Sep 27, 2012 (10:09 AM EDT)
Oracle 12c Database: Open World's Centerpiece

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The worst-kept secret about next week's Oracle Open World event is that it will serve as the launching pad for Oracle 12c, the next-generation release of the industry's top-selling database. Oracle CEO Larry Ellison touted the announcement during an earnings conference call last week as being "a very, very big deal."

The "c" in 12c is for cloud, and Ellison divulged that database virtualization is a big part of what will make the update cloud friendly. "I'm not sure I want to use the multi-tenant term," Ellison said, "[but 12c will] have a thing called plausible databases, which allow multiple tenants to securely coexist in the same database. And then that's covered with virtualization."

The combination of plausible databases and virtualization is a "belt and suspenders approach to security," Ellison said, ensuring that data is "isolated and private and safe and secure."

Database virtualization is nothing new. VMWare, for one, introduced a vFabric product for database virtualization last year, and a vFabric Data Director 2.0 upgrade in July added support for running Oracle 10g and 11g in virtual machines.

[ Related: Oracle Open World: Key Issues On Tap. ]

Database virtualization offers a number of advantages, including the ability to maximize hardware use. And by running multiple database instances on one CPU instead of multiple CPUs, database customers can reduce CPU-based licensing charges--although Oracle probably won't spin it that way. App developers and managers can treat database capacity as an on-demand resource, easing operational expenses and app development costs.

Oracle has been touting many of these deployment and resource optimization benefits through its Exalogic Elastic Cloud Appliance. But Exalogic is limited to delivering virtual network-, storage-, and server-level capacity. A new Exadata Database Machine to be announced at Open World will undoubtedly exploit the database virtualization capabilities of the 12c database.

The new Exadata, rumored to be called the X-3, will include a 1/8 rack configuration, according to Oracle database blogger Andy Colvin. The entry point for the current X-2 Exadata is a 1/4 rack configuration, and according to analyst Merv Adrian of Gartner, the vast majority of Exadata sales are on this lowest-cost model.

Despite all the hype about big data, the emergence of a 1/8 rack Exadata configuration would confirm that the vast majority of database users are working with fewer than 10 terabytes of data. And with Oracle's hardware business continuing to struggle--hardware revenue was down 24% year-over-year to $779 million for the quarter ended Aug. 31--the company desperately needs to get more customers on the Exadata engineered systems path.

Oracle says hardware sales are declining overall because it's getting out of the commodity X86 server business. It's focusing on the combination of high-end servers and its "Exa" engineered systems. "Exadata, Exalogic, Exalytics and our other engineered systems grew more than 100% in the quarter," Oracle president Mark Hurd said last week. "For the full year, we expect to double engineered systems sales to well over $1 billion."

As for the database at the heart of Exadata, Ellison said 12c will be introduced late this year or early next year and that it will perpetuate Oracle market share gains. "The primary competitor, IBM, I believe, continues to lose share to us every quarter, as does our second competitor, which is SQL Server," Ellison said. "And we believe that Exadata is doing a pretty good job of competing with Teradata."

The cloud-oriented features of 12c are likely to be the glue between what might otherwise seem like disparate discussions at Open World encompassing cloud applications and on-premises infrastructure. It's a good bet that Ellison will make the case that Oracle alone has figured out how to do cloud infrastructure the right way, and that customers will benefit whether they're running apps in Oracle's cloud or using its engineered systems for private-cloud deployment.

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