Oracle Corp. is putting the finishing touches on an upgrade to its flagship database that is designed for use on computer grids, giving users higher levels of scalability and management, according to early beta testers.
Oracle 10G, which will be unveiled at OracleWorld in San Francisco Sept. 7, sets the style for computing that will eventually incorporate diverse data elements—including everything from e-mail to mobile devices and enterprise applications—that are distributed across a grid of interconnected servers. Early grid-computing components in the update include integrated messaging, heightened scalability and speed, and self-storage management capabilities.
At the virtual center of this universe is the database, enabling organizations to share the unused processing power of computers and databases over the Internet. In addition, it will enable users to push, pull and transact information from a grid, using it to alert people, form messages, engage in workflow or crunch algorithms. To that end, beta testers of the software said the database will ship with elements that will make it easier to deploy across grids, such as improved XML handling, enhanced Web services APIs and 8-exabyte file support.
Sources said that to make such extreme scalability possible, Oracle enhanced the RAC (Real Application Clusters) technology in its database, as well as improved the way it distributed SQL statements across a cluster in a blade server farm.
While Oracle officials, in Redwood Shores, Calif., declined to discuss this story, they cautioned that not all beta testers are given the same feature sets. As such, it should not be assumed that everything in beta will automatically make it into the final version.
In addition to scalability, beta testers said Oracle 10G will feature metadata-handling enhancements, in particular the ability to export definitions and other metadata through procedure calls. Sources said metadata improvements will also enable Transportable Data Spaces, an existing capability that was enhanced so data can be moved across servers from different companies.
An enhanced FlashBack feature will enable selected-statement recovery, obviating the need for full recoveries.
Self-storage management capabilities in Oracle 10G, whose final release date is not known, in the form of Big File Table Spaces is another new feature sources lauded. "We have a customer, a DBA; all she does all day is add data files," said an Oracle consultant and beta tester who declined to be named. "[With 10G], the storage parts of a database dont need as much attention. ... Being able to manage data files without hands-on interaction is wonderful."
But not all in the Oracle community are sold on grid computing. Cost scares many, combined with the fact that few enterprises need the huge capacity they promise. One person who uses Oracle databases extensively and who requested anonymity said Oracles promises of RAC invincibility havent held up. "The problem is, when you introduce new clusters, new machines to a system, your availability actually and statistically can go down," he said. "When you begin introducing new machines to this cluster, you introduce more points of something potentially going wrong."
Toronto Oracle User Group President and beta tester Craig Read said he doesnt expect Oracle to provide true grid support for at least five years in Oracle 12. "[Oracle 10G] sets the stage for Version 12, when Oracle will market a complete and unified messaging architecture," said Read, who is also an IT director at MTrilogix Inc., in Toronto. "Grid computing is a component of that vision. It is the right way to go if [Oracle] gets their pricing organized."