Oracle CEO Larry Ellison is taking the fight to IBM, Microsoft, and SAP in the burgeoning in-memory database market with a new option the company says can deliver dramatic performance boosts without requiring changes to applications.
Ellison first unveiled Oracle Database In-Memory at September's OpenWorld conference. During a webcast Tuesday, Ellison is expected to announce the product will be generally available within 60 days.
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That's a bit sooner than some industry observers expected, and Oracle's aggressive timeline speaks to the competitive pressures it is facing from rival in-memory database vendors. SAP, for one, has ported its Business Suite software to Hana, an in-memory platform it launched a few years ago, with the express goal of convincing Suite customers now using Oracle's database to make the switch.
In-memory computing pushes information into RAM instead of reading it off of disk, providing significant performance boosts. Oracle has already offered the TimesTen in-memory database in both stand-alone form and as a caching option for its flagship database, but that technology has tended to serve more specialized purposes.
With the new in-memory option Oracle has an advantage over newer in-memory platforms such as Hana, said Tim Shetler, vice president of product management, in an interview prior to Tuesday's event. SAP is "trying really hard to finish the other parts of a database management system," he said. "It's just a matter of maturity."
In contrast, Oracle's in-memory option can take advantage of the company's well-established capabilities for database scalability, high-availability and security, Shetler said.
Since the OpenWorld announcement, Oracle has added additional features to the in-memory option, the key one being support for its RAC (Real Application Clusters) technology, which provides scalability and fault tolerance.
The in-memory option is only available with the enterprise edition of Oracle's database, as is typically the case, Shetler said. Pricing won't be released until the general availability launch but licensing will follow standard Oracle guidelines, he said.
Oracle took a best-of-both-worlds approach to its in-memory option. The add-on creates an in-memory column store, which dramatically speeds up analytic queries, while preserving the database's existing relational row store for OLTP (online transaction processing) workloads. The column store does away with the overhead required to maintain row-based analytic indexes, improving OLTP performance.
Ellison displayed a series of slides that gave real-life examples of how the new option dramatically sped up Oracle application performance.
"People, when we ran these tests, they said, 'I don't think it ran,' " Ellison joked. "I think it's broken. I'm serious, they just didn't believe it. When you're used to waiting hours for something and it's just instantaneous, you can't understand."