COMMENT: In the Field
What's New in Oracle Database 11gBy Ari Kaplan
The latest version of the database has great new features for everyone.
Oracle Database 11g, the biggest release of Oracle's flagship database in several years, was launched recently. I'm impressed that Oracle invests so much effort in each new version of the database, and the effort shows. The database has consistently been the technology market leader, often by many years, and this new version continues that tradition.
Full disclosure: The Independent Oracle Users Group (IOUG) has been a significant part of the beta program for Oracle Database 11g. IOUG members have been working with Oracle on features and testing, and many members have installed beta versions of the release and run real applications against it—and there's a lot to like in Oracle Database 11g. You've probably heard about some of the major features, and I want to tell you about some of my favorite features of this new release.
Oracle Audit Vault
One feature I love in Oracle Database 11g is called Oracle Audit Vault, and if you're not using it now in Oracle9i Database or Oracle Database 10g, maybe you should be. What's so special about Oracle Audit Vault? It makes Oracle the only database to enable you to be truly security-process compliant.
From my experience as a DBA, I know—and you probably do, too—that DBAs who are skilled enough can view and change data if they really want to. They can then alter the audit trail—wipe away their footprints—to make sure no one can find out what they've done. It's always been a problem, and now it's also a major compliance issue.
Oracle Audit Vault changes that scenario considerably. The audit trail goes into a one-way "lockbox." No one, not even a highly skilled DBA, can alter that audit trail once it's in the lockbox. People can view it, but no one can change it or delete it.
This functionality prevents problems, whether deliberate or accidental, caused by insiders. Oracle Audit Vault is implemented using encryption techniques, and those who try to tamper with it leave telltale signs of their attempts. Enterprises that need to comply with regulatory audit procedures—and which don't?—will love Oracle Audit Vault. I can't wait.
Another feature that DBAs will really appreciate is hot patching, which allows you to apply updates and bug fixes to the database without bringing the system down. Previously, you would have to stop production by halting work entirely—or do an intricate and expensive dance of transferring to another system and back—to do any patching. It's no surprise that administrators were reluctant to do this, and praiseworthy dedication to uptime sometimes meant not applying critical patch updates. Hot patching resolves such dilemmas: you can run your patches, including security fixes, without affecting production. Gotta love that.
Another new feature I like in Oracle Database 11g is the ability to store data in compressed format—called advanced table compression. Suppose you're storing a lot of long documents. Keeping them in compressed format can save up to two-thirds of the usual space necessary. Naturally the amount of space you can save depends on the kind of information you're storing: this compression won't help much with data that's already compressed, for example. But if you have large uncompressed data elements, this feature will save you a lot of space and expense.
Even managing large amounts of ordinary data can be a chore. The new partition advisor can suggest how best to manage large amounts of data, such as census data by state. It can also physically create partitions. You still have control over what it does—specifying how long to keep data, for example.
Query Result Cache
Another neat feature is query result cache, which is what it sounds like: Oracle Database 11g will cache the results of queries in memory, where they act like tables. Multiple users can see these results without repeating the same query. For common and frequently used queries, this can save system effort and improve performance. You can configure how much space to allocate to query result cache and how long to retain results.
These are just a few of the new features I looked at in Oracle Database 11g. Oracle consistently comes out with new, useful, and—for some business issues—mandatory technology. The company's commitment to its database product is impressive. This one will be fun.
Ari Kaplan (firstname.lastname@example.org) is president of the Independent Oracle Users Group (IOUG) and a senior consultant at Datalink. He founded Expand Beyond Corporation, a leader in mobile IT software. He has been involved in Oracle technology since 1992.