Oracle releases grid-ready database

Oracle is pushing hard to sell its customers on the value of low-cost, on-demand computing enabled by its infrastructure software.

Monday at the OracleWorld 2003 database user show in San Francisco, executives from the software maker elaborated on their vision of grid computing: a system that allows companies to dynamically exploit low-cost industry-standard hardware as needed, slashing costs, guaranteeing availability of resources and turning computing into a utility.

Key to Oracle's vision is its 10g family of software, which includes an application server, database and management application. The platform is being unveiled this week.

In that vein, Oracle Executive Vice President Chuck Phillips repeated the company's marketing pitch that standardizing on a single vendor's infrastructure is the best way to approach grid computing. Until recently, a lack of cheap hardware and bandwidth made it almost impossible to economically treat computing as a utility. That has changed now that low-cost blade servers running Windows or Linux can be cheaply added to a company's existing system to cope with spikes in demand.

"We think it [grid computing] is there now. These low-cost components will work," Phillips said in a keynote speech this morning.

Among the advantages touted are lower costs and a single point of management that Oracle provides with its enterprise manager console product.

Oracle had previously said that its new Oracle Database 10g release would include more extensive support for grid computing and server clustering. Now, it's claiming to be the first vendor to offer a complete grid computing technology stack, including the database plus its application server software and management tools.

Among the features being added to the database is automated storage provisioning, said Benny Souder, vice president of Oracle's server technologies division. The provisioning software will assign storage resources as needed to handle data mirroring, load balancing and backup and recovery functions.

In the same vein, the 10g release will include server provisioning capabilities designed to exploit Oracle's Real Application Clusters technology to ensure that CPU resources are available to run applications as needed.

In addition, Oracle is adding self-management features to the database, Souder said. For instance, database administrators will be able to set performance parameters, such as CPU usage thresholds. If the thresholds are surpassed, the database will automatically add new processing nodes and use load-balancing capabilities to maintain performance levels.

James Governor, an analyst at Bath, Maine-based research firm RedMonk, said the OracleWorld conference marks the start of a big fight between Oracle and rivals such as IBM that are also staking claims as providers of grid-based data management capabilities.

Despite the mantra from Oracle, not everyone agrees that grid computing's time has come. It's "too far out at this time," said Frank Milano, CIO at Terracon, an engineering consulting firm in Kansas. Milano said he wants to examine the technology's software licensing implications.

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