As Published In
Oracle Magazine
November/December 2009

AT ORACLE: Interview

Better for Business

By Tom Haunert

Oracle Database 11g Release 2 answers customer challenges and lowers costs.

Andy Mendelsohn, senior vice president of Database Server Technologies at Oracle, sat down with Tom Haunert, Oracle Magazine editor in chief, to talk about new technologies and innovations in Oracle Database 11g Release 2. The following is an excerpt from that interview. Download a podcast of the full interview at

Oracle Magazine: What are the key business challenges facing Oracle customers today?

Mendelsohn: There are really three major things our customers are faced with today. Number 1, IT needs to deliver the best information to the business, so the business can use that information to make the best business decisions and beat the competition. Number 2, the business wants this to work 24/7. The business wants internal sites and customer-facing external sites to be up all the time. Number 3, every IT budget is at best flat, or else it’s being cut, but IT is being asked not only to do what it’s been doing before but also to do even more. So IT needs to get more efficient, and we need to help it lower the cost of implementing its database technologies.

Oracle Magazine: How can Oracle Database 11g help customers lower costs?

Mendelsohn: There are several areas where Oracle can help customers lower costs with Oracle Database 11g.

First, we help customers reduce the cost of the servers underneath the databases—by up to a factor of five—by leveraging our grid technologies.

Next, we can help customers lower the cost of storage—by up to a factor of 12—by leveraging our compression and partitioning technologies.

Next, our maximum availability architecture enables customers to get the highest returns on their hardware investments by using redundant servers and storage to not only provide protection from failures but also to improve the performance of production systems.

Next, we can give our customers great performance at much lower cost with Oracle Database 11g running on the Oracle Database Machine.

And finally, of course, we’ve been working on providing DBAs with a lot of automation technologies to make them much more productive. We estimate that DBAs, as they go from Oracle9i Database and Oracle Database 10g to Oracle Database 11g, are going to be up to twice as productive by leveraging the automation in the latest product release.

Oracle Magazine: Looking at each of these areas, what are the key features of Oracle Database 11g Release 2 that address both quality of service and IT cost savings?

Mendelsohn: First, the grid computing technologies in Oracle Database 11g include Oracle Automatic Storage Management, for dealing with the storage grid; Oracle Real Application Clusters [Oracle RAC], for managing the server grid; and Oracle Grid Control, which manages the overall infrastructure. Oracle Database 11g Release 2 has a major focus on simplifying the Oracle RAC technologies. We simplified the whole provisioning process for Oracle RAC clusters and made the install simpler and more robust. We made the ability to add and drop cluster nodes much simpler, using something called Grid Plug and Play technology. We added server pooling to Oracle Clusterware to help make it easier to provision servers for database clusters on the fly.

Moving on to storage, we all know that the size of databases is growing exponentially, so one of the big focuses of Oracle Database 11g is to lower storage costs. With Oracle Database 11g, we introduced a new database option called Oracle Advanced Compression, which customers can use to reduce the size of all their database tables to anywhere from a half to a quarter of their original size. This compression is continuous; it adds little performance overhead; and it even improves performance of some database operations, such as full table scans.

The combination of our compression and partitioning technologies makes it very easy for customers to leverage multiple storage tiers. Storage vendors offer high-cost storage that delivers a very high number of I/Os per second for OLTP [online transaction processing] systems, but most of the data in OLTP systems becomes read-only or read-mostly after the first few weeks of use. After that, it can be moved onto a lower-cost storage tier, and our partitioning technology makes it simple to manage this two-tiered storage. So by using our compression and partitioning technologies, customers can lower the cost of storage by up to a factor of 12.

Another storage innovation we’ve added in Oracle Database 11g Release 2 is something called Oracle Automatic Storage Management Cluster File System. We introduced Oracle Automatic Storage Management for managing the data underneath the database in Oracle Database 10g, and it was a hit feature of that release. The only objection customers had to Oracle Automatic Storage Management was that it managed only their database storage—they had all this other data sitting around in file systems, and Oracle Automatic Storage Management didn’t manage that data. So in Oracle Database 11g Release 2, we’ve introduced a cluster file system that sits on top of Oracle Automatic Storage Management. Now we provide a full solution for managing all the data underneath the database and all the data in files in your database environment. Oracle Automatic Storage Management Cluster File System also supports read-only snapshots, another very popular feature in the file system world. We think this new file system will be very well-received by our customers.

In the high-availability area, our big goal is to deal with all planned and unplanned downtime. In Oracle Database 11g, we have an array of technologies for dealing with downtime. For example, Oracle Automatic Storage Management provides mirroring at the storage level, and, of course, Oracle RAC provides fault tolerance for servers.

Oracle Data Guard provides fault tolerance for your entire site, by creating and automatically maintaining a standby database. And a big new innovation in Oracle Database 11g is Oracle Active Data Guard, which enables you to use your standby database for running production workloads (rather than sitting idle). You can run read-only workloads such as ad hoc queries and reporting on your standby databases, and you can do backups from your standby databases. This gives you a much better return on investment on the standby hardware. We think everybody who’s really serious about high availability should be implementing Oracle Data Guard and Oracle Active Data Guard now.

Over the last year in the area of performance, we introduced our new Oracle Exadata technologies: the Oracle Exadata Storage Server and the Oracle Database Machine. These technologies deliver performance that’s 10 times better, on average, than a customer’s existing technologies. And I want to be very clear on this: it’s not just performance that’s up to 10 times better—it’s performance that’s 10 times better on average . We see customers getting performance that’s up to 100 times better with the Oracle Database Machine than with either their existing Oracle Database infrastructures or third-party data warehouse appliances. It’s a very powerful technology, and, of course, Oracle Database 11g Release 2 runs on the Oracle Database Machine.

Finally, the last area of emphasis for Oracle Database 11g is DBA productivity. Since the Oracle9i Database release, we’ve been working very systematically to understand DBAs’ repetitive tasks that we can automate. And as you upgrade from Oracle9i Database or Oracle Database 10g to Oracle Database 11g, we’ve measured an approximate doubling of DBA productivity, using all the automation technologies provided in Oracle Database 11g. We added fully automated memory management, we added Oracle Automatic Database Diagnostic Monitor support for Oracle RAC, and we performed studies that really demonstrate a lot of value in leveraging all the automation in the Oracle Database 11g release.

Oracle Magazine: What do you see as the most interesting new feature in this database release?

Mendelsohn: I think one of the key problems our customers have when they run applications on top of databases is that at some point in time, they want to upgrade their applications. The upgrades include middle-tier application code changing, but also on the database side, they may be changing schemas: adding columns, dropping columns, creating new tables, creating new stored procedures, and changing existing stored procedures.

One of the challenges these customers have is that when they make these upgrades, they have to take the system down—often for a weekend—to make all these changes at the database and middle-tier levels and then bring the system back up on Monday morning. But businesses are increasingly becoming 24/7 operations, and they do not tolerate so much downtime. So one of the big Holy Grails in the applications space is doing these kinds of upgrades with no downtime at all.

With Oracle Database 11g Release 2, we’ve introduced a new set of features we call Edition-Based Redefinition. These features give our application developers the technologies they need to make all the database changes I’ve mentioned online. And not only that, but they can actually make the changes while customers are live , running the current version of their application. While the current production system is up and running, the administrators can start installing their new versions of stored procedures, start adding columns to tables, and create new tables, and then they can gradually start moving their production users over from the old application version to the next. So you can have users simultaneously running the two versions of the application against—apparently—two versions of the database, but it’s all online and all in the same database. This is a really revolutionary new Oracle Database innovation.

Oracle Magazine: Beyond Edition-Based Redefinition, how does Oracle Database 11g address change in IT?

Mendelsohn: Hopefully, now our customers are really excited about the new capabilities in Oracle Database 11g and are thinking about upgrading from, let’s say, Oracle Database 10g to Oracle Database 11g. So they go to their bosses and say, “OK, we want to upgrade our thousand Oracle databases.” And their bosses will say, “But I remember the last time we did this. It took us a year, and it cost us big bucks. How are we going to do this at low cost?” So this is one of the areas we’ve focused a lot on in the Oracle Database 11g release—to make it much, much simpler to upgrade to Oracle Database 11g than previous releases.

Let me tell you a story of one of our Oracle Database 11g customers. When the company went to Oracle Database 10g, the upgrade was a bit costly, but when it recently went from Oracle Database 10g to Oracle Database 11g, it had a much, much better experience. The customer was just overjoyed. Not only was the company able to do the upgrades incredibly fast, but it also experienced improved performance out of the box. For its longest-running queries, the customer saw about a 20 percent performance improvement on average.

We have also added some really powerful tools to Oracle Database 11g that help make sure you immediately get the same—or better—performance and reliability with Oracle Database 11g that you got with your previous release. And the foremost feature there is Oracle Real Application Testing, which has two parts. First, SQL Performance Analyzer enables you to take the SQL statements from your application, run them in both your Oracle Database 10g (or Oracle9i Database) and Oracle Database 11g environments, compare the performance in the two, and detect any regression there might be as you move to Oracle Database 11g. Then you can take advantage of features such as Automatic SQL Tuning to tune those particular queries that need special attention before you move to the new release. Using SQL Performance Analyzer has been very popular as a way of checking out your SQL before you upgrade. 

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The next big part of Oracle Real Application Testing is Database Workload Capture and Replay. It lets you go to your production system, capture your actual production workload—all the SQL and PL/SQL statements that are being run on your production system—move that workload into a test environment, run it against your Oracle Database 11g test environment, and verify that you get at least the same performance and reliability with Oracle Database 11g that you had before. This essentially automates the whole process of creating a regression test, and that’s another very, very powerful innovation we have in Oracle Database 11g to help customers lower the cost of upgrading.

Oracle Magazine: What’s new in option support for Oracle Database 11g Release 2, Enterprise Edition?

Mendelsohn: Well, of course, in every release, we’re adding new features to the basic Oracle Database, Enterprise Edition, and Oracle Database, Standard Edition, products and to all the core options. In addition, with Oracle Database 11g Release 2, we’ve added a new Enterprise Edition option called Oracle RAC [Oracle Real Application Clusters] One Node.

Oracle RAC is a very powerful technology that lets you take commodity servers or any other kind of servers; cluster them together; and build out a powerful infrastructure that’s scalable, highly available, and flexible. And what we’ve noticed over the last few years is that as customers do a lot of consolidation, they’re often consolidating lots of small to medium-size databases onto a smaller number of servers. Oracle RAC One Node provides a solution that enables organizations to perform such consolidations on the grid. This new option of Oracle Database 11g Release 2 provides the fault tolerance and flexibility of Oracle RAC but runs databases on just a single server. Oracle RAC One Node capabilities include support for cluster failover, rolling upgrades of hardware and software, and online move of a database between servers in the grid.

Oracle Magazine: It’s been only a short time since the release of Oracle Database 11g Release 2, but what do you think is going to be the most popular feature in this new release?

Mendelsohn: We’ve had requests from several of our customers—especially our applications customers—to do something about the fact that when you create a table in Oracle Database today, the database will actually allocate the first extents for the table before you even insert any rows. And if you have a very complex application such as SAP or Oracle E-Business Suite—where you have tens of thousands of tables—just creating the database can use a huge amount of space, even if there are no rows stored in most of the tables in the database.

One of the customer requests was, “Can the database defer allocation of space until we insert rows into the tables?” and we’ve responded in this release. In Oracle Database 11g Release 2, the database will do just that, so when you create your tables, the database won’t allocate any of the space underneath those tables until you insert some rows.

We believe that as customers move to Oracle Database 11g Release 2 and create their new tables, they are certainly going to implement this feature (Deferred Segment Creation). And certainly when you install new applications such as SAP or Oracle E-Business Suite, you’re going to be able to save a huge amount of space as you create your databases.

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