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ORACLE8: “ON STEROIDS WITH OBJECT SIZZLE” SAYS WALL STREET

At this stage of the game, with its Oracle8 database only a quarter away from production, you’d expect Oracle Corp to be crawling all over the press and analyst community aggressively flushing out more details, planned or imagined, for its next- generation, object-relational hybrid technology. Instead, the company has clearly decided that moving away from selling futures is healthier in the long term and is willing to take a hit on the short term on the coverage it’s missing. From next month, the company is expected to begin tossing one customer a week to the analysts to give start building references and get some chatter going up to the announcement in June. Oracle has been careful not to give market makers and the investment community the brush-off however, and the latest to get to scope out the next-generation database is Morgan Stanley & Co Inc’s software watchers, who sum have summed up as a large injection of high-performance and scalability steroids with a touch of object sizzle. It learns an Oracle8 beta was cut three weeks ago and the code is now being run on half a dozen platforms at 170 beta sites in seven languages. The current beta is release 8.02, the production system will be 8.03. Oracle is expected to have customers in production in 26 languages come announcement time. As we learned last month features were frozen sometime earlier (CI No 3,101) and the focus is now on testing, quality assurance, and documentation.

Better plans

It is probably a little known fact, given all of the noise raised by the database and system vendors, that 15 of the 20 largest database in the world run on DB2. Oracle wants some of this business and claims Oracle8 will scale to 10,000 users on a single node and support up to 100 terbaytes of data. Oracle8’s parallel additions include insert, update, and deletes. Version 7.3 already had multiple indexing and join schemes (bit-mapped, hash joins, star joins), but Oracle8 should generate better plans and combine multiple join and index methods in a single query as well as handle sparse matrix data better, the bank observes. Oracle will add table and index partitioning in Oracle8, and while Informix Software Inc’s partitioned data and then parallelized queries across those partitions, Oracle now adds an ability to parallel queries within a partition in addition to across partitions. Oracle reportedly doesn’t believe parallel query processing should be tied to a partitioning scheme. Oracle’s subsystems will follow suit and allow users to back up and recover data by partition. Indices can also be partitioned. The backup and recovery process has been completely re-engineered with more automation and audit trails. Oracle is also working on a client-side failover capability which may make the first release of Oracle8. The client side failover re-establishes a connection to the database if the client fails. The company will be publishing both TPC-C and TPC-D benchmarks on Oracle8 and points out that no benchmarks yet exist for the Informix Universal Server.

Core engine extensions

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Unlike Informix Universal Server and third party datablade data type extensions, Oracle will control most of its own data type extensions, in the 8.0 release which it believes is an advantage since fewer vendors are involved. Morgan Stanley says Oracle is talking to many of the same vendors who are writing Informix datablades such as Virage, Kodak, Haht, Red Oak, Kiva, and Portland. It believes Informix and Oracle will end up supporting the same top 50 data types and object extensions that people care about. The difference is that Oracle will integrate many of them with the Oracle application server via Object Management Group messages if in fact the extension is more a set of methods; database cartridges will be reserved for those operations that directly lay data down on disk. There are some cartridges that should be extensions of the engine and talk directly to the database API. Consequently, the low level extensible services for query parsing, semantic checking, queries, optimization, query execution, and storage access don’t actually use Corba. However most users only need a handful of data types – text, audio, video, and spatial data. The 80/20 rule applies, says Morgan Stanley 80% of users will be satisfied with the first 20% of the data types. Oracle reportedly plans to build the most popular data types as native data types directly into the engine and not rely on third party to provide those extensions. Oracle told the bank that it has long supported most data types, including video, audio and text, and didn’t have to rely on extensibility and third party support to get there. Oracle apparently plans to select a small number of additional data types, some in conjunction with third parties, to add to the core engine. Like Informix, those engine enhancements will talk to the core API and not at the object broker level. The difference is that Oracle will control the select number of extensions to its engine while Informix has opened the process up to a wider audience but still certify the blades.

Evolutionary view of objects

On the object front, Morgan Stanley says Oracle cleared the toughest hurdle, which was how to superimpose an object view on existing relational data without breaking existing applications. Oracle8 synthesizes objects from the underlying relational data and allows union views of these object tables which provides some semblance of inheritance. From there, the company can add inheritance (high on the priority list and of practical benefit) and polymorphism (a nice to have but not critical since most users don’t know what it is). Oracle believes Oracle8 is bigger than objects and that its object strategy is bigger than Oracle8. It includes Sedona tools, NCA, Oracle Applications, and middleware. Oracle’s approach to objects is evolutionary. Oracle8 won’t have all the classical object oriented checkpoints (such as polymorphism), but it will allow users to easily build an object view of existing relational data. Overall, it sounds to us as if Oracle will have enough critical mass in the object area to keep the object purists interested and then the company will evolve the technology from there. This evolutionary approach gives Oracle a shot at bringing objects into the OLTP mainstream, doesn’t disrupt the installed base, yet moves the industry forward toward object concepts, says Morgan Stanley. So existing applications will run unchanged. SAP was supposedly able to get R/3 up and running in two days on Oracle8.

Not a web server

Confusingly, Oracle8’s Web Application Server is not a web server at all but an application server that may or may not interact with the web. The application server concept is key to Oracle’s evolving architecture. Oracle is supposedly separating database and application servers from one another to increase scalability, performance, reliability, and maintainability of applications. Inter cartridge exchange is a Corba-based transport that ties Oracle’s architecture together. Users can plug into the application server or database via cartridges. Methods and most application logic should be extensions of the application server while the data management extensions belong at the database level. The investment bank expects several proprietary Oracle technologies to fall by the wayside along the journey to message- based applications; Java replaces PL/SQL, Corba marches over SQLNet. Oracle Applications will be certified to run on Oracle8 but won’t take advantage of the new object view features and, says Morgan Stanley the company missed an opportunity to create a significant competitive advantage by leveraging its technology stack (tools, databases, middleware, and applications from one company) and synchronizing releases of the components with optimized integration.