Oracle pushes into database-as-a-service

But an in-memory database option announced Sunday won't be out until next year

Oracle has hyped its new 12c database as faster and more powerful than ones that have come before, and now it's highlighting the release's ability to easily serve up multiple databases of varying size and scope according to a particular user's needs.

Many Oracle customers are excited about 12c, and for a particular reason, said Andy Mendelsohn, senior vice president of database server technologies, during a keynote Monday at the OpenWorld conference in San Francisco.

"Customers are telling us they want to go to database-as-a-service, on-premise," he said.

Version 12c, which became generally available in June, includes an already well-publicized feature called "pluggable" databases, where many discrete databases sit inside a single container database, an approach that Oracle says can radically reduce operational overhead.

Mendelsohn described a scenario in which an IT department could offer end users a menu of database options.

A bronze tier would be for simple backups of less important databases, while a silver level would add in Oracle's Data Guard for additional security. A top-level gold tier could include Real Application Clusters along with Data Guard. Users would also choose from standard database sizes from the menu.

Mendelsohn and another Oracle employee demonstrated a new self-service provisioning tool that is being released along with 12c.

"In a couple seconds you're up and running," Mendelsohn said, as the demo showed the selection of a database was possible with a few clicks. "Pretty amazing, right?"

Meanwhile, databases could also be easily "unplugged" from various tiers and moved to others as priorities change, Mendelsohn added.

The pluggable database architecture also offers a new take on multitenancy, a feature used in SaaS (software-as-a-service). Rather than have all customers share a single application instance, they would each get a pluggable database, Mendelsohn said.

"This huge barrier of entry for people to become SaaS providers is all gone," he added.

That said, Oracle's technology stack has already served as a foundation for many SaaS vendors, and presumably Oracle will look to move them all onto the latest releases, including Database 12c.

One such vendor is Salesforce.com, which recently announced it would commit long term to Oracle technologies. The pact also publicly buried the hatchet between Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff and Oracle CEO Larry Ellison.

Elsewhere in his keynote, Mendelsohn provided further details on the Oracle Database Backup Logging Recovery Appliance, which was unveiled briefly by Ellison on Sunday.

The appliance, which is due out "sometime next year," can scale out to petabytes of data, he said. It differs from and improves on past backup products, allowing users to restore a system back to any point in time they choose.

Oracle also announced a cloud-based backup service as well as the ability to replicate their Database Backup Logging Recovery Appliance to Oracle's cloud.

Mendelsohn didn't touch upon Oracle's public cloud database-as-a-service, which was announced in 2011. Ellison is expected to discuss that offering as well as other Oracle public cloud services during a Tuesday keynote at OpenWorld.

Nor did Mendelsohn speak at length about an upcoming in-memory option for the Oracle database, which Ellison also announced Sunday.

That option is now in "pre-beta stage" in Mendelsohn's development group, and will be coming out next year, he said.

Oracle is hoping the in-memory option will help it fend off interest in competing in-memory databases, such as SAP's HANA. SAP is hoping that its customers who now use Oracle to run SAP applications will switch to HANA.

Oracle's database architecture is "bloated" compared to HANA and the in-memory option could mean more work for database administrators, SAP said in an emailed statement.

In addition, "while Oracle was working on 12c, SAP HANA matured from a database to a platform to perform application functions close to the database -- e.g. predictive libraries, business functions, graph processing, geo spatial processing, text processing engines and app server capabilities in memory," SAP said. "We are ready for the next generation apps that will need these application management capabilities natively in database. We believe that they are really behind on this."

While Mendelsohn spoke repeatedly about strong early interest in 12c, typically most Oracle database customers wait quite some time to upgrade, in the interest of letting others work out any remaining bugs.

There are other considerations as well, said John Matelski, CIO of DeKalb County, Georgia, in an interview.

"With a lot of the security enhancements and multitenancy, there's a lot of excitement about [12c]," said Matelski, who is also vice president of the Independent Oracle Users Group. "But organizationally you can't just make a leap. We have a good number of folks that have started the planning phases, but even the planning phase takes six to nine months."

Other factors are somewhat out of Oracle's hands, namely how long it takes for third-party application vendors to certify their products for a new release, Matelski added. Until that happens, "we know we'll get support from Oracle but you don't know you're going to get the support from other vendors," he said.

Chris Kanaracus covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Chris' email address is Chris_Kanaracus@idg.com

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Chris Kanaracus

IDG News Service
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