REDWOOD CITY, Calif.--In unveiling its new Oracle 12C Database In-Memory Option on June 10, Oracle ostensibly has caught up with competitor SAP's HANA 3-year-old in-memory database, the product that has radically changed the fortunes of the German business software maker.
So now let's watch the market positioning and sales wars escalate.
"Adding the In-Memory Option is as simple as flipping a switch to make an entire system faster," Oracle CEO and co-founder Larry Ellison told a crowd of customers, partners and media people at the launch event here on the company campus. "You don't have to change anything to add In-Memory Option to your system. You plug it in, and everything just works."
A key value-add behind the In-Memory Option is that it is already optimized to add directly into Oracle databases so that IT managers don't have to rewrite or re-install applications, retrain admins or change any policies.
No More Re-Tooling Issues
Adding solid-state components to servers and storage systems historically has been a headache for IT managers due to all the preparation and re-tooling that is required in order to accommodate the newer, faster parts.
With Oracle Database In-Memory, users can get immediate answers to business questions that previously took hours to obtain, Ellison said.
A key component in this in-memory database is that it uses an enormous amount of DRAM (dynamic random-access memory) totaling up to 32TB. That's very expensive; Oracle, however, wouldn't divulge any pricing numbers June 10. Potential customers will have to wait until the new product goes GA next month.
Ellison, as is his routine during product launches, showed a long series of PowerPoint slides on the new product, illustrating increased speeds of workload processing that ranged from 2X or 3X and on up to 1,000X, depending on the use case.
Were Previous DBs That Slow?
The demonstration made one wonder if the previous version of the database was relatively slow. It also reminded listeners that those previous versions from a year ago were also positioned as being 10X to 100X faster than the 2012 versions they replaced.
For the organization that values speed in its data centers--such as financial services companies, scientific laboratories, oil and gas exploration projects, and military operations--the only thing that matters is whether the job can get done in near real time. That's what Oracle and SAP are shooting for.
The 12C In-Memory Option is aimed at enabling ISV applications to accelerate their performance by orders of magnitude for analytics, data warehousing and reporting while also speeding up online transaction processing (OLTP), Ellison said.
In-Memory has undergone extensive industry validation and testing from Oracle PartnerNetwork ISV partners, including SAS and TAS Group, and has been validated to deliver up to 100X acceleration of modules in popular enterprise applications, including modules in Oracle E-Business Suite and Oracle’s PeopleSoft products, Ellison said.
"It's every bit as fast as SAP HANA," Oracle Executive Vice President for Database and Server Technologies Andrew Mendelsohn told eWEEK in an interview. "You get a real-time effect. At their core, the column store in Oracle and in HANA are the same in-memory column representation. What you all see as raw speeds of scanning this data is very similar. There's no published benchmark, but you'll see us do demos of scanning billions of rows per second with a single core (processor), and when you parallelize that, you can see the scale that can happen across multiple cores or servers."
Oracle: HANA Doesn't Do OLTP All That Well
However, there is at least one big difference between Oracle's in-memory option and SAP HANA, according to Mendelsohn: HANA does the fast processing for analytics purposes well, but it does not do online transaction processing (OLTP) optimally, he said. "This is because it was not primarily designed for that purpose.
"This is why you don't hear SAP talking much about this," Mendelsohn said. "They focus on the analytics aspect of the product and are quiet about transactions."
In response, Irfan Khan, senior vice president and general manager of SAP's Database and Technology Business, told eWEEK that this is hardly the case.
"One of the most demanding transaction processing applications is ERP (enterprise resource planning)," Kahn said. "Over a year ago, we announced the general availability of HANA as a runtime platform for ERP, or the business suite, as we call it. This is a highly OLTP-centric type of workload. We had some showcases in our keynotes at Sapphire (SAP's trade show, held last week); for example, John Deere and Burberry have made big investments in HANA for OLTP workloads and showed how they use it on a daily basis.
"It is interesting that Oracle has spent the better part of 3 1/2-plus years pontificating, analyzing and wanting to respond to HANA. In part, it's exemplary in that they were able to do it, because they are constrained by some very historical foundations that are rooted to the early 1970s, when their product was first introduced. If they assert that we don't do OLTP, that's a weak response in relation to what we have introduced into the market."
An Interesting Analogy
There's no doubt that Oracle has a "fantastic, enterprise-grade transactional database," Kahn said. But it's old IT, he said.
"I would use the analogy with you that if I had an old VHS tape recorder, which is very much stable and plays my wedding film perfectly from 25 years ago, then on top of which I slapped on a Blu-Ray player and say that's my equivalent of in-memory, does that give me a better position in the market? It doesn't make sense," Kahn said.
"What you'd want to do is take a look at the componetry and make sure that everything is harmonized--to take advantage of native parallelism that's now possible within these modern microprocessors.
"It's a good position they'd want to take to provide that reassuring tone to customers, but frankly, it's a VHS recorder with a Blu-Ray slapped on top."
The Oracle In-Memory Option for the 12C Database will become generally available in July, Ellison said. Beta testers only are using it now. Go here for more information.