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Oracle - The Little Database Engine That Could

Or Beware What You Wish For ...

Larry Ellison's publicly proclaimed goal is to make Oracle another IBM. 1960's, Watson's IBM, not Lou Gerster's IBM. It looks like he came close to the goal, i.e., he did create another IBM, unfortunately the latter incarnation (even Oracle market cap today  is actually identical to IBM's).

Nothing depicts better what Oracle became than the latest release of Oracle database - 12cR2. Oracle is dead last in the race to SAP Hana defined (as SAP likes to point out ) goal of in-memory, columnar database. Even IBM beat Oracle with actually quite solid IBM BLU Acceleration product released many months ago. What a journey - from little 70's database startup that beat mighty IBM to market using IBM's own invention (relational database), killed other similar competition like Sybase, Informix, Ingres with innovative tactics like identical database port to everything to become number one database in the world, to lame, low quality and late products it is releasing during last decade or so. Oracle is equally unable to release true MPP product (Exadata is yet another substandard attempt to claim membership in this group of products).It now looks that timing of Plattner's SAP Hana attack was impeccable and caught Oracle wrong footed (it remains to be seen if it will be disruptive too, it looks like SAP Hana might be lacking on execution side).

Perhaps Oracle database amazing ability to morph with changing hardware and software paradigms is now coming to an end as it is pulled in many opposite directions. It successfully managed move from central machines like mini computers, SMP boxes to client-server, GUI world, to three tier, web based architecture. But now we have forces ( large volumes of data that can only be handled with MPP architecture ) that are orthogonal to basic Oracle database architecture -  Oracle's shared everything concept.

No sane customer ( unless they are die hard Oracle shop with mass license deal ) will center their Big Data initiative, for example, on Oracle hardware and software. Words you hear around Big Data and warehousing projects today are MPP databases, Hadoop, open source analytics. Nobody will get fired for buying Oracle ? Perhaps that is ending too. Reasons to continue down Oracle path are beyond technical - license, legacy, installed base etc. That is admittedly a lot, but insufficient to propel Oracle to growth, as multiple quarters of stagnant revenue clearly demonstrate. It is not just recession that is a culprit, since some other enterprise software players like Salesforce show 30% year on year revenue growth during same period.

All indications are that 12cR2 will be same old Oracle database with columnar, in-memory cache facelift (we will know for sure in a month or so when it gets released), i.e. it is only Oracle core database engine initial foray into this area (Exadata has basic columnar capabilities).  In its heart 12cR2 will likely remain pure row based database, which might gradually change in future, perhaps following IBM BLU roadmap on row-columnar integration. 12cR2 will probably have great performance when all stars are properly aligned  (columnar cache is populated, proper queries are issued, no very big databases please etc.). Such product will probably do what it is designed to do - provide beachhead for further modernization attempts, prevent defection to SAP Hana and other competitors and keep installed base rose color glassed and convinced  they are using the latest and greatest technology.

More Stories By Ranko Mosic

Ranko Mosic, BScEng, is specializing in Big Data/Data Architecture consulting services ( database/data architecture, machine learning ). His clients are in finance, retail, telecommunications industries. Ranko is welcoming inquiries about his availability for consulting engagements and can be reached at 408-757-0053 or ranko.mosic@gmail.com

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