Oracle gears up for 9i release

Oracle touts database clustering at its international user conference, but users say it may not be enough to draw them to 9i

It doesn't take much to get Oracle's Ken Jacobs, who is known as "Dr. DBA," to get revved up over one of the key features in Oracle's upcoming 9i database software.

The Real Application Cluster in Oracle 9i enables nodes to simultaneously access disk drives. It will "change the competitive landscape" because it is "bringing IBM's mainframe database architecture to the open systems market," said Jacobs, Oracle's vice president of product strategy server technologies.

"We are basically saying, 'If you have online transaction-processing applications, and you want to scale but not run a mainframe, we are your only choice,'" Jacobs said just hours before an appearance here Monday at the International Oracle Users Group conference. "There is no limit to online transaction-processing applications any longer."

No doubt, Oracle 9i is aimed at companies, such as Amazon.com and financial institutions, that are heavily dependent software for processing transactions. How quickly other companies will adopt Oracle 9i because of the Real Application Cluster feature remains an open question.

"For our shop," said Gary Murphy, a database administrator at Newfoundland Power in Manuels, Canada, the cluster probably isn't so important. "I don't think we need the scalability you get with clusters. I come from a utility company, so our customer base does not grow a lot."

Some 3,000 attendees are gathering this week at the IOUG conference, where Oracle is using its time to gear up for the release of 9i in a few months.

Oracle officials say they are preparing to announce exact availability dates in a few weeks.

"We are in the final stages right now," Jacobs said. "We are running it in-house" on the e-mail system.

But some database administrators say the Real Application Cluster feature may not be compelling enough to get them to upgrade immediately.

"Oracle 9i is too new. And we just recently went to production for one database with Oracle 8i (Version 7)," said Mike Morley, lead database administrator for Oracle projects at Verizon in Tampa.

"Unless there is some feature that you can take right out of the box without a design change, we wouldn't try it. Plus, a lot of our upgrades are driven by support staff, such as the business units."

As for other noteworthy features in Oracle 9i, Newfoundland Power's Murphy said, "I think we will upgrade eventually, but there is nothing I want right now. There are some disaster recovery features we might take advantage of."

Another Verizon database administrator, however, finds Oracle's methodology appealing: Building clusters through software may be a lot easier than constructing them through hardware.

"Oracle is trying to build a cluster solution that does not depend on the kind of power solution you have," said the database manager, who requested anonymity. "It does seem like a good idea. Usually the hardware solution is difficult to implement, although it is more robust. But software is easier to implement. I have to wait a bit more and see."

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