Beta of Oracle Database Upgrade Is In The Wings

Database aficionados are heading to the Oracle user conference next week in search of information on Oracle 10i.

Oracle Corp. aficionados gathering next week at the IOUG Live! 2003 conference in Orlando, Fla., are expected to discuss the impending beta release—and perhaps even the beta code itself—of the companys next big database upgrade.

Oracle officials declined to comment on the database update, which is provisionally known as Oracle 10i although the Redwood Shores, Calif., company says that name has not been selected. But several members of IOUG, the International Oracle User Group, said they have seen documentation for the beta and expect the software any day.

One Oracle guru said that the beta is already out and that it contains changes that well might entail grueling migration work on the part of database administrators. Donald Burleson, CEO of Burleson Oracle Consulting and author of the Oracle Press book on SQL tuning, "Oracle High Performance SQL Tuning," pointed to a note sent out earlier this year to subscribers of Oracle Support Services OracleMetaLink, an online support feature for Oracle customers. The note outlined planned de-support of the RBO (rule-based optimizer) in 10i.

The RBO, a key database component that determines the best way to execute complex SQL statements, is in use in nearly 50 percent of production systems, Burleson said.

Many enterprises are slowly migrating off RBO and onto CBO (cost-based optimization). Oracles MetaLink note states that over 80 percent of customers are using CBO with Oracle8i and that the number is likely higher with Oracle9i. Oracle10i will only support CBO.

The note does not specify whether or not 10i will continue to support Rule hints, which would enable customers to defer SQL changes and continue to use RBO. If Oracle10i does drop system-wide RBO and Rule hints, customers are in for a load of work, Burleson said. "Companies will have to save their existing SQL execution plans with the Oracle Optimizer plan stability feature," said Burleson, in Raleigh, N.C. "For companies with tens of thousands of SQL statements, this could be a major undertaking. … Its exciting, but not in a good way—in an Oh my God, I have to change my Optimizer kind of way."

But Kelly Cox, an Oracle DBA who runs a small consultancy in Alexandria, Va., said that letting go of the RBO is fine with her. Beginning with version 8i, Oracle had made it clear that it would go in the direction of CBO support, she said, and she has been getting clients to migrate in that direction.

"The CBO, starting in [Oracle] 7.3, was reliable," Cox said. "With 7.0, there were a lot of problems, and there was significant distrust because of the problems it had. … [But Ive been] happy with the results of CBO. One client, just turning on the CBO and running statistics, he had queries that took 45 minutes to run under RBO that are now taking 10 minutes [under CBO]."

Indeed, because de-support comes as no surprise, many users are taking it in stride. Carl Dudley, whose title is Oracle Associate Dean at Staffordshire University, in England, has been director of the U.K. Oracle User Group since 1988 and director of the European Oracle Group since 1994. Dudley is an Oracle10i beta tester whos received beta documentation and is now awaiting the code.

"The RBO has been threatened for many years," he wrote in an e-mail exchange. "It will still be an issue for a large proportion of the user population, but there are workarounds in many cases. I dont think it will too bad for us as we have little in the way of packaged applications. Our applications are written (mainly) in-house so we should be able to cope (with careful planning)."

Dudley said he isnt alarmed at the idea of RBO de-support because, for one, there are workarounds such as Rule hints. Also, he expects Oracle will likely offer extended support for RBO—for a price.

Other features likely to make it into an upcoming version of the Oracle database will provide much closer integration with the Oracle Collaboration Suite, according to Bill Maguire, CIO of Legato Systems Inc. Legato is an Oracle partner: Its Single-Server Edition backup component is integrated into Oracle8i, Oracle9i and the upcoming Oracle10i.

"Oracle has decided to integrate all their business components into a nice, seamless solution," said Maguire, in Mountain View, Calif. "Theyre trying to build the next-generation platform that makes it so I can lay module after module on there, so I can provide the corporation a total solution."

Other features that could appear in Oracle 10i include features around Linux clustering and grid computing technologies. Its not surprising to hear that clusters and grids will be priorities in Oracle10i. Richard Niemiec, president of the International Oracle Users Group and CEO of TUSC, an Oracle consultancy, said that Oracle RAC (Real Application Clusters) is making strong progress in Oracle shops.

"Theres a lot of take up of RAC," said Niemiec, in Chicago. "At TUSC here, weve had incredible growth in the area of RAC and 9i."