Sybase joins in-memory database fray

Sybase's flagship database can now run entirely within memory

The new version of Sybase's flagship database system software, released Wednesday, will be the first version that can be run entirely within working memory.

Version 15.5 of the Sybase ASE (Adaptive Server Enterprise) has an option to run in-memory databases, said Peter Thawley, a Sybase senior director and architect.

Sybase joins other database vendors in offering in-memory capability. Oracle also offers an in-memory database, Oracle TimesTen In-Memory Database 11G, from a company it acquired in 2005.

IBM also started offering this capability in 2008, with its solidDB, also the result of a company acquisition.

The in-memory approach involves placing the entire database within a server's working memory, rather than storing it on disk. This cuts the time it takes to write data to, or read data from, the disk, which typically can take two to four milliseconds. An in-memory write or read can take less than a millisecond. (The changes can then later be committed to disk, or not, as per the administrator's preference).

Today's largest transactional systems, such as those found in the financial community, can do as many as 300,000 to 400,000 transactions per second, and that number is expected to balloon to over a million per second in the years to come, Thawley said. In many cases, the database disk writes and reads are the performance bottlenecks to such systems.

In-memory databases can also be used by government and corporate intelligence organizations, to quickly analyze terabytes of information.

In beta tests running an in-memory ASE database, customers experienced performance gains of three to four times the speed of their regular databases, Thawley claimed.

Sybase executives state that their in-memory technology is superior to other approaches insofar that running a Sybase in-memory database does not require unique API (application programming interface) on behalf of the applications that will be using that database.

Most in-memory databases require a specialized calls, where ASE can be accessed through the standard T-SQL (Transact-SQL) language used to access ASE database, Thawley noted.

During the ASE setup, an administrator can choose the option to run a database in-memory, and a single database system can run a mix of in-memory and disk-base databases. The software has no upper limit of how much RAM can be used for an in-memory database.

Other new features of ASE 15.5 include integration with IBM's Tivoli Storage Manager, which should help with automated backups. This version switches to a new, presumably more efficient compression technology, called FastLZ. Better support for temporary databases has also been added, useful for load-balancing.

Also, this version of a ASE is the first to feature the ability to do timestamps with microsecond accuracy, a step up from the millisecond time-stamping former versions offered.

Pricing for ASE starts at US$1495, for the Small Business Edition.

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