Oracle expands access to key database feature

In a move designed in part to help businesses upgrade to the 11g database, Oracle has extended support for Real Application Testing to all 10g releases and 9i Release 2

Oracle has extended support for Real Application Testing, a key option in its 11g database, to all 10g releases and 9i Release 2.

The move is in part meant to help companies on older versions upgrade to 11g, which was released in 2007, according to Oracle.

The technology helps IT shops test changes to their existing systems before putting the changes into production. It can take a snapshot of a production workload and then "replay" it on a test system. Another feature enables users to determine how changes would affect SQL performance. Oracle is charging $11,500 per processor or $230 per user for the product.

"It's all about speeding up the testing process and de-risking the process of making changes," said Willie Hardie, vice president of database product marketing.

Initially, the feature was only compatible with 10g Release 2, but Oracle decided to backport it further in response to customer demand, Hardie said.

The company's decision was not necessarily about migrating customers to 11g, said IDC analyst Carl Olofson.

"I think Oracle decided there was enough demand out there from people on those back releases who weren't ready to move to release 11," he said. "Oracle likes to use these options as an inducement to upgrade, but knowing that upgrades take time, they'd rather get the money now than later."

"It's pretty clear that users see [Real Application Testing] as a key capability," he said, noting, "it's not just [for] moving from one release to another, it's about any kind of tuning you want to do."

As for uptake of 11g, "the indication I'm getting is that adoption is going a little more rapidly than previous major releases," Olofson said, while stressing that he couldn't provide actual percentages.

"A lot of organizations wait until the first maintenance release comes out," he added. "People want to make sure the software is stable before they move."

Meanwhile, during Oracle's recent fourth-quarter and year-end earnings call, President Charles Phillips said that "the growth of 11g adoption is about the same as 10g at the same point in its lifecycle," and that it had been downloaded more than 300,000 times. But he did not provide specifics on the number of databases in production.

In concert with the Real Application Testing announcement, Oracle also said it has a number of new 11g customers.

Out in the community, though, reports vary. Uptake of 11g has been exceedingly slow among the customer base of the Pythian Group, a database administration outsourcing company with locations around the world. Just a handful of the Oracle databases it manages are 11g, said its president, Paul Vallee.

Vallee called Real Application Testing "really great technology" but said it is not a magic bullet for moving customers to 11g.

"To be sure, some people are hesitating to go from older releases to 11g due to an inability to evaluate the 11g environment, but most are slow to adopt for different reasons," he said. "The rate of adoption is slow, in my opinion, because [earlier versions are] feature-complete."

Phillips' contention that 11g is being adopted at the same rate as 10g does ring true, "but that doesn't mean it's not incredibly slow," Vallee added.

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