Oracle Launches 9i Database

Oracle Corp. launched its Oracle9i database on Thursday with an emphasis on a new version of its old clustering technology that the company claims will change the price dynamics of the database market.

Oracle CEO Larry Ellison said the technology, called Oracle Real Application Clusters (RAC), made the long-overdue Oracle9i "the last database," which is its codename. Ellison said the codename implies Oracle9i will drive competitors like IBM DB2 and Microsoft SQL Server out of the database business.

Ellison promised that RAC will bring sweeping changes in the way customers use Oracle. "We think that with 9i, two-thirds or more [of our customers] will use clusters. We think running clusters will be the standard way of running Oracle," he said.

Database industry analyst Teri Palanca of Giga Information Group characterized Oracle's 9i release with a little less hyperbole.

"I would call [Oracle9i] an elegant enhancement of what Oracle is already doing as opposed to a big industry leap," Palanca said. She noted Oracle's work on making its database more manageable and integrating OLAP and data mining as valuable improvements to its scalable and highly available core database.

The launch meant immediate availability on several operating systems: Tru64 Unix, HP-UX, OS/390, Linux and Sun Solaris. Windows support will come in 90 days, an Oracle spokesman said.

The 9i release comes in the context of two threats to the traditional database giant's market dominance. One is Oracle's slip from first place in market share on the Windows NT/2000 platform in Dataquest's report for 2000. Oracle remained first in the broader database market.

The other is taking a backseat to Microsoft and IBM on the well-regarded Transaction Processing Performance Council (TPC)'s OLTP scalability benchmark, the TPC-C. Clusters of Windows servers running SQL Server 2000 or DB2 have eclipsed Oracle databases on large Unix/RISC systems at the top of the TPC-C raw performance charts since February 2000.

Ellison derided the "shared nothing" approach to clustering used in DB2 and SQL Server 2000, calling them "marketing clusters."

"Shared nothing runs nothing. It is utterly useless except for benchmarks. Those performance numbers on their benchmarks are useful for benchmarks only," Ellison said.

Oracle's approach with Oracle9i is the Real Application Clusters based on shared disk. The technology is an outgrowth of the Oracle Parallel Server (OPS) that Oracle has offered for years. Ellison acknowledged during his presentation that data locking was a bottleneck with OPS.

With 9i and RAC, Oracle is using a new caching approach to overcome the data locking bottleneck.

The only externally audited benchmarks Oracle managed to produce for the launch Thursday were the kinds of "Big Iron" Unix/RISC results that are its traditional hallmark.

A 32-processor Compaq AlphaServer running Tru64 Unix reached 230,533 tpmC on the TPC-C benchmark with Oracle9i at a cost of about $56.62 per tpmC. That's a 3.5 percent performance boost over the next best Unix/RISC result, and a little better than a third the performance of the top clustered system running Windows servers. The Windows system benchmarks typically cost between $10 and $25 per tpmC.

The Oracle spokesman says the company expects to generate an externally audited benchmark of a system running Real Application Clusters in three to six months.

Giga's Palanca says Oracle Parallel Server never lived up to Oracle's marketing hype about its scalability, and Oracle needs to prove its next generation clustering will work.

"I'm approaching it with a skeptical until proven otherwise type of mentality," Palanca said.

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.


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