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Will Oracle Database 11g lead to a customer stampede?

New features make a compelling case, even if the trendy seek elsewhere

By Eric Lai
July 5, 2007 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - With Web 2.0, software as a service (SaaS) and open source grabbing all of the headlines, launches of enterprise infrastructure software that were once major IT events now sometimes seem like forgotten affairs. Certainly the new millennium marked a downturn in interest for traditional, monolithic back-end software.

Yet, boosted by virtualization, there appears to be plenty of life in old-school offerings. According to its 2007 global IT market forecast, IDC Corp. predicts (PDF format) that spending on infrastructure software will grow 9% this year, faster than any other software category.

In this "diminished" environment, Oracle Corp.'s pending release of its upgraded 11g database may not grab the imagination of the technorati, but it remains significant to a vastly underestimated group of IT users.

The global database market grew 14.2% last year to total $15.2 billion, according to Gartner Inc.

Oracle, which released its last major database upgrade, 10g, four years ago, already holds almost half the market. That's more than double the share of second-place IBM.

The official launch of 11g is set for next Wednesday, July 11, in a New York City ceremony overseen by Oracle President Charles Philips.

Publicly, Oracle has for the most part avoided specifics, saying that 11g will offer improvements in high availability, performance, scalability and manageability.

Tidbits it has revealed include free migration and management tools that will let administrators oversee non-Oracle databases at the same time they manage their Oracle ones. Oracle has also said that 11g will have new compression technology that could potentially reduce customers' storage demands by two-thirds, the ability to store unstructured data faster than traditional file systems, and better partitioning.

Fleshing out the details

Web accounts by beta testers and others are now confirming those reports.

According to what appears to be a presentation by Oracle Vice President of Technology Mark Townsend, many of the new features are in the area of "change assurance."

These help companies save money and testing time when migrating to new hardware or making configuration changes.

For instance, features such as database replay and SQL replay let DBAs view how changes in the database or SQL code affect performance. 11g will also let users set up test environments using snapshot standbys and help automate rolling database upgrades.

Other features include online table and index redefinition, support for online hot patching and continuous availability of online applications even when they are in the midst of an upgrade, and automatic diagnostic workflow to fix problems faster.

In the area of information life-cycle management (ILM), 11g will allow DBAs for the first time to partition by interval, ref or virtual column. It also adds a new composite way to partition.

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