Will Oracle Database 11g lead to a customer stampede?

On 11 July, Oracle will launch its first major database refresh from the company in four years. With its new 11g offering, Oracle hopes to tap into the fastest-growing software category: infrastructure software.

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With Web 2.0, Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) and open source grabbing all of the headlines, launches of enterprise infrastructure software that were once major IT events now sometimes seem like forgotten affairs. Certainly the new millennium marked a downturn in interest for traditional, monolithic back-end software.

Yet, boosted by virtualisation, there appears to be plenty of life in old-school offerings. According to its 2007 global IT market forecast, IDC predicts that spending on infrastructure software will grow 9% this year, faster than any other software category.

In this 'diminished' environment, Oracle's pending release of its upgraded 11g database may not grab the imagination of the technorati, but it remains significant to a vastly underestimated group of IT users.

The global database market grew 14.2% last year to total US$15.2bn, according to Gartner.

Oracle, which released its last major database upgrade, 10g, four years ago, already holds almost half the market. That's more than double the share of second-place IBM.

The official launch of 11g is set for next Wednesday, 11 July, in a New York City ceremony overseen by Oracle president, Charles Philips.

Publicly, Oracle has for the most part avoided specifics, saying that 11g will offer improvements in high availability, performance, scalability and manageability.

Tidbits it has revealed include free migration and management tools that will let administrators oversee non-Oracle databases at the same time they manage their Oracle ones. Oracle has also said that 11g will have new compression technology that could potentially reduce customers' storage demands by two-thirds, the ability to store unstructured data faster than traditional file systems, and better partitioning.

Fleshing out the details

Web accounts by beta testers and others are now confirming those reports.

According to what appears to be a presentation by Oracle vice-president of technology, Mark Townsend, many of the new features are in the area of "change assurance."

These help companies save money and testing time when migrating to new hardware or making configuration changes.

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