RealTime IT News

Security's Starring Role in Oracle's 10g DB

Eighteen months after its grid computing Database 10g product took to the streets with a fervor, Oracle is pounding the pavement again with the second release of the software.

Database 10g Release 2 (R2) includes increased XML support, tighter security and more automation, perks that Oracle officials said should give the product a leg up over competing database software from IBM and Microsoft.

Oracle released the first Oracle Database 10g in 2004 amid great fanfare. The Redwood Shores, Calif., company hyped its revised database software as unique compared to software from its competitors.

Oracle touts its product as ideal for handling grid computing. This is because the software offers clustering, workload management and a good deal of automation to take manual administrative tasks such as performance tuning, disk and memory management, out of human hands.

R2 extends those self-managing capabilities and then some, according to Mark Townsend and Willie Hardie, senior directors in Oracle's database unit.

The executives said customers have asked for improvements because databases are exponentially growing with each glut of information that squeezes through corporate networks. Much of this data must be saved for specific lengths of time in order to comply with federal regulations such as Sarbanes-Oxley.

Security is a major bugbear for corporations today. Headlines blare news of banks losing data tapes or facing fraudulent breaches.

While Oracle has encrypted data at the column level since release 8i, Hardie said Database 10g R2 has technology for transparently encrypting data and personal information without the need for developers to rewrite applications.

This is key because much of the data in databases is rendered in clear text.

"In 8i, 9i, and 10G R1, you could use an API to encrypt or decrypt your data as you updated it," Hardie explained. "It'd work very well if you were building a new app."

"But if you had a legacy app or packaged app, it's hard to retrofit encryption into those environments. In R2, you can go in and physically change the column definition in the database, making it transparent to apps that use it."

Forrester Research analyst Noel Yuhanna said the security features put Oracle head of IBM and Microsoft for now, noting that SQL Server 2005 will have strong encryption when the Redmond giant produces the gold code to its software.

"Some compliance requirements require encryption of data [California Senate Bill 1386, for example] and until now we never had a really comprehensive addressed encryption from database vendors," Yuhanna said. "I think it's going to be very popular for customers in the financial sector and the banking sector that really want to protect the data."

The analyst said the security upgrade could lure new customers. Oracle is banking on that proposition.

While security is a major perk, Oracle has boosted XML support in its database again, after supporting XML natively in R1. With R2, the company is the first major database maker to add support for the W3C's XML Query standard for accessing XML data, said Townsend.

Oracle has also increased support for rival Microsoft's Windows software via stored procedures implemented in the Common Runtime Language (CLR) and enhanced integration with Visual Studio.

The new release will also feature an open API for Oracle's clusterware, Cluster Ready Services. Townsend said that 10g R1 consolidated data onto clustered Linux servers with the company's own clusterware system. With R2, users can cluster Apache Web servers.

This should appeal to customers who looking for more open source options. And new load balancing tolls in Oracle's Real Application Clusters triggers speedy server utilization patterns across a cluster.

R2 will also feature new storage options. These include backup-to-tape; spiced up automated failover tools to come back online quickly after a disaster; more automated storage management options; and storage virtualization.