Oracle sheds more light on database 12c, Exadata X3

'Pluggable' databases and massive in-memory storage are the key features of the new products

Oracle on Monday gave attendees of the OpenWorld conference in San Francisco a deeper look at its new 12c database and Exadata X3 machine, which were initially announced Sunday by CEO Larry Ellison .

The key feature of 12c, which is set for release sometime next year, is multitenancy, which enables users, if they desire, to create multiple "pluggable" databases that reside within a single database container, senior vice president Andy Mendelsohn said during a keynote address.

This constitutes "a fundamental re-architecture of the database," Mendelsohn added. "Now if I'm an administrator, I have one database overall to administer."

The pluggable database concept is "sort of like a Swiss Army knife," giving DBAs a flexible tool to run their environments, he said.

Database 12c also makes much more efficient use of hardware resources, saving companies money, Mendelsohn said.

For example, it incorporates a "heat map" feature that tracks how frequently different chunks of data are used, allowing customers to archive rarely accessed information on lower-cost mediums.

Database upgrades and patches are made simpler than in the past thanks to the pluggable database concept, Mendelsohn said. "When you [patch] that one container database, you effectively patch all of them."

Backup and recovery efforts benefit as well, allowing administrators to back up the system as one unit but recover at the pluggable database level.

Pluggable databases are also ideal for creating development and test environments, and are "perfect" for SaaS (software as a service) applications since they keep each customer's data private, Mendelsohn said.

"Each one of these pluggable databases is an entity that stands alone. It has all its own metadata and private data files," and as a result can be moved easily from one database system to another, Mendelsohn added in a follow-up session.

One key question Mendelsohn left unanswered was whether the multitenancy features will mean changes to Oracle's licensing model for the database; currently customers pay according to the number of processors the software runs on.

Prior to Mendelsohn's appearance, Oracle senior vice president Juan Loaiza took the stage to provide more details of the next-generation Exadata X3 database machine, which Ellison also announced Sunday.

The X3 systems contain large amounts of DRAM and flash cache, allowing data to be held in-memory versus read off disks, increasing performance dramatically, according to Oracle.

Loaiza also provided a sense of the market uptake for Exadata, which was first introduced in 2008.

There are now "thousands of deployed systems," ranging from petabyte-scale data warehouses to ones running transactional business applications from Oracle and SAP, he said. About half of the Exadata installed base to date is using it for data warehousing, with the other half running OLTP (online transaction processing) workloads, according to Loaiza.

He also sought to show audience members that Exadata is relatively easy to deploy, bringing on an executive from PayPal who described how the company took its Exadata from a pilot project to a "business decision platform" in just 60 days.

X3 systems are available now for use with any application certified for Oracle Database 11g R2 and Real Application Clusters, according to a statement. They are also "fully compatible" with previous Exadata versions, allowing customers to upgrade to X3, Oracle said. Hardware pricing is the same as the previous generation but that doesn't account for the large amounts of separately licensed Oracle software the systems run.

They are available in full, half, quarter and eighth-rack configurations, with the last being a new option aimed at smaller companies.

Loaiza's remarks avoided competitive trash talk of the kind Ellison dished out on Sunday when unveiling X3. In particular, Ellison singled out rival SAP's HANA in-memory database platform, calling its capacity "very small" in contrast to Exadata X3.

Ellison's remarks were "misleading to customers" and "completely false," SAP executive board member and technology chief Vishal Sikka said in an interview Monday.

SAP has created a 100TB HANA system using only DRAM and could upgrade it to 250TB if it desired, Sikka added.

SAP may discuss HANA's competitive positioning against Exadata further during its Tech Ed conference later this month.

(With reporting from Joab Jackson in San Francisco.)

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

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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