Oracle aims at mainstream with updated in-memory database

The software can boost application response times

Oracle Corp. today released an update to the TimesTen in-memory database it acquired a few months ago and plans to promote the product to a broader audience of enterprise customers.

In-memory databases typically reside in the midtier alongside applications and store data in main memory rather than on disk, allowing it to be retrieved very quickly. They are used for applications where extremely fast response times are critical, such as in the financial services, telecommunications and networking industries.

Investment houses use TimesTen to store current stock price information, for example, which they need to quickly make trading decisions. Mobile operators use the software for billing, so that they can quickly determine whether a caller has enough prepaid credit to place a call.

TimesTen Inc. was based in Mountain View, Calif., and had 90 employees and about 1,500 customers, including J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., Sprint Corp. and United Air Lines Inc. Oracle announced that it had bought the company in June.

Oracle now hopes to sell the TimesTen product beyond vertical markets and into the general enterprise. To do so it will need to persuade companies that they need to buy a specialized type of database to boost their application response times.

An in-memory database could be useful for providing up-to-the-second information for business intelligence applications, according to Tim Payne, vice president of technology marketing for Oracle EMEA. It could also provide faster access to customer records in a call center, so a company could provide faster service to its best customers, he said.

"It's not a technology that's applicable to every application. It's designed for where you can store all your data, or a subset of it, in memory, and where you need a very fast response time," he said. "We think with Oracle's distribution channel and the latest release of TimesTen we can now make in-memory databases mainstream."

Version 6 of the product, available for download, offers a fourfold increase in cache update performance, according to Oracle. Cache load times have also significantly improved. The product now works with the latest version of Oracle's database, Oracle 10g Release 2, and supports newer SQL and Java application programming interfaces, including JDBC 3.0, Payne said.

Oracle plans to make a future release of TimesTen compatible with its Real Application Clusters technology. It will also be available in more languages, Payne said, although he couldn't be specific.

Pricing starts at $12,000 per CPU for the base TimesTen product with up to 2GB of memory. It rises to $18,000 for up to 10GB of memory and $24,000 for unlimited memory, Payne said.

Oracle has "unbundled" two features of the product and now sells them separately: The TimesTen to TimesTen replication software and the Cache Connect to Oracle software are both $6,000 to $12,000 per CPU, depending on the database size.

A typical project using TimesTen is deployed on two four-CPU servers and would carry a list price of approximately $200,000, according to Oracle.

TimesTen also works with other databases, although Oracle's is the only one supported "out of the box," TimesTen executives said at the time of the acquisition. The product will continue to work with other databases for as long as customers demand it, Payne said.

TimesTen is one of only a small handful of in-memory databases. Its main competition is from custom systems built in-house, James Groff, TimesTen's former CEO, said in June. IBM and Sybase Inc. claim to offer comparable capabilities, as does database start-up Ants Software Inc. in Burlingame, Calif.

Copyright © 2005 IDG Communications, Inc.

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