As Published In
Oracle Magazine
September/October 2013



Cloud Computing Breakthrough

by David Baum


Oracle unveils new multitenant architecture in Oracle Database 12c.

In a much-anticipated release, Oracle unveiled Oracle Database 12c in July. According to Oracle President Mark Hurd, Oracle has advanced the state of the art in database technology with innovations that no other vendor can match, most notably the first multitenant database for the cloud.

“We have been in the database business for 36 years, and we are constantly accelerating the pace of innovation,” Hurd said at a launch webcast on July 10. “Oracle Database 12c is a breakthrough release that makes cloud computing better—a lot better.”

Plugging Into the Cloud

The “game-changing innovation” of Oracle Database 12c, said Andy Mendelsohn, senior vice president, Oracle Database Server Technologies, is pluggable databases, which are supported through a new architecture and database option called Oracle Multitenant. “Just as virtualization lets you turn a physical server into a collection of virtual machines, Oracle Multitenant lets you turn a physical Oracle database into a collection of pluggable databases, each of which looks and feels like a physical Oracle database to the applications with which it is associated,” he explained.

With Oracle Database 12c, these applications can run unchanged in a secure isolated environment. Powerful resource management capabilities ensure that each pluggable database receives its fair share of system resources. This architecture also streamlines database consolidation in private clouds, with greater hardware efficiency and easier management. For public cloud deployments and software-as-a-service (SaaS) providers, Oracle Database 12c enables multitenancy within the database tier rather than the application tier.

“For the first time, all the power of Oracle Database is available to SaaS applications in a secure and isolated fashion,” Mendelsohn said. “Pluggable databases have been designed with both public and private cloud computing in mind, with attributes such as fast provisioning, cloning, flexible resource management, and support for all Oracle Database features such as Oracle Real Application Clusters (Oracle RAC), partitioning, Oracle Active Data Guard, Oracle Advanced Compression, and database security.”

Dissecting Multitenant

According to Patrick Wheeler, senior director, Oracle product management, pluggable databases are self-contained, fully functional Oracle Database instances. Many of them can be plugged into a single multitenant container database, which enables organizations to manage many databases as one, significantly reducing operating expenses.

This architecture is particularly useful for SaaS vendors. “SaaS environments have multiple copies of the same application, used by various tenants,” said Wheeler. “Oracle Multitenant lets you manage all of these tenants at once yet delineate the isolation and security requirements.” Each individual tenant connects to the application as if it were a separate isolated database, he continued. This makes it easier for SaaS vendors to deliver standardized services in the cloud. They can provision individual tenant databases of many sizes and plug them into a container database managed at the appropriate level of a service-level agreement.

These database tenant distinctions are particularly significant in comparison to traditional consolidation methods, which typically involve creating virtual machines to host multiple applications on a single physical server. While this type of virtualization reduces physical sprawl, organizations still have to contend with virtual sprawl.

Hundreds of New Features

Although Oracle Multitenant grabs the limelight in the new Oracle Database release, there are more than 500 other added features designed to transform how organizations store, manage, and use information. “It is difficult to summarize just how powerful and comprehensive this database management system is,” said Mendelsohn. He went on to single out a few prominent features:

Automatic Data Optimization. To help organizations efficiently manage growing volumes of data while lowering storage costs and improving database performance, Oracle Database 12c includes new Automatic Data Optimization features, including Heat Map, which helps DBAs automate information lifecycle management tasks.

As Mendelsohn explained, the “temperature” of rows stored in database tables and partitions changes over time, depending on the level of activity. For example, rows inserted from online transaction processing (OLTP) applications typically start out “hot,” with multiple inserts and updates. These rows “cool down” as they are used less frequently, often for business intelligence and other read-only purposes. Heat Map monitors this read/write activity so that DBAs can more easily identify patterns. Then, using smart compression and storage tiering, they can quickly define policies that govern how data is automatically compressed and moved among tiers—such as OLTP, data warehouse, and archive—based on the activity and the age of the data.

As a result, information lifecycle management becomes much easier. Rather than writing scripts or manually moving data, DBAs can devise simple policies for implementing storage tiering and compression.

“Heat Map gives you insight into exactly which data is being accessed, so you can devise simple declarative policies governing what to do with the data,” Mendelsohn said. “The database will move and compress the data automatically, reducing costs and improving performance.”

Defense-in-Depth Security. Oracle Database 12c includes more security innovations than any previous Oracle Database release. For example, Data Redaction enables organizations to protect sensitive data such as credit card numbers displayed in applications, without changes to those applications. Sensitive data is redacted at runtime, based on predefined policies and account session information. Another new security feature called Privilege Analysis makes it easy to identify the privileges and roles currently being used so you can revoke unnecessary privileges and enforce “least privilege” without disrupting business operations.

High Availability for Database Clouds. Oracle Database 12c introduces several high-availability features to enable continuous access to enterprise data. For example, Active Data Guard Far Sync extends zero-data-loss standby protection to any database, irrespective of latency or location. Application Continuity complements Oracle RAC by masking application failures from end users and automatically replaying failed transactions. Flex Automatic Storage Management (Flex ASM) decouples the database from the storage layer to enable zero-downtime upgrades. A primary Flex ASM environment can fail over to a secondary site through Flex ASM provisioning while still keeping the database nodes up in the primary site and masking interruptions from users.

Administrative Efficiencies for DBAs. Seamless integration between Oracle Database 12c and Oracle Enterprise Manager 12c Cloud Control enables DBAs to reduce the time and effort required to meet quality-of-service objectives. In conjunction with this mature systems management software, Oracle Database 12c automates and simplifies common administrative tasks such as database provisioning, performance tuning, troubleshooting, upgrades, patching, and metering database services for charge-back purposes. A self-service portal enables developers, testers, administrators, and other self-service users to log on and request new single-instance or clustered databases and perform basic management operations.

“One of Oracle’s objectives with this release was to insulate the database from routine administrative tasks and make it easier to manage,” said Carl Olofson, research vice president of application development and deployment at International Data Corp. (IDC), in a recent interview about developments in the database industry.

Robust Analysis of Big Data. In addition to exceptional performance for OLTP applications, Oracle Database 12c includes comprehensive in-database analytic tools for big data. For example, SQL pattern matching enables business analysts to discover patterns in business event sequences. And the integration of open source R brings a huge library of predictive algorithms to data scientists and business analysts.

Next Steps

 WATCH the Oracle Database 12c launch webcast

 LEARN more about Oracle Database 12c

According to Mendelsohn, these and the more than 500 other new Oracle Database 12c features have been thoroughly developed and tested through 2,500 person-years of development and 1.2 million hours of testing in a private cloud environment that includes 3,000 dev/test systems. Summing up the webcast, he explained the fundamental drivers of this momentous release.

“The c in Oracle Database 12c stands not only for cloud but also for consolidate, control, and—most importantly—customers,” said Mendelsohn. “This release was driven by customer requirements. From the outset, we have been motivated to make it a great platform for their needs.”

“Oracle Database 12c is a game-changer, a truly innovative technology that will make you rethink how you use databases,” Hurd said. “It has reshaped our business and is the foundation of our expanding cloud business. Whether you are consolidating databases or getting ready to deploy a private cloud—or a SaaS vendor with a public cloud offering—the innovations in this release will help you lower IT costs, minimize data center complexity, and be more responsive to your business requirements.”

David Baum ( is a freelance writer.

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