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Will Oracle Up the Ante with New Database?

Oracle yesterday released a major new upgrade to its flagship database that pushes the envelope with advances in clustering and grid computing, storage management and support for large queries from data warehouses.

The availability of Oracle 11gR2 comes two years after the release of its last upgrade and is important for any Oracle shop that is looking to have the latest and greatest in the company's database technology (a look at those features can be found here).

The question is can Oracle, regarded as the database leader, convince its installed base to upgrade to the latest and greatest features? Or in these days of reduced IT spending, will enterprises migrate to alternatives including Microsoft's SQL Server, IBM's DB2 or open source databases such as those offered from EnterpriseDB, sponsor of Postgres, Ingres, and others affiliated with the burgeoning Open Database Alliance, initiated months back by MySQL founder Monty Widenius (see "MySQL Creators Move to Keep MySQL Open")?.

"Oracle continues to dominate the DBMS industry in market share and technology innovation," said Forrester Research analyst Noel Yuhanna. "Oracle has the most number of database features and no one disputes their technology leadership in this space. However, SQL Server and DB2 have been catching up with more advanced features which is definitely putting a lot of pressure on Oracle. But for now, they continue to enjoy their dominance, but have to be careful in the coming years."

Indeed, IBM and Microsoft are coming after Oracle from different vantage points. On one suggest example, as reported last month, I visited IBM's Thomas J. Watson Research Center in Hawthorne, N.Y., where the company launched its Smart Analytics System and coincidently reached an agreement to acquire leading predictive analytics supplier SPSS for $1.2 billon.

Meanwhile, Microsoft last week released the first Community Test Preview (CTP) of what it describes as its own "massively scalable" data warehouse solution, known as Project Madison. Based on Microsoft's acquisition of DATAllegro, Madison is the company's planned data warehouse appliance that the company said lets organizations scale their warehouses from as little as 50 gigabytes to over a petabyte of data. "Unlike its competitors, Madison offers hardware flexibility with configurations from the major hardware vendors and low cost through industry standard hardware," said Val Fontama, a product manager in Microsoft's SQL Server group in a blog posting last week.

Oracle's answer to that, the Oracle Database Machine, is an appliance-based package offered in partnership with Hewlett-Packard based on HP's  Xadata server and storage components launched last year. A user can query information that will cache the data across all the servers and run the in-memory parallel query, according to Oracle. "If you have a 10-node cluster, you can have a terabyte or two of memory in those clusters," said Andy Mendelsohn, Oracle's senior vice president of database server technologies during a conference call Tuesday announcing the release. "If you have data in your database that can be cached in a terabyte or so of memory, this in-memory parallel query technology will engage and it can be used."

But the battle will also be fought on the low end as well. SQL Server continues to grow in share and capability, while EnterpriseDB, which in addition to going after disaffected MySQL customers, was founded on the premise of convincing customers to move their Oracle databases to Postgres. "Our original founding was around providing an alternative database to Oracle, untangling the lock in that is created between the application and the database," said EnterpriseDB CEO Ed Boyajian. On the other end of the spectrum, Boyajian told me that they are seeing nearly 10,000 downloads of its migration wizard for those looking to move apps from MySQL to Postgres. "It's not insignificant, and that's just for the migration wizard," he said, admitting it remains to be seen how many actually make the switch.

As Oracle gets ready to close its acquisition of Sun Microsystems things should get interesting. With all of these options, what's on your plate? Is your shop considering a migration or staying put? Drop me a line at [email protected].

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 09/02/2009

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