Oracle Show Girds for Grid

Oracle has big plans for its upcoming
OracleWorld San Francisco 2003 event. The software company will unveil new
versions of its database and application servers with a newer focus: grid
computing .

Bob Shimp, vice president of Oracle database marketing, said the company
will have a laser-like focus on grid computing for products it is calling
Oracle Database 10g and Oracle Application Server 10g. Oracle 10g database
will make it possible for a business create a single repository of computing
power by linking several servers together.

The new approach is geared to help customers save the time they’d normally
spend monitoring the complex systems and the costs associated with having
more machines. Oracle has been reticent to reveal too many specifics, but
the company has said it will unveil upgrades to its Enterprise Manager
database management software, which will let a database administrator
prepare shifts in server capacity.

The 10g release will also incorporate further enhancements including XML,
Web services, clustering and administration to help boost the performance
of, in one major example, financial applications.

The play is the Redwood Shores, Calif. outfit’s bid to provide utility-like
services, adding to the explosion of strategies in computing-on-demand from
the likes of such companies as IBM , HP ,
Sun Microsystems
, Veritas and Computer Associates
. It will also help them better compete with database rivals
IBM and Microsoft , as well as with IBM and BEA in the application server space.

However, Oracle’s grid computing foray resembles competitors’ technologies
only on the surface, according to one analyst.
IDC’s Carl Olofson would not divulge specifics of the new products, but told the way Oracle is using the term grid to describe
its new process is, at heart, an extension of its vaunted Real Application
Cluster (RAC).

RAC is parallel database clustering technology the vendor offers with its
high-end Oracle9i Enterprise Edition database. It is an “active-active”
cluster with shared storage. With it, multiple servers can work in parallel
on the same set of data.

The use of the grid term has confused rivals. An IBM spokesperson, for one,
told it looks as though Oracle is rebranding RAC.

“Oracle is making a lot of noise about grid with 10g, but the way Oracle
defines grid seems very different
from IBM’s definition,” the spokesperson said. “From what I can tell they
are more or less rebranding RAC as 10g…meaning you still have to move
everything into an Oracle database.”

This is markedly different from the approach of IBM’s comparable database
line, DB2, which provides a virtual view of information stored anywhere on a
computing grid and doesn’t require a database cluster to function in a grid

Olofson said how he could see how competitors would feel that way, and noted
that “IBM probably feels as though Oracle has hijacked the ‘grid’ term
because it’s hot.” But he said Oracle shouldn’t be put down so quickly
because it has made some significant strides from a year ago.

Olofson said Oracle has extended RAC technology to something of a “closed
grid” system where the servers are controlled by Oracle, which will allocate
services within that environment as needed. “There have been serious
improvements,” Olofson promised. “They have done some clever things.”

Conversely, vendors such as Sun Microsystems and Unisys promote a method
called an “open grid” structure under the aegis of the IBM and Globus OGFC.
Called the Open Grid Services Architecture (OGSA), the strategy defines the
standard interfaces and behaviors of a Grid service built on a Web services

With this method, users may take a service they desire to be provisioned for
and basically engage in a massively redundant distribution of service, where
there is an instance of service on every system, thus making it “open.” When
the application is ready to be run, the system scans for the optimal service
on which to run it.

As with Oracle’s grid strategy, the open system is also primed for financial
applications, or even for calculating simple things such as currency
conversion rates. Olofson stressed that system intermediators are not
looking for the best match in terms of service, but what system is most
highly available for the fastest results.

While Oracle’s strategy is certainly a change of pace from the open system,
Olofson said the 10g will certainly provide a system that is more
self-managing, with “fewer knobs to twist and turn.” This, too, mirrors some
of the characteristics of the utility computing products being touted by

“It’s more sophisticated,” Olofson said of the Oracle enhancements. “It
requires less expertise on the part of the administrator.”

Oracle refused to pin down release dates for finished 10g products, which
are in beta testing with customers, but it is customary for these to take
several months to a year, so 10g products may make their way to the public
in 2004.

As for the OracleWorld show, scheduled from Sept. 7-11, Oracle has again
lined up a number of superstar keynote speakers staggered amongst sessions
hosted by its own executives. Oracle Executive Vice President Charles
Phillips will kick the festivities off Monday and will be followed by Dell
Chief Michael Dell.

The keynote spotlight will perhaps shine brightest Tuesday, when Sun
Microsystems skipper Scott McNealy will lead off, followed by Intel Chief
Craig Barrett and then Oracle’s Larry Ellison, who will officially unveil
10G to the public.

Wednesday is entirely devoted to Oracle’s brand of grid computing, with
Chuck Rozwat, Executive Vice President, Database Server Technologies, Oracle
spearheading the “Journey to the Center of the Grid” session and Ken Jacobs,
Vice President, Product Strategy, Dr. DBA, Oracle hosting the “Mastering the
Grid” session.

HP CEO Carly Fiorina will cap the keynote sessions Thursday. For a more
complete itinerary, please go here.

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