Duelling databases: Four apps tested

Summary:Databases are by no means an easy product category to understand. Many of the big players now offer free or "light" versions of their databases, but comparing them all is no easy task -- as we found out.

Oracle 10g Standard Edition v10.2.0.1
After exploring Oracle 10g Standard Edition it is no surprise that when asked to name a database Oracle is probably the first vendor's name to roll off most lips. Sure it isn't cheap but even the Standard Edition (SE) is packed with features that makes management, usability, and scalability very simple and straightforward.

Product Oracle 10g Release 1 Standard Edition
Price Per CPU, unlimited users $19,814 (+ software update and support $4358.97) or, per named user $396 (min 5 users) (+$87.18 per user for software update and support).
Vendor Oracle Corporation
Phone 1300 366 386
Web www.oracle.com/au
Limited to four CPUs, strong features set, very good user interface, solutions for Windows, Unix, and Linux.
With up to four CPUs this edition will handle a large workload before the need to upgrade. The product cleanly and painlessly scales up to Enterprise Edition and support for clustering, failover, etc.
Relatively expensive when compared to DB2 but does include features and capabilities that are added cost with DB2.
Support licence (once purchased) covers all software patches and upgrades and 24x7 technical support by phone or e-mail.
The Oracle stables include four variations of the 10g database starting at the Personal Edition and scaling up through Standard Edition (tested here), Standard Edition One, and Oracle Database Enterprise edition. All include a common set of database development features such as stored procedures and triggers, and applications written for any of the databases will happily run on the others and so a clear upgrade path is provided as your business grows.

The upgrade path is very smooth and simple so if you needed to upgrade from SE to the Enterprise Edition you simply install the software and do not need to make any changes to the database, applications, or administration.

Installation is a painless procedure although configuration and optimisation would be a difficult for the uninitiated. To be fair this is not because configuration is made difficult, it is simply the sheer breadth and scope of parameters that can be configured, and it is hard to see how Oracle could have made the task any easier than it is already with the easy-to-navigate user interfaces.

Hardware requirements are surprisingly modest at 1GB of memory and 2GB of disk space, although the latter does include space for your data. The SE version can handle up to quad-processor servers but this can get quite expensive depending on the pricing model you choose. For an internal company database the specified number of user model will probably be more cost effective but then in an online e-commerce environment. Like our scenario company, you cannot specify the users so Oracle charges per CPU in your server.

If you are starting off with a modest workload we advise you hold off loading up your server with multiple CPUs until you need them because a four-way server will cost four times as much to licence than a single CPU.

Oracle 10g SE supports Windows, Linux, Solaris, HP OpenVMS, Mac OS, AIX, IBM z/OS, and HP Unixââ,¬"just about every flavour with the exception of Netware.

As for features, SE gets a tick against almost every feature you would want, including unlimited table row lengths.

Data integrity is obviously critical to any business and this product guarantees users will never experience "dirty reads" through the use of the Multi Version Read Consistency (MVRC) mechanism. That is not to say the other databases serve up incorrect data but with some database engines when the workload is high, uncommitted data can be flushed from buffers to disk potentially creating a dirty read. MVRC also ensures that readers do not block writers and visa versa.

SE also doesn't escalate row-level locking which can occur if your locks are maintained in memory and during a busy time the memory starts to fill. In this case some database engines lock, the buffer can fill and force an escalation to free up memory to maintain locking, albeit at a higher level. Rather than maintain a lock buffer Oracle SE instead flags the relevant row to indicate a lock or unlocked state and so can, in theory, maintain an unlimited number of locks.

Another neat inclusion is Oracle Spacial which can analyse the special relationship of associated data, for example, the closest warehouse for a particular item of stock for a retail store.

Administration is via Enterprise Manager (EM) which we found very easy to use and extremely powerful -- it's a close tussle between EM and IBM DB2's Control Center for the best interface honours. If there is an item you need to tweak, view and load, or alter, it's almost certain there is a link or button to it in EM.

As previously mentioned, Standard Edition is not cheap, it is actually the most expensive product in the group at almost AU$20,000 per CPU and over AU$4000 per year for support. However, we should note that we were constrained to test Standard Edition because our test rig was equipped with four processors. Perhaps a better option would be Standard Edition One which is licensed for a maximum of two CPU's and is a lot less expensive at AU$6598 per CPU and AU$1451.54 per year for support.

Of course, if you can nominate your users the cost can be significantly lower. For a small number of users, for example, Standard Edition is AU$396/user and AU$87.18/user/annum for support, while Standard Edition One is AU$197/user and AU$43.30/user/annum support; in both cases there is a five-user minimum. Support includes all software patches and updates and 24x7 support.

Topics: Enterprise Software, Big Data, Reviews

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