Oracle releases 11g database Express Edition beta

The long-awaited release is a free, small-footprint version of Oracle's flagship database

Oracle 11g XE (Express Edition), the free-of-charge version of Oracle's flagship database, is now in beta.

XE provides an "entry-level, small-footprint RDBMS" based on 11g Release 2 code, said Oracle Technology Network director Justin Kestelyn in a blog post late Friday announcing the news.

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Oracle's flagship 11g database was released in 2007, but the gap until Express Edition was not unexpected.

Andrew Mendelsohn, the company's senior vice president of database server technologies, told IDG News Service in a 2009 interview that it would be "a year or two" for the Express Edition to arrive.

Oracle is looking for feedback from developers on the beta, which can be downloaded from its website. XE and products like it offer companies the chance to test, develop and train users on a given platform without bearing the burden of license fees.

However, not unexpectedly, XE omits many of the features and options available for Oracle's main 11g database, according to a documentation page.

High-availability capabilities such as automatic block repair and tablespace point-in-time recovery aren't in, for one. Neither are scalability features like Oracle's RAC (Real Application Clusters) technology.

Security options left out include fine-grained auditing, Oracle Database Vault and SecureFiles Encryption. Oracle has also omitted performance features, including client-side query caching, in-memory database caching and support for its Exadata storage server software; as well as various management, networking, data warehousing and integration tools.

In addition, no more than 11GB of user data can be placed in an XE database, and it can use no more than 1GB of RAM, according to another document. Developers who want more capacity and power will have to upgrade to a paid edition, Oracle said.

Although the feature limitations make Express Edition "crippleware," it is nonetheless "better than what top relational database users had 20 years ago," said analyst Curt Monash of Monash Research, in a blog post on Monday. "That in turn suggests there are plenty of businesses small enough to use Oracle 11g Express Edition for real work today."

"Sensible reasons for having an Oracle Express Edition start with test, development, and evaluation," he added. "But there's also market seeding -- if somebody uses it for whatever reason, then either the person, the organization, or both could at some point go on to be a real Oracle customer."

Chris Kanaracus covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Chris's email address is Chris_Kanaracus@idg.com

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