Now that Oracle has officially unveiled its much-awaited 11g database, industry observers are wondering how quickly users will upgrade to the latest offering.
A survey of members of the Independent Oracle Users Group who attended the groups annual conference put the number at 35 percent within the first 12 months of the launch. An ambitious estimate? Almost certainly, many say. But the speed of the upgrades will in large part be tied to how well Oracle makes the business case for 11g to corporate executives.
“I dont think Oracles playing that up enough,” said Gartner analyst Donald Feinberg, referring to the business value of 11g. “There is so much functionality in this that I honestly believe Oracle is missing a major opportunity. If youre not a technical person, youre not going to really get the value of probably 90 percent of whats in 11g, and theres tremendous business value in it.
“But if a CIO or a CEO or a CFO [chief financial officer] were to look at this release, they would say, No were not going to upgrade to it. If a technical person-a CTO [chief technology officer] or a DBA [database administrator] or a DBA manager or something like that looks at it, they would say, Oh, I want it tomorrow.”
To Feinberg, 11gs improvements in the area of manageability-such as the features dealing with application testing and rolling patches that allow users to upgrade the database without taking it offline-can save businesses money and reduce the amount of resources dedicated to certain tasks.
“The one that really will have an impact on cost is the manageability piece, which is the one, if they treat it right from a marketing standpoint, [that] will catch the eye of every CFO thats an Oracle client,” he said. “Thats the one that has the biggest impact on resources, which goes directly to the bottom line obviously in any company.”
Though DBAs are obviously a key focus group for 11gs marketing, the business advantages of 11gs functionality should not be lost on corporate executives or any other user, said Willie Hardie, vice president of database product marketing at Redwood Shores, Calif.-based Oracle.
“For example, executives can continue to reduce their total cost of ownership, business users will have faster access to secure information 24/7, developers can integrate all information types, like 3-D spatial and XML, into their applications, and DBAs can more easily deliver on users service level expectations,” Hardie said.
In addition, he said, 11g-unveiled July 11-introduces a range of new features that enable customers to meet regulatory compliance mandates, store more data using less storage devices and make changes faster with less risk.
Arup Nanda, senior director of database engineering and architecture at Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide, based in White Plains, N.Y., said Oracles Real Application Testing and enhanced encryption capabilities are vital parts of the business case for 11g.
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“In Real Application Testing, we can capture the real workload from the production applications going to the database and replay them,” he said. “Without [that], the testers have to create synthetic transactions to simulate the real workload to be replayed by the QA tool over and over again, which is not only time-consuming, but error-prone as well.”
Real application testing eliminates the task of creating the transactions, which cuts manpower and cost, Nanda said. In addition, the other strong business case is the possibility of testing any type of change, which results in rather risk-free change and better availability, he said.
Next Page: Encryption without performance degradation.
Encryption, Nanda said, is a requirement for many regulations, such as Payment Card Industry rules and Sarbanes-Oxley. In the past, the issue with encryption was regarding performance. If a field is encrypted, it does not use index scanning, which degrades performance, he said. In 11g, the encryption happens at the disk level, which satisfies the regulations, but the matching occurs in the memory, which doesnt impact performance, he said.
“So we can now encrypt more stuff without impacting performance,” he said. “CIOs love to hear that stuff.”
Ed Mulheren, senior database administrator at Wachovia, a St. Louis-based financial services company, counts the automated storage management, partition management, virtual columns and stronger password management capabilities as the most impressive features of 11g. In particular, some features related to the automation for portioning should save time administering monthly data loads, he said.
“Most of these will reduce our administrative costs and allow us to spend time on other database tasks,” Mulheren said. “We will be looking more into Real Application Testing to see if it will allow us to build more reliable applications.”
With 52 Oracle DBAs spread across the companys various business units, Mulheren said he expects Wachovia will begin planning for the upgrades this fall after conducting an internal certification process.
Meanwhile, Nanda said Starwood will be slower to upgrade because it runs an HP-UX operating system on top of Itanium-powered computers from Hewlett-Packard, and the initial release of 11g-slated for August-will be for Linux. Oracle has not said when versions for other platforms will be available. However, Feinberg speculated the version for Windows will probably come out a month later.
“I think the bulk, the majority, of the Oracle clients will seriously start looking at [11g] more toward the end of 2008, and in 2009 is when I think they will start to really be implementing 11g in big numbers,” Feinberg said. “But thats not bad.”
Then there is the question of just when Oracle rival SAP, of Waldorff, Germany, will certify 11g. There is no love lost between the two companies, hardly a secret given their recent legal bout. Steve Bauer, vice president of global communications at SAP, said that will happen after 11g is tested and the market demands it.
“It is important to note that SAPs customers decide the databases on which they want our applications to run,” Bauer said. “SAP is driven by customer demand, and we will support whatever database decision our customers make. We will add support for 11g as part of our overall product road map and development. As with any new database, the exact timing of when SAP will add support for 11g will depend on customer adoption of, and demand for, the new Oracle release.”
Gartners Feinberg called SAP database-agnostic, and described Oracle and SAP as the two biggest major competitors in the packaged application space. “I do not believe they are going to do it quickly, which is going to be a telling factor in this war between Oracle and SAP,” he said.
Another unknown that will affect adoption is what features Oracle will charge for, and whether customers will buy them, Feinberg said.
Still, making the business case to corporate executives for 11g means understanding their needs, which Hardie said comes down to reaching business goals as effectively while controlling costs. Oracle is banking on a combination of sample case studies, planning reviews and customer testimonials to help C-level audiences appreciate why they should use 11g, he said.
“CIOs and CEOs are challenged with meeting business requirements and keeping costs down,” Hardie said. “Oracle Database 11g addresses both these challenges by providing an infrastructure that uses grids of low-cost servers and storage in an extremely efficient manner to support all types of business applications.”
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