Oracle's Ellison promises 'ungodly' database speed with new in-memory option

Ellison also announced a new high-memory server appliance

Oracle CEO Larry Ellison has thrown his gauntlet down in the burgeoning market for in-memory computing, announcing a new option for Oracle's flagship database at the OpenWorld conference in San Francisco. The in-memory option delivers "ungodly" performance improvements, Ellison claimed, and targets both transactional and analytic workloads. "When you put data in memory, one of the reasons you do that is to make it go faster," Ellison said Sunday. Oracle had a goal of 100 times faster queries for analytics and a doubling in throughput for transaction processing with the in-memory option, Ellison said. Transactions run better in a row-store database, while analytics are much faster when the system uses a column-based store, Ellison said. Oracle Database 12c stores data in both formats simultaneously, and the information is consistent, he added. "When you update one you always update the other," Ellison said. "The data is consistent between those two formats." "There's actually very little overhead in maintaining the column store in-memory in addition to Oracle's traditional row store," he added. While it has been known for some time that Oracle would be making an in-memory announcement at OpenWorld, the specific details were vague until Ellison's speech on Sunday. He stressed that it would be quite easy for Oracle database users to turn on the in-memory option. "You say how much memory you want to use in the computer, tell me what partitions or tables to be in memory, and drop your analytic indexes," Ellison said. "Queries run 100 times faster and updates, inserts run two, three times faster." Customers who choose to keep their Oracle database for transaction processing and then use a specialized columnar database for analytics would have to rewrite their applications, retrain staffers and then hope everything works, he added. "The alternative is [Oracle's in-memory option]," Ellison said "Flip a switch and all of your applications run much, much faster. Every application you wrote, every application you bought, runs without a single change." What Ellison's speech strangely lacked was any of his traditional attacks directed at competitors, particularly SAP, which has been pushing its own HANA in-memory database as an alternative for customers now using Oracle underneath their SAP installations. Microsoft and IBM are also rolling out in-memory database technologies. Still, the fact that Ellison stressed that customers would face little disruption, along with major benefits, if they use the in-memory option was no accident, as he'd obviously rather keep those customers in the fold rather than lose them to competing in-memory technologies. Continuing the in-memory theme, Ellison also announced a new member of Oracle's "engineered system" family dubbed the M6-32 Big Memory Machine. It contains 32TB of DRAM, uses new SPARC M6 chips that have double the cores of the M5 chips they replace, and is available now, Ellison said. "It's the fastest machine in the world for databases stored in memory," he claimed. The Big Memory Machine costs US$3 million, a sum Ellison termed as "a fraction" of what competitors charge. But what Ellison didn't mention is that Oracle's engineered systems must be loaded with many expensive Oracle software licenses, particularly its database, which carry lucrative ongoing annual maintenance fees for the vendor and bring the total system cost much higher than that for the hardware. Ellison ended his talk by announcing another new product called the Oracle Database Backup, Logging, Recovery appliance. "You're probably asking me who is the genius who named that product," Ellison said of the dry, albeit self-explanatory moniker. "I did. That's why they pay me the big bucks."

Oracle is also offering the product as a cloud service through its public cloud, Ellison said. More than 60,000 people are expected to attend OpenWorld, which runs through Thursday.

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