Oracle Database, along with Microsoft's SQL Server, Sybase's Adaptive Server Enterprise, and a few other relational databases, was built to have a "shared everything" architecture, said independent database analyst Curt Monash.
Typically in that design, one instance of an application is spread across multiple CPUs or servers, which shares a common pool of memory and disk storage. The advantage is that users can "scale up" their applications quickly if demand arises, added Pythian's Vallee.
"You can take an application from Windows to an IBM Z mainframe with literally no code changes," he said.
The downside is that Oracle's RAC (Real Application Clustering) does not easily allow multiple instances of the Oracle Database to be coordinated and run in parallel on hundreds or thousands of cheap PC servers. That sort of MPP (massive parallel computing), which Monash calls a "shared nothing" architecture, has been the trend for almost a decade, especially among Internet companies with huge datacenters, such as Google.
Not everyone agrees that shared-nothing architectures perform better than shared-everything ones, such as Oracle's. Kevin Closson, a performance architect in Oracle's Systems Technology Group and former CTO at storage vendor Polyserve, vehemently defends the "shared everything" approach in his blog.
But the net result is that Oracle "is way behind in the 'scale-out' world," Vallee said. "MySQL is eating its lunch in terms of Internet-scaled deployments."
The irony is that Oracle added the "g" to its database name starting with version 10, released in 2003, in order to imply the product's grid-worthiness.
Oracle is aware it is behind. At the launch of 11g in July 2007, Andy Mendelsohn, Oracle senior vice president for database server technologies, said, "We're doing a lot of work in grid technologies for the next release, which will make grid infrastructure even easier to adopt."
Oracle has already brought out new grid features through acquisitions, such as its purchase of Tangosol in 2007. It will have a number of sessions at OpenWorld on the Coherence product acquired from Tangosol.
It will also hold a session entitled "Oracle Grid Computing 2.0: A Preview" on Monday.
Monash isn't convinced that Oracle will make the overhaul to its shared-everything architecture that he says is needed, but others who claim to have been briefed are more positive.
"We the database people will be living in the new Grid 2.0 era," wrote H. Tonguc Yilmaz in his Oracle blog.