% fortune -ae paul murphy

Oracle's Market Demographics

In looking at database options for a client I'm struck by the age gap Oracle seems to face. is it just my imagination and small sample, or does Oracle have a demographics problem?

Oracle likes to hire people in their late twenties or early thirties who combine attitude with some sales skills, but do you know anyone in that age bracket who doesn't work for Oracle and nevertheless favors the company's database products? I don't.

People know what they learn first, and then fight to maintain the value of that knowledge - that's a key reason we do so many foolish things in IT: the technology evolves much faster than skillsets. As a result people act as a brake on change, trying to force whatever the new thing is into the mold set by whatever extinct technology they learnt to work with first. That's why so many of today's middle managers, who learnt their craft in the nineties and report to people who learnt theirs in the seventies and eighties, spend so much of the shareholder's time and money applying ideas and technologies that are long past their best before dates.

That can work for some sellers. IBM, for example, gets most of its revenues from people whose work experience in IT came in intensely heirarchial mainframe environments where the company's imprimatur guaranteed professional acceptance and promotability. I don't think it's working for Oracle. My theory is that by promoting the young and the driven over the technically competent it has cut itself off from new computer science graduates and other technical types who like a technology for what it does, and therefore gets no support from people who didn't get their defining systems experience in the late eighties or early ninties.

I imagine Oracle has some research on this, but it's not available to me and I don't know, therefore, whether the group I was with might not have been peculiar in some way - but the argument hangs together and I'm inclined to leave it on the flagpole until someone tells me different. If its true, of course, it's bad news for Oracle - and good news for open source because the absence of Oracle from the suggestion list let the group I was with split into two camps: the predictable Microsoft bigots and the free thinkers who suggested we look at PostGresSQL, mySQL, Firebird, even BerkeleyDB -all open source.

Paul Murphy wrote and published The Unix Guide to Defenestration. Murphy is a 25-year veteran of the I.T. consulting industry, specializing in Unix and Unix-related management issues.