Oracle tries to step up on high-end databases

The database market leader is pushing several new technologies in an effort to make its software more scalable. But are users ready for what it's offering?

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Lukewarm Reception

But Tim Hall, a U.K.-based Oracle DBA, blogged that he was "a little underwhelmed" by the OpenWorld announcement. "It all seems a little irrelevant to me," Hall wrote, citing the price tags and high-end focus of the new products. "For me, this is like discussing the merits of a Lamborghini when I'm actually going to buy a Renault Clio."

And independent database analyst Curt Monash said that although the Database Machine and Exadata are impressive from a technical standpoint, he doesn't expect them to win over many Web 2.0 companies or other new users. The technologies make the most sense for businesses that already use Oracle's data warehousing products and "are content to pay Oracle prices," Monash said.

For companies that don't have money to spend on a turbocharged system like the Database Machine, Oracle is touting 11g's Advanced Compression option. In a session at OpenWorld, Oracle officials said the data compression technology can dramatically shrink database table sizes and boost read/write speeds by as much as three to four times in data warehouses as well as transaction databases.

In fact, Oracle claims that companies using Advanced Compression no longer need to move seldom- or never-used older data to archives. Instead, they can keep all that information in their production databases, according to Oracle officials.

But users haven't flocked to Advanced Compression yet. One reason is that it's not a free add-on: Licenses start at $11,500 per processor — a relatively high price in its own right.

In addition, the technology is available only to users of the year-old 11g Enterprise Edition, which has yet to be widely adopted. Andrew Mendelsohn, senior vice president of server technologies at Oracle, said that 75% of the company's database customers are running its 10g release, while another 20% are still using the even older 9i version.

For instance, LGR Telecommunications has built a pair of 300TB data warehouses for AT&T Inc., which stores its caller data records in them. But the databases, which run concurrently, are based on 10g and can't take advantage of Advanced Compression yet.

Hannes van Rooven, a technology manager at LGR, said during a presentation at OpenWorld that his company uses compression only to a limited extent now, although it does plan to increase its usage "extensively" in the future.

Intermap Technologies Inc. is running the spatial version of 11g for an 11TB database of mapping and imagery data that is expected to grow to 40TB by the first quarter of 2010. But Sue Merrigan, senior director of information management at Intermap, said that the company doesn't compress the data "because we're concerned it would lose its accuracy."

That wouldn't happen, Oracle officials said. But comments such as Merrigan's show that even among some of its loyal customers, the vendor still has a sales job to do on Advanced Compression — never mind the Database Machine and Exadata.

Chris Kanaracus of the IDG News Service contributed to this story.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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