"We'll have to come back to you later on the other platforms," said Oracle President Charles Phillips during a New York teleconference on the first major upgrade to Oracle's database in two years. Oracle 10g was launched four years ago; Release 2 of 10g came out two years ago. Phillips said stringent guidelines on when new products may be discussed prevented him from citing a date when a Windows version will be available.
The new database includes an advanced feature, Real Application Testing, which captures a workload snapshot of an Oracle 10g production system and runs it on a new installation of 11g. The feature is expected to help customers migrate applications to the new database with less pain than previous migrations.
"If a customer wants to change out a database today, he has to create a regression test suite," explained Robert Shimp, VP of the Global Technology Business Unit, in an interview with InformationWeek. Constructing enough tests to ensure that the application performs the same under 11g as it did under 10g is time consuming. But with the new Oracle feature, the customer can capture a peak workload, move it to 11g, and confirm that the new system will handle the task without bugs or performance problems, said Shimp.
"We think there is no real competition out there. We're sort of seeding the market" for aiding customers with their regression testing, said Andy Mendelsohn, senior VP, in an interview.
Oracle also is giving customers the option of offloading secondary work, such as drafting reports from the database, to their standby, disaster recovery systems. The feature, Oracle Data Guard, lets customers use hot standby systems for reporting, backup, testing, and other non-mission critical tasks without jeopardizing the system's ability to weigh in as the primary system in the event of a disaster. The feature makes disaster recovery systems more cost effective, said Shimp.
Oracle is following the lead of Microsoft's SQL Server by building more business intelligence capabilities into the database. Users can direct their SQL queries to data cubes, an online analytical processing [OLAP] view of data from more than one dimension. Data cubes, for example, are useful for examining sales reports month by month or quarter by quarter.
Charles Rozwat, executive VP for server technologies, said that Oracle's new OLAP features take business intelligence "from a specialized niche into a much broader market." There was no conflict between the addition of business intelligence to the core product and Oracle's offering of Essbase and other products from its acquisition of Hyperion because they remained a separate business intelligence engine outside the database, he said during the New York teleconference.
Another new feature is faster parsing of XML files as binary XML, or XML text reduced to the ones and zeros of a binary format. Oracle 11g's ability to handle binary XML gives users an option of storing and retrieving it with faster performance. Binary XML has to be converted back to text, however, before users can read and edit it.
Oracle 11g adds encryption and compression for storing large objects, usually unstructured data represented by a medical image, data on a three-dimensional object, or PowerPoint slides. Oracle Fast Files treats such objects as files in a file system and can store and retrieve them from the database more quickly than before, said Mendelsohn.