Oracle readies grid engine

Looking to leverage growing interest in grid computing, Oracle Corp. this week will detail its grid strategy in a bid to position its technology as a foundation for distributed applications.

Executives at the Redwood Shores, Calif.-based company will use the OracleWorld show in San Francisco to position Oracle’s database, Real Application Clusters technology, and Linux technology as the foundation of its grid vision.

At the same time, Oracle is planning upgrades to its Collaboration Suite and Enterprise Manager software, and will launch a grid toolkit.

Oracle executives indicated the company will continue building grid capabilities into the fabric of its enterprise applications, such as those contained within the e-business suite.

“As Oracle databases run well in grids, I think Oracle applications will run well in grids also,” said Benny Souder, Oracle’s vice president of distributed development.

“Our strategy is to make it very easy for Oracle customers to do grid computing. We want to make it possible for every Oracle customer to move to the grid,” Souder said.

Oracle views utility computing, grid computing, and virtualization as part of the same infrastructure: Clients cannot tell where the server is located and do not know where the computer that’s performing their work is located, according to Souder.

Oracle itself is using a grid to build the Oracle database and wants its own customers to use it in the Oracle9i Release 2 database, Souder said. Linux is the operating system of choice for Oracle grids, although Oracle’s RAC (Real Application Clustering) technology provides high availability capabilities.

Oracle is also working into the mix its Streams technology, which delivers asynchronous information sharing across a single, integrated infrastructure, Souder said.

Part of the initiative includes Oracle’s announcement this week of its Grid Developers Kit, available free to members of the Oracle Technology Network. The company will also join the Global Grid Forum, Souder said.

The kit features an open-source toolkit distributed by Globus, with utilities for connecting and finding grid resources.

“What happens is we’ve taken the Globus toolkit, and we customize it or modify it so that it works well with Oracle,” Souder said.

On the applications front, the planned additions to Oracle Collaboration Suite, released last month, are designed to compete directly with Microsoft Corp. Exchange and IBM Corp.’s Lotus/Domino platforms. Planned for the coming months are new “interactive” features for the suite such as instant messaging, said Rene Bonvanie, vice president of Oracle9i marketing.

Oracle wants to make e-mail a more “enterprise-type application where it’s reliable and functional and secure,” Bonvanie said.

Improvements to EM (Enterprise Manager), Oracle’s suite of management software for Oracle environments, include a feature that provides information about the performance of Web pages, transactions, and other events that affect the end-user experience “from the URL back to the SQL statement,” Bonvanie said.

Other features coming as part of Project Mozart, Oracle’s internal name for its EM improvements, will ensure the correct patches, software versions, and other variables are optimally set in an Oracle stack.

Oracle will also use OracleWorld to talk about the cost benefits of clustering its database across Intel-based servers coupled with Linux.

Oracle admits that customers have been slow to adopt its RAC software but plans to trot out customers at the show to demonstrate momentum, Bonvanie said.

One customer, Electronic Arts Inc., has deployed a virtual reality game for 100,000 simultaneous users on a grid built on Oracle technology, Oracle officials said. Electronic Arts executives declined to comment.

One of Oracle’s rivals in the database arena, Microsoft, is less than enthusiastic about Oracle’s grid intentions. Microsoft is not directly pursuing a grid plan, but it does offer clustering and datacenter applications, and has outlined a participatory computing strategy that resembles the notion of a grid, company officials said.

“IBM comes out, and they started talking about grid computing, and everybody sees it as somewhat interesting,” said Stan Sorensen, SQL Server marketing director at Microsoft’s .Net Enterprise Server Group in Redmond, Wash.

“Oracle comes out and tries to reposition RAC as grid computing,” Sorensen said.

“The interesting thing about RAC is it is nifty technology that’s not being adopted. It’s hard to find customers who’ve done it,” Sorensen said.

Much of the grid discussion from the likes of IBM, Hewlett-Packard Co., and Sun Microsystems Inc. has focused on both “compute grids” and “data grids” and providing access to CPU cycles to run large applications more efficiently, said David Freund, an analyst at Illuminata in Nashua, N.H.

If Oracle “comes out strongly” with its grid strategy, it could shift the discussion towards “data grids,” in which silos of information are opened up and made accessible from anywhere in a network, Freund said.

Oracle’s mantra that customers should use its entire application suite need not conflict with the heterogeneous nature of grid computing if Oracle adheres to emerging specifications, such as the Open Grid Services Architecture, Freund added.

James Niccolai is west coast bureau chief at the IDG News Service, an InfoWorld affiliate.


* Database runs on clusters of blade servers using RAC as grid building blocks.

* Transportable table space lets companies shift data from one portion of a database to another for specific processing jobs.

* Oracle Streams synchronizes data between several databases, eliminating need for separate messaging, replication, and notification products.

* Federated data management capabilities baked into 9i.

* Oracle’s Globus Development Kit available free on OTN next week.

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