Oracle parades 10g beta customers

Oracle trotted out a handful of customers at its OracleWorld show Monday who have been beta testing new versions of its database and application server software, which are supposed to make it easier to manage groups of connected servers.

The panel discussion was moderated by an Oracle executive but offered insights into the types of features in Oracle's 10g family of products that some of its customers think are worth upgrading for. Oracle hasn't said when the products will ship.

Qualcomm has been testing the Oracle 10g database for six months and is interested in new functions for automating database management, said Arvind Gidwani, an IT manager at the company. One feature it has been testing is "flashback database," which allows it to recover an image of its database from an earlier time without some of the manual steps it had to go through with its current database, Oracle 8i, he said.

Qualcomm also has its eye on a feature that automatically manages data across multiple storage disks running against a database, Gidwani said. The idea is to reduce "hot spots" in the storage infrastructure, where a disk becomes overloaded and creates a performance bottleneck while other disks sit idle.

"We were able to manage raw disk partitions without using Veritas software," he said.

Qualcomm has 110 databases and four people assigned to manage them, so features that reduce the time its administrators spend on management tasks are of particular interest value, he said.

The European Organisation for Nuclear Research, better known as CERN, is another beta customer. It was drawn to Oracle 10g in part because it supports "ultralarge" databases, said Jamie Shiers, who works with the group's database team in Geneva.

CERN is building a new particle accelerator that will require scientists to store as much as 10 petabytes of data each year when it comes on line in 2007. The organization wants to store "a few petabytes" of that data in its Oracle databases, and support for larger volumes of data in 10g will make that possible, he said.

Shier said he is also interested in Oracle 10g's "machine independent transportable databases" function, which will allow it to transport an enormous amount of data -- as much as 10 terabytes - from one database and "plug it into" another database located elsewhere, he said.

The New Mexico Department of Transportation is looking at Oracle 10g to help it meet new requirements for federal funding. The agency has to create a detailed inventory of its assets over the next five years that involves storing millions of digital images of highway equipment, said Jeremy Foreman, the sole administrator for the agency's 24 databases.

His tests have shown that Oracle 10g self-tunes itself in a way that makes it faster to store and retrieve images, he said. The feature, called automated segment management, is available in existing versions of the database but doesn't currently work in conjunction with Oracle's Partitioning and InterMedia software, he said.

Another beta tester, ENST Bretagne, is one of three related telecoms engineering schools located around Paris. It's Oracle databases hold only a few megabytes of data, but it needs research reports kept in the databases to be kept in synch at the three schools. The schools thinks Oracle 10g will make it easier to do that, according to ENST representative Christophe Guychard.

None of the panelists said they were migrating from Unix servers to Intel-based servers as part of their move to Oracle 10g -- something Oracle has been advising its customers to do in order to cut the cost of using its software. CERN and ENST Bretagne both said they switched to Linux systems some time ago.

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