Oracle looks to broaden appeal of new data grid software

Oracle Corp. has brought out the first version of the Coherence in-memory data grid software since acquiring Tangosol earlier this year and over time hopes to dramatically widen the appeal of the product.

Data grid software is middleware that manages data objects in-memory across multiple servers. By storing data in memory and not in slower back-end systems, the software’s able to provide users with very fast access to frequently used information. It helps enable what’s been dubbed extreme transaction processing (XTP), the use of highly scalable, secure and reliable applications, which generate vast amounts of transactions to give access to real-time data.

Oracle Coherence 3.3 officially debuted Monday after the vendor incorporated feedback from early users who’d been working with the software over the last two months, according to Cameron Purdy, vice president of development in Oracle’s Fusion middleware group.

The new release features improved performance and clustering, tighter links into Fusion, and support for Microsoft Corp.’s .Net framework.

Coherence competes against IBM’s ObjectGrid software and products from GemStone and GigaSpaces, Purdy said. Oracle announced plans to buy Tangosol of Somerville, Massachusetts, back in March for an undisclosed sum. All 25 Tangosol staff joined Oracle and moved over to the company’s Burlington, Massachusetts, offices, Purdy said. He’s the former CEO of Tangosol.

While Coherence has proved very popular in the financial services sector, the middleware and the XTP concept are still viewed as somewhat “exotic” among other industries, Purdy said. “We want to take this exotic technology and put it in the hands of every developer,” he added. “If we do our job right, terms like ‘grid’ and ‘XTP’ will go away and [instead] will become the default technology.”

As with many of its purchases, Oracle’s operating a two-track development road map for Coherence.

On the one hand, the vendor will integrate the data grid technology with more and more Fusion components and with its TimesTen in-memory database and enterprise-level Oracle Database.

The plan is to end up with a middleware stack that can support applications carrying out real-time data analytics, grid-based in-memory computation and high-performance transactions.

In Coherence 3.3., Oracle has begun the process of tight integration with Fusion elements, including hooks into Oracle Application Server and Oracle TopLink, an object-relational mapping tool for Java developers.

On the other hand, Oracle has committed to maintaining the stand-alone version of Coherence, which isn’t hooked into Fusion. The current Coherence customer base runs a wide variety of different vendors’ middleware, with no product particularly dominant, Purdy said.

The supported middleware includes Apache Tomcat, BEA’s WebLogic, IBM’s WebSphere, Microsoft’s .Net and Red Hat’s JBoss. Coherence 3.3 has expanded its support to Java Standard Edition (SE) version 6 and includes a revamp of the software’s Coherence for .Net offering.

Looking ahead, as well as continuing to support connections to Java and .Net middleware, Oracle’s keen to meet user demands to open up Coherence still further.

Financial services customers are keen for Coherence to also be able to manage their C and C++ applications, Purdy said, and for the software to handle complex calculations created in a variety of different programming languages.

Coherence 3.3 comes in three flavors — standard, enterprise and grid editions — starting from US$4,000 per CPU (central processing unit) for the standard version.

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