As Published In
Oracle Magazine
September/October 2009

AT ORACLE: Interview

Memory Matters

By Caroline Kvitka

Performance-critical applications rely on Oracle’s in-memory databases.

In-memory databases provide applications with real-time responsiveness and high throughput. Caroline Kvitka, Oracle Magazine senior managing editor, talked with Marie-Anne Neimat, vice president of development at Oracle, about Oracle’s newest in-memory database offerings. The following is an excerpt from that interview. Download the full podcast at

Oracle Magazine: What is an in-memory database, and what benefits does it offer?

Neimat: An in-memory database is a database management system that relies on having all data in main memory at runtime. Accessing main memory is many times faster than accessing disk. In addition, the architecture of an in-memory database can be optimized because it doesn’t have to manage a buffer pool or focus all the algorithms and data structures around minimizing I/O to disk. This results in a system that requires fewer CPU instructions to execute requests and a faster system with extremely low response time.

Oracle Magazine: What are Oracle’s latest in-memory database products?

Neimat: Oracle has two in-memory database products, and we have just shipped a major new release of both. The first is Oracle TimesTen In-Memory Database 11g, a standalone, relational database that is memory optimized and provides very low and predictable response time to real-time applications. 

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The second is Oracle In-Memory Database Cache 11g, an Oracle Database Enterprise Edition option. It is Oracle TimesTen configured as a middle-tier cache for Oracle Database. An application that uses Oracle In-Memory Database Cache will cache a subset of information from an Oracle database in the application tier. This configuration has a number of advantages: it provides very fast access to the cached data; it reduces the load on Oracle Database; it is deployed on low-cost, middle-tier commodity hardware; it supports the same relational model that the application uses to manage its data in Oracle Database; and the transactions that are executed on cached tables behave just like transactions executed on noncached tables.

Oracle Magazine: What are some of the new features of the products?

Neimat: There are three main features. The first is our new database cache grid. It provides the ability to deploy the cache over a cluster of nodes and to provide applications with location transparency and transaction semantics over the cluster, with the extreme performance that Oracle In-Memory Database Cache already offers. It also provides the ability to add or remove cache nodes incrementally.

The second feature focuses on minimizing changes that an application must make in order to use Oracle In-Memory Database Cache and Oracle TimesTen. Prior to this release, we supported ODBC and JDBC, as well as SQL. The new releases support Oracle Call Interface (OCI), Pro*C, and PL/SQL. This allows an application that uses any of these interfaces to easily start using Oracle In-Memory Database Cache and Oracle TimesTen with minimal changes.

The third feature is high availability through integration with Oracle Clusterware, which automates failure detection and failover of the in-memory database and applications. We also provide integration with Oracle Data Guard for cross-tier high availability between the cache and Oracle Database.

Oracle Magazine: What are some examples of how these products are used?

Neimat: Our strongest industry is telecommunications, where both products are used for subscriber databases, billing systems, mobile services, and networking equipment. Our second-strongest industry is financial trading, where the products are used to actually execute trades, detect fraud, and perform real-time analytics. Oracle TimesTen is also used by several airlines for scheduling, online reservations, and booking. We have a number of customers with other Web-based, customer-facing applications where quick responses are essential to achieving customer satisfaction.


Caroline Kvitka is senior managing editor of Oracle Magazine.

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