and Sparc, you choose x86 because that's what's least likely to cause incompatibility issues.
Cray got reborn in the form of SGI's Altix, which to abuse the analogy would be a pack of wolves compared to the POWER bulls.
The successor to Altix is an x86 cluster using the same high-performance, zero-latency interconnects that they used in Altix (part of the technology that SGI gained from the Cray acquisition).
x86 costs quite a bit less than Sparc. It has far higher performance than Sparc. It runs everything that Sparc does, including if you want it, Solaris. So what's the selling point for Sparc?
Java? Oh, wait -- that's what enabled everyone using a Sparc server to save money by abandoning it.
Amazon saved $17 MILLION by dropping Sun. Ebay dropped Sun (and saved millions in maintenance costs as a result) after a 2-day outage because their Sun boxes crapped out on them, and Sun support dropped the ball.
There are others, of course. Sun tried to stem the bleeding by partnering with AMD, and also by acquiring Afara and attempting to put their CPU designs into practice. x86 ended up beating them at their own game -- lower power consumption, higher throughput, lower cost...
Sparc's probably doomed. I think that Oracle bought an albatross there. There is some worthwhile technology that they might be able to use, like the system interconnects that Sun got when they bought the company that made the Connection Machine, assuming I'm remembering the name correctly. (Thinking Machines, IIRC?)
When I learned that their internal sales force total focus on big contracts made it literally impossible for most startups to buy medium levels of Sun kit (by and large no more than could be put on credit cards (Sun's "VARs" were supposed to handle this business but few did, clearly Joyent found an exception)) and that people were buying less desirable Dell servers simply because Dell would actually sell and deliver them (HP's sales function was also totally screwed up at this time) it became clear that no small company that was going to become big was going to do it on Sun hardware (SPARC or x86).
At that point it became crystal clear Sun was doomed; final straws included Sun cost cutting or otherwise screwing up their servers (details on request, but e.g. Joyent stopped buying Sun hardware while they continue to use Solaris).
If I want to get nasty, I'd have to wonder about how much Sun's recent (post Java 6) stewardship of Java made Oracle want retain Gosling and his peers.
On the other hand, the Niagara family seems very interesting. Sadly, never had the chance to characterize its performance under my loads, but I suspect there is a lot of stuff they can do better than the same price x86 box.
A T3, with its many multi-threading cores resembles much more a "flock of chickens" than a Xeon does.
A world in which you could have Solaris on your Intel boxes and your SPARC boxes and compile fat binaries a la NeXTSTEP that would "just work" all the way from the desktop to the datacentre is a compelling one. But Sun lacked the courage to invest in Solaris on Intel until it was too late.
I now make a further assumption that the remaining echo $((`wc -w`-6)) 315 words about the importance of technical talent are OK. :-)
"Also, asked whether in hindsight he would have preferred Sun having been acquired by IBM (which pursued a deal to acquire Sun and then backed out late in the game) rather than Oracle, Gosling said he and at least Sun Chairman Scott McNealy debated the prospect. And the consensus, led by McNealy, was that although they said they believed “Oracle would be more savage, IBM would make more layoffs.”
That's interesting, given that Gosling now decides to quit 'of his own accord', which is probably a lot cheaper than to lay someone off.
Technically Oracle may not lay people off that readily, but I don't see how you could interpret Goslings treatment in any way but to force him out of the company. He had his compensation reduced, they clipped his wings and on top of all that used him to act at being a trained parrot.
I don't see how IBM could have done much worse, and I think that Java would have fared a lot better under IBM, which in the longer term would have probably meant more rather than less job security for the people working near Gosling.
If he was talking about the company as a whole IBM would have had to fire more than 8,000 people to date do be doing as bad for the employees as Oracle did, now of course we'll never know so we can't really make any statements about that but I find it hard to conceive of it being so bad. IBM is very image conscious and I think they would have had a hard time murdering the core team around java at this clip, let alone destroying the technical core of Sun and replacing it with 'sales'.
That was the <i>first round</i> of layoffs. Another few thousand got cut a year so later.
And I don't know how many they cut outside of Dutchess County...
IBM's presence before that massive layoff was such that almost everyone in Dutchess County with a corporate job worked at IBM, it really felt like you either worked for IBM or you worked at the mall or a gas station. (I doubt that this is quite the case, but you get the point hopefully.)
I am fairly certain that until that massive layoff, there were hardly any tech companies other than IBM in the area. I didn't find any, at least. The only job opportunities I ever found in the area were at IBM.
I think they did close down a few facilities entirely during those layoffs. My mother's job moved from Meyers Corners to Poughkeepsie around then, because they closed down the MC facility IIRC. They probably sold or leased it out or something, it was a pretty large office building from what I remember.
But if I compare that to google where there are lots of 'names' from just about every era of computing working and being reasonably happy I can't help but notice the contrast.
That changes the atmosphere of the place and that definitely does filter down to lower levels.
Oracle and SUN weren't really competitors in many spaces. So IBM would have been better for Gosling -- but there was more hope for the rest of the employees at Oracle.
Although I never worked for them, I loved the hardware and software output from Sun. It was good to have them in the tech ecosystem. I can't say the same about Oracle.
As much as I really hate Oracle (I'm a programmer and don't like their products), they do really well for investors. They make fat profits each quarter. I don't really understand why - why people buy their overpriced, complex products - but they do.
I've worked at a few (smaller) software companies, and from what I can tell the ones that go out of business do so because they make really cool products that either 1) don't get connected to the right customers or 2) are missing some critical feature customers need because developers didn't understand the business space. Both problems are the result of a poor or unsupported sales organization.
As a technical guy I get irritated by the sales people as much as anyone else, especially when they try to promise away my nights or weekends. But a software company won't survive without them. Based on my own experience I'd say the most successful companies could better be described as sales organizations that do software instead of software companies that do sales.
The disciplined managers focus on what needs to get done and do it. (The don't spend part of their day reading HN ;)
It seems kinda odd to me that gosling isn't going out and getting a great job at a hot startup.... He could write his own ticket.
It really isn't oracles job to retain him, they dont really need him it seems.
It need not have come to that if they had used their "ability to decide" in managing Sun properly. You cannot hang your hat for very long on "we made good software but were unable to sell it".
The Raiders were 11-5 the next year (2002) and went to the Super Bowl.
Probably the best thing to happen as the decision makers managed to decide Sun to the selling block.
"That bent Gosling’s resolve like a wishbone in the hands of two eager siblings in mid-pull after Thanksgiving dinner, but even that didn’t break it."
"But unlike Oracle, Davis and the Raiders have not had a winning season for awhile – not since my Baltimore Ravens flattened their hopes and the shoulder of quarterback Rich Gannon after a vicious pancake tackle by Tony Siragusa on the way to a Ravens’ Super Bowl winning season in 2001."
Nah, he was brought in after Java was going to help write the language definition document, given his fantastic demonstrated ability to do this: Scheme, co-author of the best one for C, Common Lisp.
He's now working on Fortress, a HPC language (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fortress_%28programming_languag...). As far as I know, people doing research are still happy (enough), employed, etc., e.g. that project is still going with the most recent release a month and a half ago and the Maxine JVM in Java was fine as of the time Oracle sued Google, when I stopped paying attention to it.
Gosling's not going to say 'I am really worried about JAVA and chances are it may not evolve'. But I think its quite clear from this interview.
Apples to apples - Oracle DB has excellent profiler capabilities and even useful tools around it. Of course, in this day and age, excellent profiler capabilities and tools is just a normal must-have, a technical mediocracy and nowhere a sign of technical brilliance.
Great, the more of "we (for there are many of us) realized that we could go solve much more interesting problems elsewhere", the less chances for the Oracle server to suffer the fate of Solaris.