Oracle has done a U-turn on the positioning of its much-delayed Oracle8 database. This will not be a standalone object-relational database with full object functionality, as expected, but part of an overall Network Computing Architecture (NCA).
Instead of putting all its object functionality into the database, Oracle now plans an Internet-based environment with objects in all areas of the system, and user access from network computers or thin clients. The database, which will ship in the first half of next year, will scale to more than 100tbytes and support 10,000 users, the company told delegates at the recent Oracle Open World event in San Francisco.
The database will process requests for object data, but only support for inhouse-developed data types will reside in the database engine. Third party extensions will be supported in an outside layer of NCA 'cartridges' stored on the Internet or Intranet. NCA application servers will communicate with the database through Java calls, or network computers can access the database directly using Java. To support this approach, Oracle is developing an extension to Java, called JavaDB, which enables SQL statements to be more easily embedded in the Sun language.
The approach contrasts with that of Informix, whose Universal Server will be shipped after DB Expo early next month. Informix supports complex data types through homegrown or third party components called Datablades, but these will plug directly into the engine, something Oracle's senior vice president for server technologies, Jerry Held, described as "lunacy".
Held claimed Oracle had never intended to make Oracle8 an exclusively object oriented product, and that embedding third party plug-ins in the kernel of the engine raised too many risks of malfunctions that could crash the database. "The fundamental goals of Oracle8 have never been exclusively objects," he said - data warehousing and online transaction processing performance must not be compromised.
However, to improve object database performance, accelerators will be added to the database engine to boost the NCA cartridges' access.
Oracle will itself build extensibility, in the database itself, to support the most requested complex data types such as text, video and spatial data.
Support for larger numbers of users - over 10,000 according to Held - will be critical if it is to be the database heart of a system based on Internet and NCs. Server-managed recovery and enhanced replication will also be included, along with a new enterprise manager and advanced queueing facilities. The latter will allow for native support of transaction processing applications.
The main concern among users is that there will be a difficult upgrade path from Oracle7, as there was between Oracle5 and Oracle6. Their other reaction is impatience at the long string of strategy briefings Oracle has given about Oracle8, with no product shipments or even firm dates to show for it.
Oracle8 will also include the Java Virtual Machine. One of the first third party cartridges to be announced for NCA is one to support images, developed by Californian software house Virage.
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