Mention "green solution" and databases aren't usually what jump to mind first. Yet Oracle, the industry's market-share leading enterprise database vendor, has developed the latest 11g database as a more streamlined, greener product with new features, such as advanced data compression and Partition Advisor.
Though Redwood Shores, Calif.-based Oracle officially launched 11g last summer, the Test Center opted to examine the database in light of news from archrival Microsoft that its SQL Server 2008 would be delayed by several months.
VARs who had been banking on Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft's forthcoming database may be taking that extra window of time to have a look around. From a technical perspective, the Test Center found, it might well make sense to do so.
Test Center reviewers installed Oracle Database 11g Enterprise Edition for testing on an HP ProLiant ML 110 server with dual core Xeon 2.13GHz processors, 150-GB HDD and 2-GB RAM running Windows 2008 Server RTM. On this relatively low-end server, setup time from execution to finish took 27 minutes.
A test database was created using the Database Configuration Assistant GUI. Data was generated using SoftTree Technologies Inc.'s handy utility -- DB Tools for Oracle. The database size amounted to 1.5 GB. Six tablespaces, 28 schemas and 2,615 tables were generated in all.
In addition to all of 11g's most publicized and anticipated new features (see "Featured Performers," page 46), the database's partitioning features have been extended via the Advisor Central, which is a link on the Web-based Database Control home page. Following this link are "advisors," which are specialized utilities to aid in optimizing, analyzing and troubleshooting databases. Although Advisor Central is not a new feature, the SQL Access Advisor now generates partitioning recommendations, an addition called Partition Advisor.
Test Center reviewers ran the advisor's "recommend new access structure" option. The default parameter to analyze "current and recent SQL activity" was left active, although the option to "use an existing SQL tuning set" or to "create a hypothetical workload from the following schemas and tables" are available as well. All other settings were left at default. The Advisor found zero recommendations and rated the database at "Acceptable Performance." If recommendations were provided, the results would include a link to each one. Recommendations arrive in two ways: by cost improvement and by implementation. The enhancement to this advisor is impressive -- it's very interactive yet highly customizable.
Oracle 11g's recovery options have been given a facelift and a cool, new name as well: Total Recall, which is a flashback data archive. Flashback, in a nutshell, allows for the "rewinding" of tables or databases back to a certain point in time in the case of human error or data corruption. Every change to the database is tracked and stored in a secure and easily accessible historical archive.
Test Center reviewers also took a look at the advanced data compression capabilities, and here's where the "green" comes in: Compression in 11g goes across all databases -- not just production -- which decreases the level of real estate needed in the data center. Compressing large volumes of data can significantly decrease the need for additional disk space.
In 11g, unstructured documents can be compressed with binary compression and structured documents are compressed by way of duplicate data values. There is less overhead with data compression because of an improved algorithm. Compression is up to four times greater than in previous versions.
In the test network, Oracle performed well on the Windows 2008 server with a single XP client connection. Using DB tools for Oracle, a simulation of 15 concurrent client connections was directed to the database server. The benchmark results averaged 1,100 transactions per second (TPS).
Where It Hurts
There's a potentially significant rub for a number of solution providers and their customers: price. At the time the Test Center examined the database, Oracle 11g Enterprise was priced at $40,000 per CPU. Total Recall, as an option, runs $5,000 per CPU, Advanced Compression is $10,000 per CPU and Active Data Guard is $5,000 per CPU. Even with only a fraction of the available options, the software the Test Center reviewed for this report alone would be more than $60,000.
Knowing that VARs will deliver Oracle 11g as a targeted data solution for customers where data control and management is a make-or-break operation -- and impressed with 11g's ability to scale to new functions as needed -- the Test Center can recommend 11g for VARs and their customers who have a long business road map and who know what they're buying into.
Editor's note: This review was completed for inclusion in VAR Business Magazine just prior to Oracle's announcement that it would be releasing 41 patches that would impact various parts of its product line, including Oracle 11g. For a rundown on the specific patches, please read this previous story.