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Don Burleson Blog 







Oracle Exadata Architect Defects to EMC

In today’s competitive world of data storage hardware, corporate secrets are hard to keep.  Combined with the labyrinthine patent laws, hardware vendors are employing very creative techniques to gain a strategic advantage, especially in nascent technologies such as the million dollar Oracle Exadata machine, with its special SSD architecture and flash cache methods for processing zillions of rows in sub-second response time.  

Even though employees are required to sign non-disclosure agreements, some courts have ruled that an expert still has the right to utilize their expertise to the full extent of their knowledge.  Hence, many companies employ "poaching" techniques of their competitors' key employees.  

One recent example of this talent transfer is the case of Kevin Closson, a Performance Architect in Oracle’s Systems Technology Group who announced that he was moving to EMC storage, an agile competitor who has been losing ground to Oracle in the high-end data storage machine market (servers with prices in excess of $1,000,000).   

Closson focused on the internals of the Oracle Exadata Database Machine, publishing extensively on the subject.  And he noted several problems with Exadata that led to his defection to EMC:

 "If, over time, "everything"—or even nearly "everything"—is offloaded to the Exadata Storage Servers there may be two problems.

First, offloading more and more to the cells means the query-processing responsibility in the database grid is systematically reduced. What does that do to the architecture?  

Second, if the goal is to pursue offloading more and more, the eventual outcome gets dangerously close to "total offload processing." But, is that really dangerous? "

 He goes on to note that these problems were leading to a significant change in his career:  

"So let me ask: In this hypothetical state of "total offload processing" to Exadata Storage Servers (that do not share data by the way), isn’t the result a shared-nothing MPP?   

Some time back I asked myself that very question and the answer I came up with put in motion a series of events leading to a significant change in my professional career."  

The big question is whether Closson will share the secrets that he has learned as part of the Oracle Exadata team.  I am not a lawyer, but I’m told that under several States "Right to Work" laws, employees are not always legally bound by non-disclosure agreements, especially when the non-disclosure relates to their core job function.  In plain English, breaking a non-disclosure agreement to poach intellectual property is unethical, but may not always  be illegal.  

Of course, it’s possible that Oracle may acquire EMC at some point, making this issue moot, but this defection may pose a threat to Oracle’s exclusive market for the Exadata-style architectures.  


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