Oracle on Database: It’s On. And They’re Not Kidding.

Oracle is the company that led the industry into making RDBMS the data persistence vehicle of choice, and though its flagship is still Number One, many other topics floated around as 35,000 people attended Oracle Open World (OOW) in San Francisco recently. The spotlight stayed firmly planted: “What will Larry say about clouds/IBM/Fusion apps?”; Marc Benioff and Larry; Arnold and Larry. But if there’s anything Larry Ellison is passionate about, even as he sets his sights on IBM (hardware) and SAP (apps) – his two most important competitors, he said at the Churchill Club recently – it’s database, and he’s energized by the appliance opportunity. Andy Mendelsohn, SVP of Database Server Technologies put it simply in a conversation: “the only product Larry has spoken of in the last 3 earnings calls is Exadata.” He is more involved than in recent years, and that means one thing: everyone else had better watch out. What analysts learned about the new release makes that very clear: Oracle has been busy, and there is a lot of exciting new technology coming.

Still, at OOW the main tent venues, Moscone North and South, were filled with applications speeches, apps partners on the massive show floor, and apps customers. No database. Larry used the event’s first keynote on his comedy routine with Scott McNealy, bashing IBM. The next day, Chuck Philips and Safra Katz squandered their Monday keynote on awkward handoffs and disconnected stories. HP’s Ann Livermore followed with a sales pitch that sent throngs to the exits. But on Tuesday Thomas Kurian nailed the “full stack” story, despite the odd staging decision to invent a fictitious customer for demos and invite real customers on stage to comment on it, instead of discussing their own successes. Kurian’s pitch became overlong, but was well done otherwise. Then came Michael Dell, who copied HP’s themes – we’re green, we’re saving money with consolidation – and got  the same result in massive crowd departures. Larry ambled onstage for a brief appearance to thank Michael, and pointed out that Oracle has 20,000 Dell servers. I concluded that Michael can now model his lost revenue as the replacement cycle rolls on and Sun rolls in. On Wednesday, Larry returned, and spent a lot of time on his Exadata pitch, the Governator, and some vague armwaving about Fusion apps.

The usual database hyperbole was in evidence: banners like “the first OLTP database machine” are laughable, as is “first flash-optimized machine.” As always, there is plenty to take issue with in Oracle’s claims and headlines – but the quibbles will be forgotten. Larry says it loud, and it gets remembered. That’s what matters at events like this – few checks are written for purchase on the spot, but the impressions are made, mainstream headlines appear, and the engine rolls on. A block away in Moscone West, there was another set of presentations, partners, customers and competitors talking about what made Oracle the behemoth it is today. Data. Database. Database tools. And a well populated show floor to match the floor show we’d seen on the main stage.

For the database analyst community, there was also an effective and rich day of presentations off in a nearby hotel. And that was time very well spent. What was covered? There’s a new flagship release: 11gR2, which shipped  9/1 on Linux, will arrive on most other platforms in Q4 2009, and will run on Windows next year. And of course, there’s v2 of Exadata: the sequel (pun intended), featuring Sun machines as HP gets shoved off the boat. V2 starts to ship at the end of October, and versions with 2Tb SATA drives will be available in December. The positioning of all the database versions is about lowering costs, and it was consistently hammered home throughout the day to us as much as it was to conference attendees. There was a lot of tech talk too, from a substantial array of new features and enhancements, deployed in various product versions from RAC to EE to Exadata. Here’s just a taste:

  • Hybrid Columnar Compression
  • Smart Flash Cache
  • High performance in memory parallel query (PQ)
  • Online Application Upgrades
  • Real time SQL monitoring
  • Simplified RAC install
  • RAC One Node – packaging RAC stuff but at lower cost
  • RAC support for Oracle VM
  • ASM cluster file system
  • Secure backup (don’t use Symantec anymore)
  • TimesTen (PL/SQL support)
  • Berkeley DB
  • Enterprise  Manager
  • App Express and SQL Developer 2.0
  • Audit Vault support for DB2 and Sybase
  • Database Vault (for SAP), Transparent Data Encryption for Oracle Apps

This is a huge list, and blog posts that get much longer than this one are too long. Other posts will tackle some of these topics, but not all. I will comment soon on the recent TPC benchmark result Oracle is talking about – they’ve been negative about TPC for a while, but now they have one to tout, and the hyperbole reaches its apex in that discussion. If you want to be sure I tackle a favorite feature/function of yours here, please leave me a comment and I’ll do my best to get to it soon. But the net takeaway for me was this: Oracle is treating this as a very important release. They’re locked and loaded. It’s going to be a fascinating year.

Published by Merv Adrian

Independent information technology market analyst and consultant, 40 years of industry experience, covering software in and around the data management space.

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