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Issue dated - 05th January 2004

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Oracle wants to control the grid with 10g

Grid Computing is a revolutionary concept that has the potential to change many computing paradigms, but till date, it has largely attracted academic interest alone. However, the entry of Oracle into this space with Oracle 10g could spark off corporate interest in Grid Computing and forever change the way we look at enterprise computing itself, say Srikanth R P and Rahul Neel Mani

Oracle India managing director Shekhar Dasgupta says that Oracle wants to recreate its success in the Internet computing space in Grid Computing

While the concept of Grid Computing is all about strength in numbers and applying this idea to tap the huge unutilised power of networked PCs, in reality, this concept has not taken off as expected. But the coming of Oracle 10g could change the way Grid Computing is looked at today—from being a tool of interest to the scientific community to a vital enterprise application. The enterprise applications major is positioning Oracle 10g as an infrastructure software comprising of a database, application server, enterprise manager and developer software.

Oracle’s solution

What does this mean for enterprises? Till date, enterprises had to allocate dedicated hardware for specific applications. Take for instance, an organisation like the National Stock Exchange, the third largest stock exchange in the world in terms of volume of transactions. The organisation uses different sets of hardware for applications like index calculation and monitoring (run during market hours) and settlement and reconciliation (run after the market closes). The first set of hardware is busy during the day, but lies idle after market hours. Similarly, once the market winds up for the day, the settlement and reconciliation systems that lie largely under utilised get cracking to complete the processing in finite time. Incidentally, NSE.IT happens to be one of the organisations that has conducted beta testing for Oracle 10g in India. Now, NSE could hypothetically use the Grid Computing facility in Oracle 10g to utilise idle capacity in the two systems by provisioning some of the processing power of the settlement system to the online monitoring system during market hours and vice-versa during post-market processing hours.

Under utilisation of resources among enterprises is said to be as high as 40 percent to 60 percent. Using a Grid Computing architecture like Oracle 10g could help organisations achieve effective utilisation of resources. The bottom line is that by using Grid Computing features of the new software, an organisation can use existing infrastructure to handle increasing loads for much longer than individual sets of servers with their dedicated applications.

Says Shekhar Dasgupta, managing director, Oracle India, “While Internet computing had a fairly pervasive effect, it still faces certain issues. First, it has created islands of computation. Because of the sheer size of each application, what organisations tended to do was to create separate servers

for different applications. Additionally, there are certain times when a particular application requires a huge amount of computation resources whereas the others don’t.” A typical enterprise user reacts by putting in additional resources. But invariably, this addition of resources leads to under utilisation of resources.

Dasgupta says that Oracle’s new architecture would help businesses treat groups of servers and storage equipment as if they were a one large system and assign computing resources to applications on an as-needed basis. Thus, instead of having to predict how much capacity they’ll need to run their applications and running the danger of buying too much, an IT department can reassign resources from elsewhere in a network as and when they are required. Oracle’s architecture would also allow an application to switch over to a different server if a particular server goes down. The 10g application server will also have new provisioning features that make it easier to shift software configurations from one group of servers to another.

Advantage Oracle?

According to Gaurav Verma, existing Oracle customers would gain most from 10g as a simple upgrade would give them close to a one-third performance improvement and a 50 percent reduction in management costs

Unlike other vendors, Oracle has a clear advantage. For starters, Oracle has a clear lead in the database segment in India. Oracle now wants to reach out to the same market base and expose them to other service offerings. To encourage adoption, Oracle has priced the Oracle 10g product in the same range as Oracle 9i products. In fact, existing customers of Oracle who are under annual support for earlier versions of Oracle software are entitled to a free upgrade to Oracle 10g.

Adds Gaurav Verma, manager marketing, Oracle India, “Existing Oracle customers are in the most advantageous position to gain from this development as a simple upgrade would give them close to a one-third performance improvement with a reduction of 50 percent in management costs.” Additionally, as the software allows the creation of grids made of groups of inexpensive Intel-based servers (including blades) running Linux OS, it allows organisations to deploy systems at a lower cost. The Linux angle is key as many organisations in India are looking at adopting a combination of Intel and Linux.

Even in terms of performance, Oracle 10g database is about 28 percent faster than its predecessor, Oracle 9i—which Oracle claims is still the fastest database for running applications. The third important fact is manageability. A significant part of an organisation’s expenditure is spent on managing database resources. Oracle officials claim that management of a typical database in the Oracle 10g environment would take 44 percent lesser time and 47 percent fewer steps than in earlier environments. The self-managing nature of the database could prove to be important for smaller and mid-sized organisations, as they would need lower investments in database administration (DBA) skills since database administrators would be able to handle more databases from a single location. Organisations can also use the grid control feature to allocate provisioning of resources dynamically.

Dasgupta claims that Oracle has made the complexity of clustering and the grid so invisible that the end-user will not know what is happening at the back-end. The improved Enterprise Manager will now have an Automatic Storage Management system. “You don’t need separate utilities and manual intervention to manage storage. There are some 500 new updates added to the Enterprise Manager,” Dasgupta explains. The grid control feature will provide unified and simplified management of the entire gamut of systems, ranging from storage, database servers to application servers. This automated process is predefined in the software itself, and is not visible to the user.

Marketing

Oracle India has been busy chalking out an aggressive marketing strategy for 10g. Says Dasgupta, “Oracle 10g holds a lot of promise for SME organisations in India. The highly automated and self-managing nature of Oracle 10g means that smaller organisations have to invest less time and money on managing information within their organisations.” Independent Software Vendors (ISVs) and integration partners are another important link in Oracle’s India strategy. Besides the ISVs, the Oracle India Development Centre has also contributed significantly to the development of Oracle 10g.

While the standards for Grid Computing—meant to ensure that products from different vendors will interoperate, are still in their infancy—Oracle has addressed this by basing its architecture on the Open Grid Services Architecture framed by the Global Grid Forum. Additionally, as Oracle has a lead in the database segment, it can use the reach of its database to power adoption of its Grid Computing architecture. While other vendors are also working on their own Grid Computing strategies, the main difference between other vendors and Oracle could be the strength and reach of Oracle’s databases.

Bottom line

While Oracle has a huge opportunity to cross-sell its other enterprise offerings with Oracle 10g, the launch of this software is significant for Oracle as the company has been trying to lower the cost of maintaining Oracle databases. This would help it in increasing reach to mid-sized customers, a market where Microsoft has been strong with SQL Server. A confident Dasgupta says, “When we talked about Internet computing, it was received with a fair amount of scepticism. Today, nobody talks of a client-server type of environment. We feel the same thing will happen in the Grid Computing space too.”

srikanth@expresscomputeronline.com

rahul@expresscomputeronline.com

What’s in Oracle 10g
  • New self-management capabilities allow users to automatically identify performance problems and perform back-up and recovery.
  • Automatic storage management allows users to manage files and distribute storage loads.
  • New deployment option offers a single processor version of the database software, dubbed Oracle Standard Edition One.
  • Users can install the software via a single, 17-minute CD
  • Oracle 10g will support HP-UX, Linux, Mac OS, Windows and Solaris platforms.

 

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