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5/5/2008
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After Oracle, Former Sleepycat CEO Hunts For Next Gig

Mike Olson says he'd like to step back from the database world and explore the world of cloud computing.

Mike Olson, the former CEO and chief spokesman for Sleepycat Software, producer of the Berkeley DB embedded database system produced by Sleepycat, is hunting for a new gig. He has left Oracle two years after the Redwood Shores database company acquired his company.

The "amicable" parting occurred in mid-January. Olson left his job as VP of embedded products, a post that covered, in addition to Berkeley DB: the XML version of Berkeley DB that implements the XQuilla data access system; the TimesTen in memory database; the InnoDB data storage engine, currently used by MySQL, from the Finnish company, Inno Oy; and Oracle Lite Edition, the embeddable version of Oracle.

Olson hasn't previously commented on his experience but Matt Asay, VP of business development at Alfresco and organizer of the annual Open Source Business Conference in San Francisco, had this to say about Olson in a blog Feb. 7: "I've never heard a negative word out of his mouth about his two-year stay with Oracle, either in public or private. Mike is class and gave to his employer what was due."

In his first discussion of his experience at Oracle, Olson said last week: "As a company, Sleepycat wanted Berkeley DB to be hugely successful. ... [Once it became part of Oracle] we were able to reach out globally to people we couldn't touch as a small company."

Most of the employees who were part of Sleepycat "are still part of Oracle, even with my departure," Olson noted. "We may have lost one or two, but the vast majority are still there."

More to the point, Olson said, "I like Oracle a lot. I have enormous respect and affection for the people there."

So why did he leave?

"I just wanted to take a break. I'm putting the tools down," he said.

Olson gave himself six months to spend more time with his family, get in some hiking and skiing the way he's always wanted, and look around the technology industry for the next thing he wanted to do.

He is one of the original developers of Postgres at the University of California at Berkeley. He was recruited to Sleepycat as the first full-time employee, however, because the open source system had so many users someone needed to figure out technical support and ongoing, regular development. He did little of the development work on Berkeley DB but he could talk technology with Berkeley DB users. He was hired to talk to customers, organizes sales and marketing, technical support, community governance, and all the other things that most members of a development team have little interest in doing.

Now, he'd like to step back from the database world and explore another technology vein. "I've been doing database for 22 years... There's lots of interesting new stuff happening in the industry. Like everybody else, I'm trying to figure out what the cloud [cloud computing] means, how apps will be built," he said.

Regardless of which way he turns, he's likely to continue to praise Oracle. "The company was gracious and supportive while I was there," he said, "and gracious as well when I left."

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