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Oracle's 11g Database Storms Big Apple

NEW YORK -- In its 30th year, Oracle's  database is the oldest software of its kind in the lot, showing that a mature product is OK as long as you lavish it with new perks.

Innovation is the key theme for Oracle's Database 11g, which company President Charles Phillips and other executives introduced Wednesday here at a launch event.

While some analysts have pegged the update as incremental over the previous 10g database, there is no mistaking 11g for old hat; over 400 new features, including new manageability features and testing utilities, dominate the release.

"People always need to manage more data, and the things they need to do with data become more complex," Phillips said. "We've got to keep up. So we continue to have these innovations year after year after year... This is really rocket science."

Among the core new features in 11g is Real Application Testing, which lets customers test and manage changes to their IT environments quickly.

Andrew Mendelsohn, senior vice president of Database Server Technologies at Oracle, said the technology combines a workload capture-and-replay feature with a SQL performance analyzer to let users test changes against real-life workloads. The idea is to fine-tune them in a couple of days rather than months and put changes into production.

Oracle Data Guard, the disaster-recovery technology, has also been upgraded in 11g, now allowing customers to use their standby databases to improve performance in their production environments as well as provide protection from system failures and disasters.

The technology now allows simultaneous read and recovery of a single standby database, making it available for reporting, backup, testing and upgrades to production databases.

Tired of spending thousands of dollars on disks? Mendelsohn said Oracle Database 11g has significant new compression capabilities to further cut the number of disks and cost of storage.

In one scenario, Mendelsohn showed how a customer using a combination of tiered storage (for high-performing, less active and historical data) with the new compression technologies in 11g can trim a storage budget from almost $1 million to under $60,000 a year.

11g also boasts something Oracle calls Total Recall, which allows administrators to query table data from the past. The idea is to bring a heretofore unprecedented time dimension to data for tracking changes, which in turns leads to more intelligent auditing and compliance.

For unstructured data such as images and large text files, 11g has Fast Files, which stores a lot of information but retrieves it really fast.

Security, of course, is always a major concern, with data breaches (hello T.J. Maxx, et al.) and compliance regulations keeping CIOs on their heels. In 11g, Oracle has boosted its Transparent Data Encryption capabilities beyond column-level encryption to scramble data in entire tables, indexes, and other data storage.

Phillips, who was introduced by science historian and author James Burke (of "Connections" fame) to drive home the theme of innovation and technological change, didn't miss the opportunity to tweak the competition either.

Noting figures from Gartner that put Oracle's database market share at 47 percent -- more than the combined market shares for IBM's  DB2 Universal Database and Microsoft's  SQL Server -- Phillips said 11g is a continuation of Oracle's practice of carving out the database technology roadmap for the industry.

"We don't mind defining the roadmap for them," Phillips said, chuckling.

Oracle will release a version of 11g for Linux in August; Phillips did not provide a timetable for any additional releases, such as Microsoft Windows.

Pricing for 11g will be the same as 10g; $15,000 per processor for Oracle Database Standard Edition and $40,0000 per processor for the Enterprise Edition. 10g customers may upgrade to 11g for free.

However, some of the new features will be sold as add-ons. The company has yet to decide which ones will cost more.