Data-Grid Provider Finds Oracle and .NET

Oracle Corp. to acquire Tangosol Inc., company’s Coherence Data Grid for .NET will add value to SOA solutions.

Oracle Corp.'s pending acquisition of data-grid provider Tangosol Inc. could bolster the software company's middleware portfolio, but it remains to be seen what impact it will have on similar technology it acquired two years ago.

Early to the market in 2001 with a Java-based "clustered cache" platform, Tangosol today is a 30-person company based in Somerville, Mass., and is considered a top contender among the data grid pure-plays. The product also comes in a .NET implementation, announced just before the Oracle deal, which is expected to close this month for an undisclosed sum.

Tangosol offers an in-memory distributed data cache that lets companies store live information on multiple servers, essentially bringing it out of back-end systems (databases) and closer to applications. The Tangosol data grid, Coherence, serves high-performance environments in financial services, hospitality, logistics and other industries that demand real-time analytics, events and extreme transaction processing.

Adding to TimesTen
Tangosol Coherence will strengthen Oracle's service-oriented architecture (SOA) and data management middleware stack. "I think it's a brilliant move on their part," says Mike Gilpin, vice president and research director at Forrester Research. However, Oracle's acquisition of TimesTen nearly two years ago included an in-memory database technology that performs many of the same functions. The difference is TimesTen's is not based on a distributed platform, asserts Gilpin.

"Although you could have it running on multiple nodes of the network, the code wasn't designed from the ground up so that all of the nodes are communicating all the time and synchronizing their content," he says.

Tangosol designed cache coherence into its technology from the start. Even so, TimesTen can be used to solve some of the same extreme transaction processing problems, "and that's a little confusing for customers," says Gilpin.

On the other hand, he says, someone at the developer level who knows they need to make information available coherently in a cache around the network will immediately recognize that Tangosol's technology applies to that problem, and TimesTen's doesn't. Asked whether Oracle will de-emphasize TimesTen moving forward, an Oracle spokesperson pointed RDN toward a document on the company's site that states in part: "Tangosol Coherence will provide Oracle TimesTen with distributed caching and clustering, increasing its ability to scale out capacity on demand." The document also states that the acquisition will not "impact any existing project, deployment or services engagement."

Coherence for .NET
The Coherence Data Grid for .NET lets developers connect into the data grid and consume all its services: caching, parallel processing and general indication, which is the ability to submit work to the data grid so that it can be distributed and executed in parallel. Those capabilities are accessed through a .NET API.

The API is very lightweight and 100 percent written in .NET, says Jason Howes, a Tangosol software engineer. "There are no external dependencies like you might see with other products that claim to be compatible with both .NET and Java." The API should also be very familiar to .NET developers, he says. "It's not a direct port of our Java API."

The .NET product is built on Tangosol's PIF/POF technologies. Portable Object Format (POF) is a portable serialization format that is platform- and language-independent, according to the company. Portable Indication Format (PIF) is a light layer built on top of POF that's used for remote indication, similar to CORBA Web services.

SOA on the Rise
Tangosol developed the .NET version of Coherence in response to demand from the financial services sector. Wall Street clients are asking for the .NET functionality, often with regard to client applications that need to access Java-based servers, says Peter Utzschneider, Tangosol's vice president of marketing. Wachovia and another unnamed company are putting these systems into production this quarter.

SOA infrastructure is another driver for the .NET implementation. "Last year we had Wells Fargo, Putnam, Wachovia and Starwood Hotels all come out and say that they're standardizing on Coherence for SOA," he says. "Any company that has a big move towards SOA will have to consider what their strategy is around providing ubiquitous access to data.

"Between our technology and a very good data-abstraction layer providing data as a service, you need to have multi-language support," he says, "so the application developers are writing to a service that's defined and don't have to concern themselves with the underlying data sources, the impact of what they want to do, or the other consumers of that data."

More Opportunities
Despite Oracle's embrace of extreme transaction processing, information as a service presents a huge opportunity for this type of technology, agrees Forrester's Gilpin.

"We're seeing a lot of increased SOA infrastructure for information services, not just the well-understood concept of transactional services. Companies are starting to look at read-only information services," he says.

Coherence Data Grid pricing starts at around $20,000. Coherence Data Grid for .NET costs $200 per concurrent user.

About the Author

Kathleen Richards is the editor of and executive editor of Visual Studio Magazine.

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