Relational Database Expert Witness

qualifications of Philip Greenspun, updated March 2012
This document summarizes my qualifications to be an expert witness in lawsuits involving relational database management systems, such as Oracle.


Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1999. Bachelor's and Master's degrees from MIT as well.

My Ph.D. thesis was on the topic of using a relational database management system (RDBMS) to support Internet applications such as online communities.

Teaching Experience

I have taught all of the core Electrical Engineering and Computer Science courses at MIT. Designed and wrote the textbook for MIT Course 6.171, Software Engineering for Internet Applications (full text online; published in hardcopy by MIT Press). This is a database programming course in disguise and was very likely an MIT undergraduate's first encounter with the RDBMS and the SQL programming language (so I also wrote an SQL language tutorial).

I am the author of some additional computer science textbooks, including Database Backed Web Sites (Macmillan).

Database Design and Programming Experience

I started my first full-time programming job at the age of 14 in 1978 at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, building a non-relational database management system for scientific data being streamed back from the Pioneer Venus orbiter.

I built my first Oracle application in 1994 for Boston Children's Hospital. This was the world's first Web-based electronic medical record system, enabling doctors and nurses to review clinical data from a standard Web browser.

In 1995, I moved to Manhattan to supervise the construction of Hearst Corporation's Internet infrastructure. This required selecting an RDBMS, hiring Unix system and RDBMS administrators, developing data models for dozens of Internet applications, and writing SQL code embedded in Web page scripts.

Upon moving back to Boston, I refocused my energies on, an online community for photographers. The software behind the site, which I released as a free and open source toolkit to help other programmers building similar systems, turned out to be used by thousands of Web publishers worldwide. I founded, funded, and managed a support and service business for this software that grew to 80 programmers and $20 million in annual revenue. I supervised the development of at least 200 database-backed Internet applications in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

I continue as an active developer, consultant, design reviewer, and code reviewer of RDBMS-based applications, primarily Web services.

More: resume.

Specific Database Expert Witness Experience

I served in 2009 as an expert witness for an enterprise software vendor defending a $250 million claim by a relational database management system vendor (contract dispute), testifying in Delaware Chancery Court (video). I have served as an expert in a case involving a massively parallel relational database management system patent. I have compared database schemas in software copyright and trade secret cases (see this article on the Abstraction-Filtration-Comparison method).


For more information on my testifying experience and references, see my main software expert witness page.