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Can Oracle be a NoSQL player?

The Oracle NoSQL database is mainly an attempt to satisfy existing Oracle Database customers interested in big data on the side, experts say.

Oracle on Monday announced the immediate availability of its new Oracle NoSQL database, but experts questioned whether Oracle will be a big player in the overall NoSQL market.

The NoSQL movement -- defined largely by its horizontal scaling and service of heavily trafficked websites -- is still relatively nascent but has captured some mindshare in the database world, particularly with companies such as Digg and Facebook using it. Earlier this month, along with its announcement about its Big Data Appliance due out in the first quarter next year, Oracle said that it would have a NoSQL database to go along with a Hadoop file system. But as of now the Oracle NoSQL database is only available on freestanding platforms such as distributed x86 servers.

Carl Olofson, research vice president of application development and deployment at IDC in Framingham, Mass., said it’s hard to say whether Oracle will become a big NoSQL player.

“It’s still early days in the NoSQL area,” he said. “It may well be that another vendor becomes the preferred vendor, and it may be that Oracle acquires somebody who becomes the lead vendor.”

Richard Winter, president of database consultancy WinterCorp, said the obvious first target for the Oracle NoSQL database would be existing Oracle customers interested in big data.

“If you’re an enterprise that already has a lot of Oracle databases in existence, then if you’re going to do something in these big data areas, you face the challenge of how you’re going to integrate it with your existing databases,” he said. “Oracle is kind of packaging this stuff with that idea in mind.”

The Oracle NoSQL Database will have an open source version and a commercial version. The commercial version, called Oracle NoSQL Database Enterprise Edition, is priced in between Oracle Database Standard Edition One and Standard Edition. Named User Plus licensing costs $200 per user, while per-processor licensing is $10,000. Updates and support are the traditional 22% of license cost.

Marie-Anne Neimat, vice president of TimesTen and NoSQL database development at Oracle, said many Oracle customers were asking what Oracle was planning in the way of big data. Since Oracle has experience in data management, Oracle decided to build its own NoSQL database. Neimat said future versions NoSQL will be better integrated into other Oracle products such as Enterprise Manager.

As for non-Oracle shops, Winter said the possibility is there that they may move to an all-Oracle infrastructure, but such a move might prove costly. NoSQL might present an opportunity to get in cheaper.

“Let’s say you’re a startup and your critical problem is how to generate the first $10 million of revenue,” he said. “Maybe you don’t want to spend a couple million dollars on a commercial relational database infrastructure like Oracle. The sentiment in the past few years has been to do it open source so they don’t have to pay expensive software license fees and they can use cheap, commodity hardware.”

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With the licensing model they continue to cling onto, they won't be a player in NoSQL.