As Published In
Oracle Magazine
November/December 2007

AT ORACLE: Interview

Extreme Transaction Processing

By Jeff Erickson

Oracle Coherence 3.3 provides fast access to frequently used data.

With the recent release of Oracle Coherence 3.3, Cameron Purdy, Oracle vice president of development and former CEO of Tangosol, sat down with Oracle Magazine's Jeff Erickson to talk about this leading in-memory data grid solution. The following is an excerpt from that interview. Download a podcast of the full interview at

Oracle Magazine: Tell us about the current imbalance between demand and supply in the data management industry.

Purdy: If you look at the combination of much higher demand in terms of number of end users actually using today's systems, combined with technologies like service-oriented architecture, XML, and Ajax that tend to require much more information, the result is that the demand for information and the demands placed on the data infrastructure have just exploded over the past decade. At the same time, the technology that supplies this information has not kept pace, so we have a tremendous increase in demand compared to the technology that actually supplies the information. Oracle has addressed this already in several ways, starting with Oracle Real Application Clusters (Oracle RAC) and Oracle TimesTen In-Memory Database.

Oracle Magazine: How does Oracle Coherence address this demand increase?

Purdy: Oracle Coherence provides predictable qualities of service for applications built with Oracle's middleware technology: scalable performance, availability, and reliability and consistency of the information.

Oracle Magazine: Oracle already has an in-memory technology, Oracle TimesTen. How is Oracle Coherence different?

Purdy: Oracle TimesTen provides an in-memory SQL database and has the ability to move information up into memory, so it provides much faster access to SQL data. What Oracle Coherence provides is similar, in that the information is in memory, but instead of doing it with SQL information it does it with information that is in the application's programming language.

Oracle Magazine: How are companies using Oracle Coherence?

Purdy: What we see are four general use cases. The first is caching. Companies are using Oracle Coherence to provide very fast access to information—fast access both because it's in memory and because it's already in the form that the application needs—but additionally because it's typically already on the server that actually needs the information.

The second use case is analytics, where applications are processing very large amounts of information. Typically there are various trends or statistics that companies are looking for in a pile of information, and generally they're looking for real-time answers.

The third use case is transactions—actually having the transactions in the application being conducted in memory. The reason Oracle Coherence is so uniquely suited for this is that the information is synchronously backed up onto at least one other server to make sure that it can't be lost, and that allows the transactions to run at in-memory speed without sacrificing the information in case of a server failure. The more servers that are available, the higher the overall transaction rate, and that allows us to accomplish what's known as extreme transaction processing.

The fourth case is event-driven architectures. These are systems where events, such as information streaming into the system or information changing, drive the system. 

Next Steps

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Oracle Magazine: What does Oracle Coherence mean for the future of IT?

Purdy: We see this as a foundation for scalable and continuously available software applications that are being deployed today as well as basically all applications in the future. These are qualities of service that every application wants to achieve and that any CIO or architect is going to want. We're talking about being able to provide scalable performance, continuous availability, and reliability and consistency of information. But we don't achieve those in a vacuum—we actually provide a foundation for achieving all of them simultaneously, and as a result it becomes a no-brainer to build applications using this technology. 

Jeff Erickson is a senior editor with Oracle Publishing.

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