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SAN FRANCISCO -- The drive from on-premises computing to cloud computing is behind recent updates to the Oracle database. Oracle is adding features meant to improve data performance in horizontally distributed cloud architectures at the same time that it builds out a broad range of hardware and software infrastructure on which to run such databases.
Among the updates in Oracle Database 12c Release 2 detailed here at Oracle OpenWorld 2016 are improved multi-tenancy, faster in-memory processing and database sharding. These are traits many data management professionals will look for as workloads move to the cloud platform. Around these features, Oracle has arrayed numerous new cloud services for bringing existing applications to the Oracle cloud.
The pace of that migration is picking up, as seen in a recent McKinsey & Co. survey that shows IT shops dramatically shifting workloads to the cloud -- with 46% of large enterprises having placed at least one workload in an off-premises public infrastructure as a service (IaaS) in 2015. Fifty-one percent are projected to do so by 2018.
That move is not without complexity, as conference attendee DeWayne Kuhn pointed out. Kuhn, who is director of customer support at Trilliant Holdings Inc., in Redwood City, Calif., said he went to Oracle OpenWorld (OOW) in part to learn more about the costs and modeling needed to move applications and data to the cloud.
"The devil is in the details," he said. "It is not always clear what people mean by 'moving into the cloud.' I'm finding there is a lot of mystery around that." How the role of IT and database administrators will change as work moves to the cloud, along with pricing, were particular areas Kuhn looked to clarify. "We also need to find out if it restricts use cases when you get to the cloud," he said.
Hearing Amazon's footsteps
The early cloud charge has been led by Amazon, a trend that is not lost on IT professionals who oversee back-office systems.
"People in our organization are very aware of Amazon cloud options, and [they] have asked us to consider those," Kuhn said. Still, migration to an Oracle cloud could have benefits, he said.
"Right now, we don't run exclusively with Oracle on the back end, but we do run primarily with Oracle. It would save a lot of engineering time if we could move seamlessly to an Oracle cloud offering," he said.
Moves made by Amazon, which has created specialized services enabling easier Oracle database migration to its cloud, are not lost on Oracle CTO Larry Ellison, either. He has led cloud efforts at the company that switch much of its sales revenue from on-premises licenses to on-cloud subscriptions.
Larry being Larry
At OOW, Ellison said Oracle Database 12c Release 2 is available first in the Oracle Cloud as part of the Oracle Exadata Express Cloud Service. With prices starting at $175 per month, this service is meant to give developers a quick foothold in the Oracle cloud.
Much of an Ellison-led OOW technical session on data and IaaS was devoted to comparing Oracle's cloud capabilities to those of Amazon, which last year added the Aurora transactional database to a cloud data lineup that already included the Dynamo NoSQL database, the Redshift analytical engine and other data services.
In the benchmarks Ellison presented, Oracle cloud databases consistently outpaced Oracle cloud alternatives in performance. He also pledged to compete aggressively on cloud pricing. Maintaining his vaunted inimitability, the company's founder told Oracle customers they had "to be willing to pay less for more" when they move to the Oracle cloud.
Ellison's benchmarks showed Oracle Cloud was up to 105 times faster for analytics than Amazon Redshift, while measuring its online transaction processing performance as 35 times faster than Amazon Aurora. Accompanying benchmark material was short on details of the test bed used for the trials.
With Oracle 12c Release 2, Ellison indicated, the company has tuned previously released in-memory database technology to work more efficiently on column stores. He described sharding as a new technology, though other Oracle representatives acknowledged it had been used at Amazon and elsewhere for some time. Databases use sharding to allow a database or many databases to be partitioned across many servers.
Where the customers are going
Ellison painted Amazon's offerings as first-generation products that Oracle engineering could now surpass. But the cloud services pioneer's lead may be substantial.
"Amazon has had a 10-year head start on just about everybody," said Tony Baer, analyst at Ovum, based in London. "Oracle is trying to differentiate itself in areas such as networking, and in terms of how they do cloud multi-tenancy -- trying to prevent the noisy neighbor problems some clouds encounter."
Baer said Oracle would react to Amazon's success by focusing on quality of service for computing and data processing in the cloud.
"And Oracle is not the only one reacting. Cloud is starting to get real acceptance by mainstream enterprises, and not just for skunk works operations. Oracle, IBM, Microsoft -- all those folks are going where the customers are going."
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