Oracle8i Release 2 - Ready to Storm the Web

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Event Summary

"LOS ANGELES, ORACLE OPENWORLD '99, Nov. 15 /PRNewswire/ -- At Oracle OpenWorld '99 today, Oracle Corp., announced the pending availability of Oracle8i Release 2, the follow-on to Oracle8i, the most rapidly adopted database product ever released by the company. To date, more than 5000 "Dot Coms" and other enterprises are powering their e-businesses with Oracle8i, the database designed for the Internet. Additionally, over 800 Independent Software Vendors (ISVs) have developed applications and tools optimized for Oracle8i data warehousing and online transaction processing features since the product's release in March 1999."

The new release includes expanded analytical data warehousing functions, including ranking, moving windows, cumulative aggregates and lag/lead expression. It also contains native support for Java2 and a 100% Java XML parser to Oracle8i's integrated Java Virtual Machine, Oracle JServer. In addition, Oracle Enterprise Manager 2.1 allows web-based control of 12 key Oracle sub-systems. There are also performance and failover improvements.

Market Impact

Oracle 8i Release 2, otherwise known as Oracle 8.1.6, is the newest release of Oracle8i, the extremely successful latest generation of Oracle's flagship database product. According to Chuck Rozwat, senior vice president of server technologies at Oracle, "It strengthens and expands Oracle's commitment to Internet computing by improving product performance, quality, and native support for technologies like Java and XML." As a indicator of its success, Oracle points to the fact that over 256,000 copies of Oracle8i have been downloaded. A recent survey of customers indicated that 70 percent of the responding companies planned to deploy Oracle8i within the next twelve months, citing the scalability and Java integration as key reasons for their deployment. Since its release in March, more than 5,000 companies have purchased the database product. One customer, Acxiom, stated "We are building a system now that will be a total of 12 terabytes and next year it will be 20 terabytes, all managed by Oracle8i. The data warehousing features, hash partitioning, cube, rollup, resource manager, and materialized views that Oracle has integrated into Oracle8i have allowed Acxiom to better mine and use its information on a daily basis."

Oracle has added significant new SQL (Structured Query Language) extensions to perform what they refer to as "analytic functions". Examples include ranking "Find the top ten sales reps in each region", ratio-to-report, "What is January's sales as a percentage of the entire year's?" and many others. These powerful functions are being considered by ANSI (American National Standards Institute, the U.S. member body to the International Standards Organization) as additions to the SQL standard in 2000.

Another enhancement involves "materialized views", which is the functionality to create and maintain summary tables. An ORDER BY clause can be used when creating a materialized view and when inserting records using INSERT..SELECT. This allows rows in the table or the materialized view to be inserted in the specified desired order, resulting in better performance of query sorts when the sort order is the same as the inserted order.

Partitioning has also been enhanced. Many data warehouses and data marts use partitioning to implement a "rolling window" scheme where new data is added and old data is purged on a regular periodic basis. Release 2 includes enhancements to the functionality of composite partitioning to better support the management of rolling window operations. The refresh capabilities of materialized views have been enhanced to allow partition maintenance on base tables without requiring a full refresh of associated materialized views (analogous to rebuilding an index).

Another key improvement regards security within the database. Oracle8i Release 2 includes a PL/SQL (Oracle's proprietary Stored Procedure Language) package to encrypt and decrypt data using the industry standard DES (Data Encryption Standard) encryption algorithm, in exportable key lengths (the U.S. government regulates what encryption can be exported). This allows data to be natively encrypted in the server to protect sensitive data, such as credit card numbers. Even the DBA (database administrator) can not access this data without the key. Oracle's Virtual Private Database can be used to enforce security at the row level, a feature long missing from relational databases. This release also enhances support for the SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) standard, with encryption for the Internet Intra-ORB Protocol (IIOP), which enables secure Enterprise Java Beans (EJB's).

In the realm of performance improvements, Oracle's SQL*Loader direct path load has been improved for loading simple files encoded in single-byte character sets (i.e. ISO-1, ASCII). Oracle claims that in the case of single-byte or positional delimiters, the load performance can be twice as fast.

User Recommendations

Companies evaluating relational database management systems should include Oracle 8i on any short list of candidates. Oracle has made great progress in turning their flagship database product into a Web-enabled technology. IBM's latest DB/2 offerings and Microsoft's SQL Server 7.0 are also strong in many of these areas and should be considered alongside Oracle8i. Each database management system has features that may be specific to a company's needs.

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