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Oracle Without Larry Ellison

Oracle’s Deviations From the Rules

The most famous offering from Oracle is its relational database, which also brings Oracle the most profits. As the second-largest software giant (after Microsoft), Oracle has some of its own conventions which may or may not be consistent with other generally accepted conventions. Maybe that’s the reason why so many don’t understand Oracle.

First of all, Oracle doesn’t follow the SQL standard. In many computer science courses, students practice and learn the fundamentals of databases using an Oracle database. It just so happens that even I myself have seen a lecturer shrugging his shoulders when speaking about Oracle odd behaviours.

One common example of Oracle’s deviation from standards is varchar2 – a data type that’s specific to Oracle and stores a variable-length character strings. This was the first thing I came across during a course at university in which the lecturer delivered this threat: “Don’t even try to name a column VARCHAR on the exam!”

It is curious: Why not use varchar as in other databases? Unfortunately for Oracle, the behaviour of varchar2 is that the empty string (‘’) is the same as null, whereas the SQL standard says that null is not the same as any string literal including the empty string. So, if you ever consider migrating to Oracle: Beware! – An empty string is null here.

More reading: Even Oracle is wrong sometimes

Varchar2 is a simple example, but there are more weird things in Oracle. It always bothered me that those who have the most clout or market share dictate the terms and almost everyone follows them.

The Beginning of Oracle

Let’s go back to the past and look at some facts. History says that great ideas or projects happen accidentally. Not too long ago I came across Larry Page’s – the Google founder’s – question about ‘web robot which is a Java App.’

Larry Ellison, History of Oracle, Oracle database

The more we dig into the Internet, the more famous examples we can find. As with many of billionaires, Larry Ellison happened to be frustrated with his education and dropped out of the University of Chicago in 1960s. By the mid-1970s he began working on a database project called Oracle for the CIA. In 1977, Ellison founded a company with Robert Miner and Edward Oates, naming it “ORACLE.”

Watching Larry Ellison Become Larry Ellison

If this the pattern for billionaires? I guess it could be. Taking a quick look at the bios of top software creators reveals some striking commonalities... Severe childhood turmoil and rejection at school seem almost indispensable elements in the backstories of almost every famous head of big corporation.

Larry Ellison happened to be such an archetype: born to an unmarried teenage mother, adopted at the age of 12, not a fan of traditional education and finally tried his luck in California, where the idea of a lifetime came to light: Oracle – the relational database. Over time, Oracle has been growing its market through a series of acquisitions that included buying Sun Microsystems for $7.4 billion. As a pioneer in providing business applications over the Internet, Oracle started to be connected to the sentence: “If an open-source product gets good enough, we’ll take it.” Now it has hundreds of products, e.g., MySQL and Java and keep an eye on them. Those who ever tried messing with Oracle know that is not an easy and pleasant encounter.

The Larry Ellison who people know now is a man with a strong appetite for fast cars, huge yachts and who also happened be married and divorced four times and owns an island in Hawaii.

Every big software corporation has its face, which clearly contributed to the company’s success and started to be considered as irreplaceable.

When I see a nibbled apple, I see Steve Jobs; when I use Windows – Bill Gates. It really sometimes seems that people don’t follow the product, but the person.

Does the future of these corporations have a chance without these people?

In the case of Apple, many, including Larry Ellison, doubted that the company could survive without Steve Jobs and predicted dark times for Apple without him. Now Oracle itself has a new leader: in September, Larry Ellison stepped down as Oracle’s CEO after 37 years of faithfully leading the company.

Is it the beginning of new era for Oracle?

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