Oracle details self-tuning pieces of 9i database

Oracle Corp. on Thursday discussed what it called the final pieces of its forthcoming 9i database, which promises to make the software more self-tuning and reduce associated maintenance costs.

When 9i ships on June 14, it will include memory management, storage management, and resource management functionality. "The entire industry has been moving toward more self-tuning databases," said Bob Shimp, Oracle's senior director of marketing, in Redwood Shores, Calif.

Indeed, IBM Corp., Microsoft Corp., NCR Corp., and Sybase Inc., to name a few, also have been working to require less maintenance on the part of database administrators. Emeryville, Calif.-based Sybase CEO John Chen has said that in time, databases will become almost zero-maintenance systems that only need to be installed, then occasionally tweaked.

"It's good that Oracle is going in the direction of self-tuning. A lot of the complaints about them were that it was tricky to use, but they've come a long way in terms of usability," said Peter Urban, a senior analyst at AMR Research Inc. in Boston. "Anything they can do to improve usability is key."

In addition to making the database easier to use, Shimp said that the self-tuning features will reduce the overall cost of operating an Oracle database. Oracle has been criticized over the last several months for its universal power unit pricing model.

Last August, consultancy Meta Group Inc., in Stamford, Conn., published a report stating that Oracle is three to five times more expensive than IBM's DB2. AMR's Urban, however, expects that the self-tuning features will help Oracle users keep costs down in the long run. "They still have to work on that up-front price, but the more significant costs are the ongoing ones," he said.

Internal Oracle testing suggests that 9i can reduce database management costs by as much as 40 percent, Shimp added. "With these features you can add more users to the same size database," Shimp said.

Real Application Clusters, a feature Oracle introduced at its October OpenWorld show in San Francisco, also contributes to the overall scalability of 9i by enabling customers to string together servers for processing power. "We use both the scale up and the scale-out approach," Shimp said.

AMR's Urban said that Real Application Clusters will help elevate Oracle to the scalability level of NCR and IBM.

"Previously, they could latch multiple servers together, but now clustering for scalability is much easier," he added.

In terms of scalability, Oracle clearly is aiming for the sky. In fact, CEO Larry Ellison at OpenWorld said that with the pending release Oracle is gunning to achieve 1 million simultaneous users, 1 million page views per second, and 1 million TPC-Cs. TPC-C is the benchmark for database performance that is run by the Transaction Processing Performance Council, in San Francisco.

The current record for most TPC-Cs belongs to IBM running a Windows 2000 Datacenter Server and SQL Server 2000 clustered configuration and is 688,220 transactions per minute.

"We're going to try and illustrate those capabilities," Shimp said. He added that Oracle is saving the specific numbers for the formal launch.

The company on Thursday said that it will announce 9i on June 14, at which point the database will become available. Oracle has said for several months that customer will be able to purchase 9i in the first half of this year.

Last week Ellison publicly slated May 15 as the announcement date, and Oracle planned to hold a formal event that day at its headquarters. But the database giant decided to hold off until June 14, saying it made more sense to host a formal event when the product is finished and available.

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