OPENWORLD - Users look for details on next database

Oracle may be cagey, but users and analysts say they expect the next database release to include grid computing, clustering and XML enhancements

At its OpenWorld conference in San Francisco this week, Oracle is expected to divulge details about the enhancements it plans to make in the next version of its flagship database, which began initial beta testing last month.

Oracle declined to comment last week about any new products it has in the works. But users and analysts said they expect the next database release to include enhancements to the software's grid computing, clustering and XML capabilities as well as increased automation to ease database administration tasks for smaller companies and new security features to protect against insider data theft.

Oracle released a Beta 1 version of the software in September, said Ari Kaplan, president of the Chicago-based International Oracle Users Group. For now, the planned upgrade is mostly being referred to by users as 11g, hewing to the naming convention that Oracle used when it released its current 10g database in 2004.

Kaplan, a senior consultant at Datalink Corp. in Chanhassen, Minn., who said he has seen the 11g beta, declined to disclose specific information about its contents. But he said the beta includes new features related to Oracle's Real Application Clusters technology, its grid management and XML handling capabilities, service-oriented architectures, security and the company's PL/SQL development language. "There's a lot of exciting functionality," Kaplan said.

Unlike Microsoft, which went five years between database releases before shipping SQL Server 2005 late last year, Oracle doesn't look like it will have trouble meeting its usual three-year development cycle on new database releases, said Donald Burleson, an Oracle technology consultant and author. He expects the upgrade to be released sometime next year.

But Burleson was less wowed by the plans for 11g than Kaplan was. He described the next release as "a minor move up," with its most salient features from the user standpoint likely to be in the area of simplifying database administration tasks. "They're trying to make Oracle so simple a 12-year-old girl could install it," Burleson said.

Oracle is scheduled to hold two sessions on database futures at OpenWorld on Monday. Andy Mendelsohn, the company's senior vice president of database technologies, will lead a session entitled "The Future of Database Technology, from Oracle Development." Meanwhile, Oracle's PL/SQL product manager will lead a session on "PL/SQL Enhancements in the Next Major Release of Oracle Database."

Amichai Shulman, chief technology officer at security software vendor Imperva Inc., said he expects Oracle to add access-control and security auditing features to its next database release. He added that the company needs to clean up "rotten code" that was left over in 10g from older versions and is behind many of the Oracle database security holes discovered this year.

At OpenWorld, Oracle is also expected to detail an upcoming Version 1.1 release of SQL Developer, a free database development tool with a graphical user interface that the company released in March.

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