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Oracle's Java database continues push into embedded database market

Oracle has rolled out an all-Java open source embedded database with high availability and fault-tolerant capabilities for mission-critical applications.

Oracle continues its steady push into the embedded database market, today unwrapping a Java-based system with a new replication feature that enables high availability and fault tolerance directed at large corporate accounts.

The open source-based Oracle Berkeley DB Java Edition 4.0, the first embeddable Oracle product written entirely in Java, now provides corporate and third-party developers with automatic system failover and load balancing, which contributes to increased uptime and better scalability.

"This is a pretty important release of the product because the high availability now offers users and developers scalability for mission-critical applications that really need fault tolerance that goes beyond a single node," said Rex Wang, Oracle's vice president of marketing.

For more on Oracle and embeddable databases
Read more about recent updates to Oracle's embedded open source software

 The embedded database's new replication feature is responsible for distributing data out to multiple nodes in a networked system. This ensures both continued uptime -- in case one or more nodes in the network go down -- as well as improved scalability because all nodes are available to receive and service read requests.

Steven Boscarine, principal software engineer with Harvard's Children's Hospital, said a valuable feature in the new release is the Direct Persistence Layer (DPL), which has resulted in much higher performance.

"Replacing the JPA with DPL has yielded a significant performance increase and made it easy to encrypt sensitive patient data," Boscarine said. "This has allowed us to deliver scalable code much faster than we could with a more traditional relational database management system. The simpler APIs also give us more flexibility than the more rigid JPA constructs."

Some users can appreciate the advances made in fault tolerance and scalability in an embedded product such as version 4.0, but they don't see a need for deploying such technology anytime soon, given their current investments in databases from Oracle and others.

"We are putting together budgets now for 2010, and monies allotted for things like Oracle databases will go towards updating what we have had in place for a while now -- like (Oracle) 10g," said Steven Spencer, a database administrator with Verizon Communications Inc. "I don't think we are looking at edge-type software for another couple of years. That's more a hardware-software buy anyway."

Like the other two Oracle embedded databases released in September (Berkeley DB 4.8 and Berkeley DB XML 2.5), the new release does not require a database administrator to be present, which helps reduce human and technology maintenance costs.

"Being an embedded product means IT shops can run it unattended, so you don't need a DBA," said Dave Segleau, director of product management for the Oracle Berkeley product line. "It is also good for remote locations where even shops with enough DBAs don't want to pay for DBAs to visit."

All three of the embedded databases Oracle has released over the past couple of months are based on technology the company acquired when it bought Sleepycat Software in 2006.

Both Wang and Segleau believe that because version 4.0 is written entirely in Java, it will be easier for larger IT shops to deploy it across multiple operating systems and environments, as well as being able to fully leverage the skills of its Java-trained personnel.

"Java development is well known by a wide array of developers, many of whom have lots of tools available," Segleau said. "[Java], we think, is an easier language to use and maintain than, say, C or C++."

Oracle has also added new monitoring features designed to make it easier to monitor version 4.0 data stores inside production applications, to go along with improved API and exception handling, which speeds the development of applications.

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