Oracle awaiting grid database upgrades

Oracle anticipates a spur in upgrades to its grid-enabled Oracle Database 10g this June, when the first patch set will be released for the new system, an Oracle official said Wednesday.

Interviewed after a keynote speech at the ClusterWorld Conference & Expo, Oracle's Andrew Mendelsohn, senior vice president of database and server technologies, said the largest in-production user of the 10g database is currently Oracle itself. But he noted that the product just began shipping in January on Unix and Linux, and on Windows in March. While Mendelsohn could not provide specific information on the rate of users upgrading to version 10g from previous releases, he said the release of the patch set in June, which will feature some bug fixes, should spur upgrades.

"Our customers take a couple months (to upgrade)", he said.

Oracle estimates its installed base for databases at between 100,000 and 200,000 customers, according to Mendelsohn. About 45 percent are on release 9i, which came out just prior to 10g, with the rest on earlier versions. "One thing we're seeing is there are a number of customers planning to go from those older releases straight to 10g," Mendelsohn said.

With the 10g release Oracle is touting support for grid computing, which enables the database to be spread out over multiple, commodity hardware systems. It also features self-managing capabilities. Mendelsohn expects the self-management capabilities to be the most popular feature when customers begin upgrading, he said. Grid enablement at customer sites will be a slower process.

"I expect a large percentage of our installed base will be moving to a grid environment over time. It's going to take a number of years," he said.

One area of grid that needs more work is the development of standards, Mendelsohn acknowledged. Oracle and other vendors need to develop standards covering issues such as the discovery and management of components in grid environments, he said.

Oracle plans to ship Oracle 10g Release 2 in 2005, Mendelsohn said. He would not describe the features planned. "It's basically 10g with some spit and polish added," he said.

Oracle is betting that enterprise business customers are going to latch onto grid computing, even though grid has predominantly been the domain of specialized environments such as scientific applications. "We're convinced, and our customers are convinced, that this is the future of IT," Mendelsohn said during his speech. "It's just a matter of when they're going to do it."

An attendee at the conference said his division would not have a use for Oracle's grid-enabled database, but nonetheless said Oracle was on the right track with its grid approach.

"For grid to work, you need to make it pretty simple," said the user, Matthew Koundakjian, structure analyst and software developer at Northrop Grumman, a defense contractor. Making the software easy to use and run on inexpensive hardware, as Oracle intends, is the way to go about spreading grid technologies, according to Koundakjian. "That's bound to be successful," he said.

Grid software vendor Platform Computing, in a study it did this year, is finding an increased interest in grid computing. The study sees the grid model moving ahead of Web services and outsourcing when it comes to IT investment priorities for the next 12 months, according to Ian Baird, chief business architect at Platform. "People are starting to understand grid and are hearing that it's real," he said.

Mendelsohn also said the new Standard Edition One version of the Oracle 10g database, released this week, would help the company compete against not only Microsoft's SQL Server but the open source MySQL database as well. "We now have a product that runs on commodity two-way boxes (and) is just as cheap as MySQL, but it's got all the power of Oracle and it lets you scale up to wherever you want to go," he said.

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