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Tuesday, 17 August 1999

PARALLEL READ/WRITE LOCKING AND MY ORACLE ADVENTURE

Back when Oracle 8i was a thing, Fibre Channel was all the rage and on the Oracle roadmap was Oracle Parallel Database, I was called into the Oracle HQ in Redwood City, Silicon Valley.

They'd pushed back the release of "Parallel" quarter after quarter and a couple senior engineers caught wind that I was the guy for doing custom built memory memory managers and I was doing big highly parallelised data structures on large SGI platforms. I had one data structure running on 16 racks of Silicon Graphics kit at a large data centre off highway 101 for an investment bank (aka hedge fund), and I'd earned a reputation for being able to do parallel distributted read/write locking of vast data structures with all CPU threads running at full speed and without any mutex locking or blocking. So, I was summoned to Silicon Valley "for a chat".

Oracle had this grand idea for Oracle 8i to share fibre channel LUNs between hosts, and your federated database would sit on one LUN with multiple Oracle 8i instances on separate machines all accessing the same database in parallel (hence the name 'Parallel'). Oracle at the time was actively influencing the specs of fibe channel (FCAL), but they just couldn't get it to work -- so I was called in so they could pick my brains. The visit was fun, but I was no dummy, and I certainly wasn't going to give up the secrets to how to build the worlds fastest computing systems.

I found the meeting quite entertaining and it descended into an argument over Oracle's outrageous pricing. On a multi-cpu system craylinked together with other multi-cpu systems, why should I pay Oracle a licensing fee for every damn CPU when we had called in Mark Gurry (the guy that wrote the book on Oracle Performance Tuning), tuned the crap out of Oracle so that it barely used a single CPU, maybe two under heavy load. I won the argument and secured special pricing for Oracle moving forward (possibly not what they had intended for our meeting - oh well, that's AP for you!)

A much more youthful looking me standing next to the Oracle lake after our meeting

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