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Oracle Unveils "The Last Database"

Oracle Corp. today unveiled the Oracle9i Database, the second piece of the puzzle which, along with the Oracle9i Application Server, makes up an integrated platform for Internet-based applications.

"This is the last database," said Oracle Chairman and CEO Lawrence J. Ellison at a launch event today at the company's Redwood Shores, Calif., headquarters. "The breakthrough is scalable shared-disk clustering."

Clustering is support for multiple computers running the same database application. By using clustering, Oracle is able to reach its goals of getting a 5-time performance improvement, cut costs in half, and improve reliability by a factor of 10.

"We didn't exactly make our goal of 10 times more reliability – it's more like a thousand times," Ellison said. "An Oracle 9i configuration has no single point of failure. It's truly fault-tolerant."

Oracle 9i uses a method of clustering called "shared-disk" clustering, which is the same architecture IBM uses for its DB2 for mainframes. For its Windows and Unix version of DB2, IBM uses an architecture known as "shared-nothing" clustering, which is also the architecture Microsoft uses for its SQL server database.

Ellison refers to this architecture as "shared-nothing – run-nothing," saying it is simply a marketing tool for benchmarking purposes. "It is unreliable, unmanageable, and it runs no applications. Besides that, it's great," Ellison quipped.

In a shared-disk architecture, every machine has access to all the data. If one fails, the remaining machines can still access all of the data. In a shared-nothing architecture, data must be partitioned, and is accessed only by one machine. This means that if one machine fails, the data stored on that machine becomes inaccessible and the entire database fails. Shared-disk clustering increases overall reliability by removing the single point of failure.

"Who would believe that Oracle could make Windows 2000 more reliable than IBM mainframes?" Ellison said.

Oracle 9i's clustering can group the power of multiple, lower-cost Windows or Unix machines to gain the performance similar to a more expensive mainframe. And its clustering can increase performance by offering a 90-percent scalability factor – which means that adding a machine will increase an Oracle database's performance by 90 percent, while an IBM database can only increase by about 80 percent, Ellison said.

While Oracle has utilized shared-disk clustering for years, the limiting factor that made clusters inefficient was scalability. "When you have multiple machines accessing a database, the machines have to coordinate their activities," Ellison said. "Making them communicate very fast is the key. We did this through a combination of advances in hardware and advances in our software."

Oracle worked with major computer and chip manufacturers for 5 years to reach this goal. "This is the Holy Grail of the database business" he said. "If you can take commodity machines and get them to work together as a group, the results are astounding."

e-business Web sites and transactional applications require both an application server and a database, and the Oracle9i Application Server and Oracle9i Database combined provide a complete business intelligence and content management platform, integrated messaging and queuing infrastructure, J2EE and XML processing, and secure end-to-end transactional capabilities.

In addition, the latest release of Oracle9i Application Server features a new lightweight Java engine, which runs transactional J2EE applications two to four times faster than other leading application servers. Overall, Oracle9i enables fast development and deployment of Web applications, helping to reduce the time and costs needed for system integration.

Oracle has adopted a per-processor pricing scheme to make comparisons to IBM's DB2 easier and refute IBM's claims that Oracle was 6 times as expensive. When Oracle is compared on a per-processor basis with DB2 with added features that IBM offers separately that are included with Oracle 9i, Oracle comes out less expensive than DB2, Ellison said.

Oracle 9i Database Standard Edition is priced at $15,000 per processor, and the Enterprise Edition is $40,000 per processor. Oracle 9i Application Server is priced at $10,000 for the Standard Edition and $20,000 for the Enterprise Edition.