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Oracle 11gR2 Database Released

Oracle released the first major update of its flagship database in two years with an upgrade focused on server consolidation, improved storage and extended data warehouse performance. But it remains to be seen what percentage of Oracle's installed base or other enterprises will move to the latest version.

The release of Oracle Database 11g Release 2   is consistent with the company's longstanding process of upgrade cycles. Oracle typically launches a new version and follows up a year or so later with a refined update. The company reported that it's confident this release will appeal to many organizations that have been on the sidelines.

"It's really the release that the masses of our installed base will be moving to as they go to the 11g family of databases," said Andy Mendelsohn, Oracle's senior vice president of database server technologies during a conference call Tuesday announcing the release.

Only 18 percent of Oracle shops have upgraded to 11gR1 from earlier versions, according to estimates from Forrester Research. "So far 11g adoption has been slow," Forrester analyst Noel Yuhanna said. "Many organizations feel that they can't keep up with new features, and would rather stay with an older release."

Yuhanna said there are still compelling reasons for Oracle customers to upgrade. "We find that with every new release Oracle is improving the manageability, performance and security of databases, which not only lowers administration efforts, defers hardware upgrades resulting in cost savings, but also improves security to defend against growing data theft and attacks," he said.  For example, Oracle 11gR2 makes database consolidation simpler and more manageable, improves unplanned downtime of applications and data warehouse queries, he noted.

A major feature that beta customers of Oracle 11gR2 found appealing, he added, was the new cluster file system that extends beyond Oracle databases to offer a general-purpose file system, designed to reduce storage costs. "With this file system you can store files, database files and the database all in one," Yuhanna said. "It makes use of storage more efficiently."

Another key feature touted by Oracle is its support for Real Application Clusters (RAC), its higher end clustering solution designed to let organizations consolidate their database pools." We added a lot of automation to that in the release, and we've measured huge improvements in our ability to install and configure and grow and shrink these clusters," Oracle's Mendelsohn said.

Oracle has also added a lower cost alternative, RAC One Node, which provides a new database option that lets organizations consolidate less mission-critical databases, while offering RAC-based redundancy and availability, Oracle said. "It lets you get most of the availability benefits of RAC and lets you use RAC for deploying these smaller applications that run on single servers, and do it at a lower cost," Oracle's Mendelsohn said.

"A lot of customers are talking about this feature, since it brings improved availability to even those smaller or less critical apps," Forrester's Yuhanna said.

Besides support for files, Oracle has also focused on improving the use of storage in the new release. The company said it has improved its partitioning capability as well as the ability to compress data by two to four times, a feature that will appeal to organizations using tiered storage, Mendelsohn said.

On the data warehouse front, Oracle said the new release, when used with the company's Oracle Database Machine, offers faster query performance, up to 10x. The Oracle Database Machine, launched last year, is an appliance-based package offered in partnership with Hewlett Packard based on HP's Xadata server and storage components.

Mendolsohn said a user can query information that will cache the data across all the servers and run the in-memory parallel query. "If you have a 10-node cluster, you can have a terabyte or two of memory in those clusters," he said. "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."

While these features should all be welcome to large enterprises who can afford it, Oracle is known for steep licensing fees and charges for numerous extras. One of the key concerns customers have is that Oracle is now offering more add-on options which are not free, Yuhanna noted, where customers have to buy a separate licenses. Such is the case for Oracle RAC, Partitioning, Audit Vault, Database Vault, encryption, data masking, Real Application Testing and advanced compression.

"Most customers love Oracle technology, but it's the cost that really makes them move to another DBMS," he said. Also Microsoft's SQL Server and IBM's DB2 have been catching up with more advanced features, he added. "It's definitely putting a lot of pressure on Oracle," he said. "But for now, they continue to enjoy their dominance."

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