Is Linux Ready for the Database?

As Oracle readies its 1OG update, experts say Linux isn't ready for the rigors of grid computing.

As Oracle Corp. girds for the upcoming release of its Oracle 10G database next month, the company is cranking up the G-for-grid part of the message for this major update.

According to beta users, the update will feature easier-to-configure grid capabilities. But a big part of Oracles RAC (Real Application Clusters) message for the past year has been about Linux, which may shave the cost of the platform by up to five-sixths, according to Wim Coekaerts, director of Linux engineering for Oracle, of Redwood Shores, Calif.

One question remains: Is Linux really enterprise-database-ready? Some experts say no, pointing to the fact that the operating system was designed as a version of Unix that would run on a 486 PC, not as the platform for an enterprise-level database, never mind a whole grid of enterprise databases.

"It was from the get-go not designed as a database platform," said Andrew Binstock, an analyst at Pacific Data Works LLC, in San Carlos, Calif. "There are elements that still need further development to become a truly enterprise-scale database platform."

A key component that needs further development is the threading model used by the system kernel, Binstock said. Multithreading is crucial to running an enterprise database. Without it, a database would have to handle every data query as it comes in, keeping all other queries waiting in queue, since the system would be incapable of parallel processing.

Threading support came to the Linux kernel only within the past few years, and even now there are kinks that need to be worked out. For example, even though the upcoming Linux kernel, 2.6, features additional support for threading interfaces—also known as Pthreads—the support is not yet complete, Binstock said.

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