A few months back, the travel site Orbitz was grounded for a full day due to a technology snarl that it blamed on Oracles RAC (Real Application Clusters) technology. Considering that RAC is a cornerstone component of Oracles much-heralded and almost-here Oracle Database 10g and the whole grid computing spectacle that it entails, I thought it might be wise to check into the status of RAC reliability—particularly now that Oracle is filling its collective lungs with more air to trumpet grid computing at the upcoming Oracle AppsWorld show.
I asked Murali Vallath, an independent Oracle consultant at Summersky Enterprises LLC and a RAC expert, for his thoughts on whether Oracle has a handle on security when it comes to crucial technologies such as RAC and the addition of nodes that grid entails.
Vallath, in addition to being president of both the Charlotte Oracle Users Group and the newly formed RAC Special Interest Group, is author of a book released in September 2003 titled "Oracle Real Application Clusters" (Digital Press).
But before we get into the question of whether RACs reputation survived the Orbitz crash, lets take a look at Oracle Database 10g through the eyes of somebody whos RAC-happy. According to Vallath, the most important features in 10g, from a RAC-centric viewpoint, involve availability. Thats certainly important to sites such as—ahem—Orbitz, where downtime is death. Vallath noted that, while 9i had high availability, 10g is going to bring "some great features" that will bring "maximum availability."
Why is RAC so crucial to grid computing? Its a composition of multiple instances that share one, single, physical copy of the database, Vallath explained.
"When businesses grow and more users access the system or more storage is added to the system, it should be as simple as plug and play—thus not interrupting the current systems," he said. "Grid adds to the current high-availability features built into RAC by providing the scalability features."
Of course, the pivotal piece of Oracles grid pitch is that those plug-and-play Tinker Toy pieces can be low-cost, commodity components—the idea being that for the first time grid is affordable and simple enough for joe-schmoe enterprises to deploy, as opposed to the academic/scientific communities in which it has traditionally been ensconced.
So whos thinking about it, at this point? Vallath, as an independent consultant, said that many of his clients are "on top of this."
"They had attended OracleWorld in September to learn more about the features of 10g," Vallath said. "Once the product is released, they would start getting familiarized with the new features, followed by testing, before migrating."
OK, no surprises there. The $1 million question remains, though: Has Oracle, in 10g, actually made grid computing accessible/intelligible/affordable for the masses?
Vallath is giving Oracle a thumbs-up on all counts. "Its all of the above: accessible and intelligible because Oracle is the first to implement such a technology into their products," he said. "Affordable because, while the concept of grid has been around, the technology was never available in the IT segments, until now."