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Evaluating the ROI of Oracle DB 12c Multitenant

Formerly called Pluggable Database, the Oracle 12c Multitenant feature is going to cost extra. Is it worth the money?

J. Marshall Romberg didn't know that Oracle DB 12c Multitenant was going to cost extra.

Romberg, the enterprise data architect for Southlake, Texas-based travel technology company Sabre Holdings, was hoping it wouldn't. When he and coworkers were beta testers for 12c, Multitenant was one of the features they liked the most. Back in beta mode, it was called Oracle Database 12c Pluggable Database, and Romberg was optimistic about his company's ability to better consolidate databases using the feature.

But when 12c became generally available earlier this year, the world learned that Multitenant would cost more money over and above the already hefty price of Enterprise Edition. To wit, the list price for a single Enterprise Edition processor license for Oracle Database is $47,500. The Oracle DB 12c Multitenant feature is listed at an extra $17,500, which amounts to an almost 37% premium. Too much?

"We're disappointed" that it costs extra, Romberg said. "We'll have to look at the budget and decide whether to put it in the budget for next year. We'll evaluate it."

Mind you, as a 12c beta tester, Romberg was thrilled with the Multitenant feature in terms of its technical functionality. But now he's not sure his company will even use it. That raises the question of whether Oracle has priced the most touted feature of 12c too high.

Oracle DB 12c Multitenant in a nutshell

Multitenant has two components: a container, which consists of the underlying database operations and functionality as well as Oracle's metadata registry; and a user database that fits, or plugs, into the container. The pluggable database includes the user's metadata in addition to traditional tables and stored procedures, and it's configured as a separate instance. A container can hold up to 250 pluggable databases, according to Oracle.

The architecture separates the user database from its management system. Typically, database virtualization involves putting several virtual machines on a single server, with an operating system and database for each. That is useful for security and functional separation of the databases, but it generates a lot of overhead, with multiple VMs, operating systems and databases all running at once. It uses up computer resources, and IT has to manage each VM and operating system separately.

More on Oracle DB 12c:

Rich Niemiec on a bunch of new 12c features

Read up on what exactly Pluggable Database is

ODB 12c became generally available in June

According to various sources, it was about seven years ago when customers started approaching Oracle to see if it could improve the database to provide better consolidation. Server virtualization was one option, but that was clunky and sucked up resources. Another option was schema consolidation, which is what Sabre uses. But Sabre has run into issues with it because, for example, some applications have strict schema-naming standards, and that can lead to namespace collisions.

With Oracle DB 12c Multitenant, Romberg and others say they're able to consolidate databases with fewer resources and better database separation.

"My [systems administration] workload drops significantly" with Multitenant, said the lead principal technical architect for a telecommunications firm, which is also doing a cost-benefit analysis of the feature. "You can take one OS install and have Oracle install on that OS, and then virtualize at the database level. Our [SA and] DBA workload also drops because they don't have to maintain all those database instances."

The technical architect, who asked not to be identified, said his company is currently in negotiations with Oracle about how much 12c and Multitenant would cost in production. How much Oracle gives in the negotiations will determine whether the company uses Multitenant, although the architect said he was "pretty sure" they were going to use it.

This architect said his company was also interested in the data visualization heat map feature of 12c, which organizes data into temperatures -- the hotter it is, the more often it's used. That allows for multiple tiers of storage archiving. His company would use it to "leverage deeper compression."

Surely Oracle will roll out some customer examples in the coming months and years, showing how beneficial Multitenant is to Oracle DB 12c. And perhaps there are still some hidden benefits of using Multitenant that will be revealed once more database shops start playing around with it. But at the premium Oracle is asking, I would only expect the larger companies running thousands of database instances to be able to take advantage and get the ROI to boot.

This was first published in August 2013

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