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Oracle New Year's resolutions, part 1: Advice for navigating 2009

Oracle analysts weigh in with advice for improving Oracle database security and upgrading to new Oracle applications in 2009.

With January 1 fast approaching, now is the time of year when people across the globe start thinking about their New Year's resolutions. The same, of course, is true of Oracle customers.

Some organizations, like TheraDoc Inc. in Salt Lake City, are considering upgrading to Oracle's 11g database. Others, like the Washington, D.C.-based Gallup Organization, hope to implement Oracle project management tools. And Intermap Technologies Inc. of Englewood, Colo., has resolved to increase its Oracle database capacity by 20 terabytes.

But deciding on which resolutions to make – and keep -- is not always as straightforward as it seems. Is 2009 the year to upgrade Oracle databases and applications, and if so, which ones? Is now the time to commit to an all-Oracle infrastructure? And what about Oracle-related security?

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 To help answer these and other questions, and to help you make New Year's resolutions you can keep, industry analysts offered their advice for crafting a 2009 Oracle strategy, and some Oracle customers reveal their own priorities for the New Year.

Time to go all-in with Oracle middleware?

Oracle application customers should resolve to make an important choice in 2009, according to Ray Wang, an analyst with Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research: Go all-in with Oracle middleware or try to avoid vendor lock-in?

"Customers need to figure out if they're going to invest in a middleware platform from Oracle, which means you need to get up to date on their Application Integration Architecture," Wang said. "Or they [must decide] to do something independent, like going with WebSphere or .NET, and do it in a way that will allow them, whatever Oracle acquisitions occur, to have a certain amount of independence."

Customers that decide to go all-in with Oracle should also decide in 2009 whether to upgrade older versions of Oracle applications that are not supported by Fusion middleware to newer versions that are. Application upgrades are usually included in maintenance costs, Wang said, but "you still have to do the implementation. In some cases, if you have a lot of customizations to do, that could get expensive."

Unfortunately, there's no "right" answer for either question, he said. "There are a lot of benefits when products are truly integrated by a vendor. On the other hand, you are really beholden to that vendor."

Security, automation top database to-do list

As for databases, in 2009 Oracle database customers should pay special attention to securing non-production databases, according to Forrester's Noel Yuhanna.

Non-production databases are used for testing and development that companies nevertheless populate with live customer data, like social security numbers and addresses. "It still has copies of the data and should get the same treatment as production databases," Yuhanna said.

To help secure non-production Oracle databases, Yuhanna advises companies to invest this year in data masking software that changes or hides sensitive names and numbers. He estimates that only 15% of organizations currently use data masking software, despite solid offerings from such vendors as Applimation Inc. and Camouflage Software Inc., and tools from Oracle itself.

"In a test environment, you want to desensitize that information," Yuhanna said, so developers and programmers cannot gain access to it. Most security breaches turn out to be inside jobs.

Oracle database customers should also consider investing in automation software for certain tasks related to database tuning, backup and recovery, migrations, and upgrades, Yuhanna said. And automation tools can free up DBAs to manage even more databases.

But there is a hitch. Oracle's 11g database has significantly upgraded automation capabilities, Yuhanna said. "But of course you can't take advantage of those capabilities until you upgrade."

Continue to part 2, GRC tips and customer resolutions revealed

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