Oracle Launches Grid Database

In his opening keynote at OracleWorld Monday, Oracle's Chuck Phillips said that grid has come of age because IT shops don't use their resources efficiently.

SAN FRANCISCO—With the message that "The grid has landed" blaring full-blast, Oracle Corp. announced the technology underpinnings of that vision at OracleWorld in San Francisco on Monday: Oracle Database 10G, Oracle Application Server 10G and Oracle Enterprise Manager 10G.

Executive Vice President Chuck Phillips, in an opening keynote that eschewed any mention of PeopleSoft Inc. or the companys attempted takeover of it, said that grid has come of age now because IT shops dont use their resources efficiently. Islands of computational resources run at low utilization rates, causing escalating costs as companies buy more servers to throw at the problem even while some servers sit idle, Phillips said.

"We wouldnt be so bold as to say that grid is the perfect solution, but Id say its the best solution available today," Phillips said in a Q&A session with the press following his keynote. "Solving this pay-as-you-go problem addresses so many issues—cost of investing up front in big machines, and this environment where nobody can raise costs. This hits the sweet spot right now."

Phillips didnt reveal pricing or when the software would ship, but many in the industry expect Oracle Database 10G to ship sometime in early 2004, gauging by past schedules of database version release.

Phillips outlined Oracles concept of grid as a pooling of resources, a virtualization of every layer of the technology staff with each layer managed and provisioned as a single entity, and with automatic load-balancing based on business policies.

He gave the example of a Web site thats hot during the holiday season as it takes orders, while the hypothetical business data warehouse server lies idle. In January, the Web site goes dark but the data warehouse is in high demand to analyze the December selling season. "Grid computing would load-balance based on a policy to optimize around both of these peak load conditions," he said.

Movement of grid into commercial enterprises, as opposed to the academic and scientific supercomputing centers in which it has traditionally been ensconced, has been slow because nobody knows much about it—but interest is high. According to a recent Summit Strategies Web survey of 180 IT and business decision makers representing enterprise and SMB accounts in the United States, Europe and Asia, grid is less understood than other utility infrastructures that make it up, such as blades, consolidation strategies, and server and storage virtualization. Still, 49 percent of respondents expect to evaluate grid within the next 12 months, and 37 percent believe grid will be an important technology for their firm within three years. Sixty-nine percent cite the need to reduce IT capital cost as a top driver for evaluating grid.

Mary Johnston Turner, author of the report and vice president of enterprise strategies at Summit, in Boston, said that she expects to see full-blown enterprise-wide grid architectures within three to five years. Before we get there, all partners in a sharing setup have to be sure their individual experience will be satisfactory, she said.

"Its going to take awhile," she said. "Moving platforms … from static allocation of resources to where theyre shared is a big deal. Making all partners comfortable and making sure their individual experience of sharing is satisfactory is a big deal, in that you have to make sure theyre not giving up anything in terms of reliability."

Like other clustering tools from companies such as IBM, Hewlett-Packard Co. and Sun Microsystems Inc., Oracles grid technology promises to address IT pain by pooling industry-standard servers and storage into an adaptable infrastructure that can meet changing business demands. Oracles promise to, in CEO Larry Ellisons paraphrased words, deliver better performance to companies willing to pay less, is based on commodity components such as clusters of server blades and rack-mounted storage. With Oracle Database 10G, Oracle is claiming to roll out self-management capabilities and a new Web-based console called Database Control to help organizations get a handle on those herds of components.

Database Control is based on Oracle Enterprise Manager 10G. It provides a graphical diagnostic window into the database as it operates. This gives DBAs the ability to monitor the database as they receive alerts and advice. According to officials of the Redwood Shores, Calif., company, Database Control can also identify badly written code, suggest improvements and automatically tune the database for better performance.

The self-management capabilities of 10G also promise to eliminate complex, repetitive tasks, such as performance diagnostics, application tuning and memory management. The software includes a new self-diagnostic engine to handle these tasks.

Clustering with Oracles RAC (Real Application Clusters) is at the core of the Redwood Shores, Calif., companys proposition. 10g introduces new cluster workload management software thats designed to make installation, configuration and administration of clusters easier.

With Oracle Database 10G also comes ASM (Automatic Storage Management), technology designed to simplify storage configuration and management. Officials said that ASM hides the nuts and bolts of how the database deals with data files and storage subsystems and automatically distributes storage workload. DBAs are thus spared the need to keep an eye out for hotspots or bottlenecks, according to officials.

To build a grid, Phillips said, an enterprise has to start with shared servers. "True grids," Phillips said, span the technology stack, encompassing storage pools, database clusters and application clusters. You then need low-cost components, in Oracles view, such as blade servers, modular storage and Infiniband interconnects.