About

Mooooo!

This was the blog site of flashdba.

Databases

In 1997, I started the first half of my career, working with applications and databases in various roles including developer, DBA, architect and consultant. In 2003, I joined my first startup, a software-as-a-service (SaaS) vendor based in central London and run by serial entrepreneur (now a famous venture capitalist) Mark Suster. I loved the startup culture and was convinced I’d be a millionaire within a couple of years. I wasn’t. However, I learned some very valuable lessons about teamwork, leadership, loyalty and the dangerous effects of tequila.

In 2007, I joined Oracle Corporation in the UK as a database subject matter expert specialising in high availability and performance tuning. This role often involved turning up at short notice to a Fortune 500 company who were having major issues with some technology stack which included the Oracle Database… and either fixing it, or proving that the database wasn’t the problem. These situations were often quite stressful, with hours of conference calls full of finger-pointing, wild accusations and theatrical threats. Every good engineer needs a full set of anecdotes about how complex systems failed – and after a few years in this role, my cup ranneth over.

It was during this time at Oracle that I became aware of a phenomenon: I would walk into a meeting room and there would be a whiteboard with lots of boxes and arrows drawn on it. Somebody would say to me, “We need to implement this” and I would be sent off to do just that, despite it being pretty obviously impossible. Who had created this ridiculous design? Why did they get to walk away before any of the hard facts hit home? Is it true that they got paid a lot more money than me?

I had discovered Presales.

Presales

In 2012, I surprised my colleagues (and myself) by leaving Oracle – and the comfort of the database industry – to join an All-Flash data storage company. Why did I do this? Two reasons really: the desire to move into presales and my excitement at the potential for All Flash Arrays (AFAs) to change the way that data is stored in enterprise data centres.

The rise of All-Flash, or “solid state”, storage was a tidal change in the enterprise storage industry, with users moving to replace all spinning magnetic media in their data centres with flash technology. All Flash Arrays delivered extremely high performance and yet, compared to high performance spinning disk arrays, used a fraction of the power, needed less cooling and had a much smaller data centre footprint. More importantly, they unleashed applications from the constraints of mechanical storage and let them function at the speed of flash. The I.T. industry needed this, because for decades storage (i.e. disk) had been the anchor that dragged back servers and networking and stopped us from reaping the true benefits of Moore’s Law.

I setup this blog at the start of my journey into All Flash, to try and join together the database world I knew with the strange and wonderful world of storage I had joined. My aim was always to educate readers about storage (and flash in particular) as well as occasionally indulge in my favourite hobby: watching Oracle Corporation to see how it behaved towards customers, competitors and the market in general.

Over the following seven years, I wrote a series of articles and blog posts trying to cover topics such as the fundamentals of storage, the economics, why disks suck, how flash actually works and which of the myths of storage need to be debunked (the full list of articles is available here). I also, completely by accident, became an authority on the use of Oracle Databases with 4k Advanced Format storage and became the unofficial biographer of Oracle’s Exadata Database Machine product (up until 2015, when I’d had enough). By the time I’d written my final post, flashdba.com had been read over a million times.

Sales

In the years after I joined the flash revolution, I saw huge changes both inside and out of the industry. The big dogs of enterprise storage (EMC, IBM, HP, NetApp) had to adapt or die – who could have imagined EMC being acquired by Dell? – while a number of startups appeared with the shared motto of “beat the big guys or die trying”. Meanwhile, the whole IT industry changed, with the rise of cloud computing and hyper-converged infrastructure being two examples.

But the biggest change came within me. After twenty years working in technical roles, I found that I no longer had the passion and commitment to keep up with every changing technology (I used to get excited about a new version of Oracle being released and what all the new features did, but now I could barely make an effort to read the press releases). But I still loved meeting customers, talking to senior executives and understanding how they were trying to use technology to improve their chances of success. I also loved the thrill of the chase that comes with working in a sales organisation. It was just time to stop carrying somebody else’s bag.

In a sales organisation, the sales exec has a quota – a target which they must hit every year. Hit the target and you make your commission; exceed it and magical things happen. But miss it at your peril – a repeat case of missing your target usually results in the end of your employment in that role. In sales terminology, we call a quota “carrying your bag” – and a sales exec is a bag carrrier. Everybody else (presales, solution architects, sales engineers, marketing, inside sales etc) plays their part in winning or losing deals, but the bag carrier is the one who stands or falls by the result.

It’s my theory that there are two types of presales people in this world: those who look at their sales partner and say “I could do that better” and those who don’t. It turns out I am one of the former. I quit presales and moved into sales in 2017, beginning the process which would result in the end of this blog. After all, I no longer have anything intelligent to say about the technical aspects of flash or databases… as every presales person knows, the first thing they do when you move into sales is give you a lobotomy. But to prove that I once knew a little bit about a little bit, I’m leaving this blog here as a reminder of what I used to know.

So this blog stands as a record of my journey into the murky world of storage and my eventual emergence from the other side, richer of knowledge and quite probably poorer of money. Thanks for reading.

Twitter: @flashdba        Email: flashdba @ gmail

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7 Responses to About

  1. Khwaja Imran says:

    Very nice article. Read each & every article with lot of interest. I have been a DBA for 9 years & have entered into a IT Manager role. I can now really think of suggesting & implementing the flash storage concept for my organization’s newly implemented Oracle ERP databases running SUN Sparc M4000/M5000.

    Regards
    Khwaja Imran

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  3. Hi Dominic here… Just curious did you ever mention who you are? Is the FlashDBA a mask of mystery?

    By the way you don’t have to say if you don’t want to and I won’t out you. Just curious for the reason.

    • flashdba says:

      Hello Dom, no it’s no big deal. When I first started blogging, shortly after leaving Oracle and joining Violin, I didn’t really have much to write about on the topic of flash memory… I was still learning the subject the hard way. So inevitably my first posts were all on the subjects I knew more about, such as Exadata. I’ve never disclosed anything confidential on that topic, nor any other related to my employment at Oracle, but a friend of mine in Club Ex-Oracle gave me some excellent advice and pointed out that since Oracle probably has more lawyers than Violin has employees it might be best not to poke the wasps’ nest, so to speak.

      I gave up on the idea of anonymity pretty early on but the name flashdba stuck and offers certain benefits, like being easier to remember and having a shorter URL. Also, I quite like the description in this dictionary definition from http://www.thefreedictionary.com/flash:

      flash (adj.)
      1. Happening suddenly or very quickly: flash freezing.
      2. Slang Ostentatious; showy: a flash car.
      3. Of or relating to figures of quarterly economic growth released by the government and subject to later revision.
      4. Of or relating to photography using instantaneous illumination.
      5. Of or relating to thieves, swindlers, and underworld figures.
      Idiom:
      flash in the pan
      One that promises great success but fails.

  4. Ken Fisher says:

    Thank-you for “Understanding Flash”. Give me a year or two to digest all this, and I’ll drop in again with a meaningful comment. B-)

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