Oracle 11g: First on Linux

While Wednesday marked the official unveiling of Oracle Corp.'s 11g database and a look at its new features, pricing and availability information was pretty thin on the ground. All the vendor would confirm is that the Linux version of 11g will ship this quarter, probably in August.

"It's our intention to do a pricing announcement closer to the release date," said Chuck Rozwat, executive vice president, server technologies at Oracle. "It's just a matter of weeks before we make that announcement."

He was speaking during a question-and-answer session following a more than two-hour 11g launch event in New York.

Oracle wouldn't comment on when 11g would be available for the other operating systems the database will support including Microsoft Corp.'s Windows.

What also remained unclear was which of the 400 features on display would end up being part of 11g and so free to customers upgrading from previous versions of the database and which functionality will Oracle charge users for as additional options for 11g. Rozwat said he couldn't make that call on Wednesday, but that the information would also be forthcoming next month.

Earlier during the launch event, Oracle President Charles Phillips tried to set the 11g release in context.

Oracle's currently celebrating its 30th year in business since beginning life as Software Development Laboratories, later Relational Software, a startup working on building a relational database.

Since that time, Oracle has expanded, often through acquisition, into providing a wide range of other software notably middleware and back-office applications. Databases remain an important source of revenue for the vendor and also provide a 275,000-strong customer base into which it can try to sell its other products.

The name "Oracle" originally came from the code name for a project the startup was working on for the CIA, said Phillips, a comparatively recent addition to the company, who joined Oracle in 2003. He recalled an anecdote he'd been told by Larry Ellison, Oracle's co-founder and CEO. The startup had expanded to two offices but had no way to run cabling for its servers between the two rooms. It appeared an intractable problem, but Ellison picked up a hammer and banged a hole in the wall, resolving the issue. "That's why we're Oracle today and he still carries that hammer around," Phillips quipped.

Customers' data needs are highly diverse and Oracle's trying to cater to all of those different requirements, Phillips said. He drew a comparison with modes of transport. Some users are riding tricycles while others are flying first class on a Boeing 747 jet, he said, so running the gamut from a basic need to store and access data up to highly sophisticated requirements around database security, management, storage and compliance issues.

All customers are struggling with an explosion in the amount of data their IT systems have to handle and an increase in the number of people wanting to access that data more frequently, Phillips said.

For some time customers have been requesting the ability to apply patches to Oracle's database while it is still up and running and that's now available in 11g, Phillips said. "They don't want to stop what they're doing and take the database down," he added. It took Oracle several years to develop that functionality, Phillips noted.

IT users are also being pressured to do more with less resources, so 11g includes advanced compression and partitioning capabilities so that customers can choose where they store their data and can opt to put less accessed, older information on cheaper storage devices, he added.

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