Part I of a lightly-edited partial transcript of a panel discussion titled “Making SQL Great Again (SQL is Huuuuuge)” at YesSQL Summit 2016 organized by the Northern California Oracle Users Group (NoCOUG) at Oracle Corporation’s headquarters in Redwood City, California. NoCOUG is the longest-running and most-active Oracle users group in the world. An individual membership only costs $95 and entitles the member to free admission to the four consecutive quarterly NoCOUG conferences (one-day events) that follow the membership’s start date, the winter conference being the first day of YesSQL Summit. You can become a member at

The panelists were Andrew (Andy) Mendelsohn (Executive Vice-President, Database Server Technologies, Oracle), Graham Wood (Architect, Oracle), Bryn Llewellyn (Distinguished Product Manager, Oracle), Hermann Baer (Senior Director, Product Manager, Oracle), Steven Feuerstein (Architect, Oracle). The moderator was Kyle Hailey, an Oracle ACE Director and member of the OakTable Network. The complete video of the panel discussion has been published by Oracle Corporation on the Oracle Channel on YouTube.

Part I Part II Part III Part IV Part V Part VI Part VII

[Panelists introduce themselves and tell their stories.]

Andy Mendelsohn: The short story is I joined Oracle in 1984 when Oracle was actually a seven year old company. I was a developer in version 5. So I didn’t do the original Oracle B-tree index but when we rewrote the lower half of the product in version 6 which was in 1988, yes,  I wrote the B-tree index there which is still used today inside Oracle. I’m sure lots of bugs have been fixed and everything else. But then I also worked in the SQL layer of the product and, you know, did all sorts of management after that.

Graham Wood: Hi, I’m Graham Wood. I have been with Oracle quite as long as Andy. I joined in 1986 but I did start using Oracle in 1984 which was Oracle version 2 on a PDP-11 if anybody remembers those. So, I used some of the pre-Andy index code. It has improved a lot since then I have to say. It did work and well, SQL , one of the things about the SQL we wrote then, you could still run it now against the database, that’s one of the strengths of having a standardized language.

Bryn Llewellyn: Hello, I’m Bryn. I started with Oracle in 1990. It might be more interesting to say what I did before and how I ended up with Oracle. I started off writing FORTRAN programs in things like image analysis and then I had a phase in Norway writing object-oriented programs in Simula, the language that pre-dated Smalltalk and C++ and finally, in that period, I was on a team who were doing the requirements analysis and general architecture for a system for handling patient records in hospitals. It was all a paper study at first but one thing was clear, that was that people were going to have to operate on smallish pieces of data in the way that we come to think of that leads to joining, this, that, and the other, and we worked out of course immediately we needed a relational database but we also needed what was then called RPC—Remote Procedure Call. I suppose “stored procedures” is the term we hear now and, then, Oracle didn’t have it, Sybase did so we chose Sybase; it was as simple as that. Then later of course, things switched around but then I found that when I returned to England and needed a job I made some speculative approaches and I had heard of Oracle; here I am.

Hermann Baer: Good morning everybody. I think I have to confess, out of these panelists, I’m the rookie here. I joined Oracle in 92 but, just like Bryn, before joining Oracle, I actually was busy writing FORTRAN programs trying to simulate fatigue management in three-dimensional models of composite materials to ensure that airplanes don’t fall of the sky and, well, so far, we were partially successful with that and when I joined Oracle in 92 I have to say that I am actually one of the guys who wrote “SELECT * FROM EMP” as my very first SQL statement and this was a little bit of an epiphany for me because in that very moment I thought about what it would have meant for me to actually do that in FORTRAN. Just defining the variables for the output would have been a nightmare and I wouldn’t claim that I ever was a very successful or good developer so it would have been probably way more error prone than just using SQL as a language. As of today, you know, over the years I was with Oracle since 92, joined headquarters in 99 on the product management side. Now trying to think about the things to make Oracle even better and, when I look at what happened with the relational system  and with SQL as a language, I have to say that I think I’m getting better with what I’m doing and what I know about SQL but I’m not so sure that I’m faster in catching up or whether the database and SQL is faster in actually enhancing and introducing functionality. So that’s me in a nutshell.

Steven Feuerstein: Hello, my name is Steven Feuerstein and I am “the man who knows only PL/SQL,” more or less. I am really lucky, back in 94, I wrote a book about PL/SQL and, because PL/SQL is such a simple, powerful, readable language, I can deal with it. That was nice. And so, since then, I’ve really done nothing but PL/SQL. Rejoined Oracle back in March of 2014 and I’m leading a team of advocates, evangelists, to help our user community leverage SQL and  PL/SQL and other Oracle Database application development features more fully because, as some of you may know, Oracle database is packed with all sorts of amazing goodies and we don’t really use very much of them. And I think one of the biggest challenges we on the stage have, we at Oracle have, and also you as experienced users of the technology is to not only leverage these analytics, model clause, pattern-matching, PL/SQL advanced features—such as they are—but also help your fellow workers learn how to use the stuff more effectively and that will make this whole platform more successful with those other developers out there like JavaScript developers and so on who need a strong database but mostly don’t understand how to leverage SQL to do it.

Why are we even having this discussion? Why is it necessary to defend SQL? Are NoSQL and Hadoop temporary phenomena that will eventually fade away just like object-oriented database management systems?

The NoSQL folks claim that NoSQL is “web scale”. Are relational database management systems “web scale”? How does PL/SQL fit into the performance picture? Is PL/SQL “web scale”?

Why does Oracle Corporation sell a NoSQL DBMS?

If SQL is the best language for Big Data, what explains the rise of Hadoop?

What is the Oracle Developer Advocates team doing to defend RDBMS?

What is Oracle doing to fend of NoSQL and Hadoop?

Copyright © 2016 Iggy Fernandez