Oracle hasn't even officially released its 12c database yet, but CEO Larry Ellison has already revealed plans for the version that will follow, 12.1c, which apparently will be Oracle's most direct response yet to SAP's HANA in-memory platform.
Oracle Database 12.1c will be a "columnar, compressed, high-speed, in-memory database," Ellison said during Oracle's quarterly earnings call Thursday. "One reason I was confident SAP HANA could never compete with Oracle was because of 12.1c."
Oracle will couple 12.1c with new systems containing large amounts of DRAM, Ellison said. HANA systems also use a lot of DRAM, holding information in main memory rather than reading it off of slower storage mediums, providing a performance boost SAP has deemed remarkable.
It wasn't immediately clear Thursday when 12.1c will be released. Until now, Oracle has touted its Exadata database machine and Exalytics in-memory appliance as alternatives to HANA.
SAP spokesman James Dever downplayed Ellison's remarks, saying in an email that HANA has seen a faster relative growth rate than Exadata, and that it offers customers a broader range of capabilities.
Ellison also hinted strongly Thursday that the long-anticipated launch of Oracle Database 12c may be imminent.
Asked on the earnings call Thursday how 12c will affect Oracle's license revenue growth, Ellison said the vendor will make a series of "startling" announcements next week with "the largest and most important SaaS companies and infrastructure companies in the cloud."
Those vendors, including Salesforce.com and Netsuite, will be "committing to our technology for years to come," he said.
Database 12c will serve as the "foundation of a modern cloud," allowing for application delivery with a higher degree of efficiency, according to Ellison.
He didn't offer many more details about next week's announcement.
Observers might be wise to temper their expectations, as many of the top SaaS (software as a service) vendors, including NetSuite and Salesforce.com, have long used Oracle's database to build their services. It would be more surprising if they were to rip out their Oracle software, than if they upgrade it to 12c.
That said, there has been some evidence that Salesforce.com is looking for alternatives to Oracle's database, but next week's announcement may mean those plans are on the back burner or simply not wide-scale.
Version 12c incorporates the notion of "pluggable databases," which will enable multiple databases to run securely inside a single database instance.
Ellison also revealed that the pluggable databases in 12c will be a "separately priced option," rather than included under annual maintenance fees. The move might not be a surprise to many customers given how many features, such as Real Application Clusters, are already licensed separately from the core database.