Oracle Database 21c and APEX Application Development Service Launch [IDC]

January 14, 2021 | 5 minute read
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Guest post from Carl Olofson, Research Vice President, Data Management Software, IDC

On Wednesday, January 13th, Oracle made a pair of announcements that serve to solidify the company’s position as a leader in the area of cloud database management. The announcements were made by Executive Vice President Andy Mendelsohn, and include the release of Oracle Database 21c and of the new cloud-based APEX Application Development Service.

Oracle Database 21c

Oracle Database 21c features a number of key enhancements, including immutable blockchain tables (immutability is key to ensuring the validity of ledger data for purposes of security and regulatory compliance), native JSON support, AutoML, in-database JavaScript (optimized run-time JavaScript that runs inside the database server to eliminate network round-trips), persistent memory support, improved graph model support, automation of in-memory column store determination, and sharding automation. Let’s just look at a few of these improvements.

Native JSON support. Oracle Database now features internal optimizations, including storage optimizations, that enable it to manage JSON documents natively, just as pure-play document DBMSs do, but in a manner that exploits all the performance enhancing power of Oracle Database. This is significant because it used to be the case that one had to choose between more efficient JSON management in a pure-play DBMS, or the ability to integrate JSON data with other data, such as relational data, in Oracle. Now, that choice is no longer necessary, because Oracle Database features both JSON efficiency and integrated data management.

AutoML. Setting up machine learning models, executing them, enhancing them, and rerunning the ML operations is usually a task that requires special expertise. AutoML automates most of this effort, enabling non-experts to set up and run in-database machine learning. Also included are algorithms for anomaly detection, regression, and deep learning analysis, among others.

Persistent Memory Support. Oracle Exadata has offered database operational optimization using the Intel Optane Persistent Memory (PMEM) technology for over a year now on-prem, and most recently as part of the Exadata Cloud Service X8M offering. Now, persistent memory support is available to other compute platforms with the Intel PMEM technology, both in the cloud and on-premises.  This means reduced I/O latency which leads to faster transaction processing (using PMEM instead of flash storage for data and redo records), faster access to frequently used data, as well as quicker restart times. An additional benefit is cost savings from reduced dependency on DRAM.

Sharding Automation. Sharding databases has become a common means of managing geo-distributed data in a way that allows the shards (or database fragments) to operate independently, delivering better performance and more robustness than operationally interdependent database servers. But setting up database shards can be tricky; get it designed wrong and you can expose users to data inconsistency or performance problems. Native Database Sharding optimizes shard operations, and includes a Sharding Advisor Tool that takes the guesswork out of sharded database design. For its BlueKai Data Management Platform, for example, Oracle Database shards are deployed across multiple availability domains in Oracle Cloud Infrastructure (OCI), support 1 million transactions per second, 30 billion API calls per day, and a Redo generation rate of 180 terabytes per hour.

Oracle APEX Application Development Service

Oracle has long offered the ability for users to build applications for Oracle Database with little effort through a tool known as APEX (originally, Application Express). APEX has included a facility for storing metadata structures in the database that can be driven as an application following the form and function defined by the user. Because the application is executed by the database server, it enjoys excellent database performance.

Now, Oracle offers APEX as a cloud-native application development service running on Oracle Database in OCI. The integrated development environment includes a 1 terabyte database running on a single OCPU for $360 per month, and scalable to up to 128 OCPUs and 500 terabytes. Because it runs as a standard feature of Oracle Autonomous Database, there is no run-time charge for application execution. Most applications can be developed using the graphical development environment with no code at all, though more demanding applications may require a bit of code here and there. This offering is part of a movement in the database world known as low-code development. Notably, most low-code databases are fairly simple, and are generally used for simple operational tasks or reporting. By contrast, APEX is integrated into a powerful, full-function DBMS and used today by tens of millions of users worldwide, including the recently unveiled Oracle Public Health Management Applications designed to help U.S. public health agencies and healthcare providers collect and analyze data related to COVID-19.

Low code is meant to remove the burden from professional developers and DBAs of having to design and build a database and code an application for each and every user requirement that falls outside the realm of mission-critical applications and databases. Relatively non-technical users can do both with APEX, usually without requiring any expert assistance. This should not only relieve IT professionals from doing such work, but also empower users by enabling them to get the job done themselves. This should appeal to those seeking custom application extension, LoBs looking for local applications that fill specific needs, and data professionals that know how to slice and dice data—but not necessarily how to build databases and code applications.


Oracle has reached a stage in its life where technical excellence must be paired with completeness of vision. This includes better serving the enterprise overall, and users individually. These announcements continue Oracle’s expansion of its converged database to establish a clear differentiation from the various specialized databases offered in the market today, and represent a full realization of a goal for Oracle: to deliver the most comprehensive data management capability available in the cloud.



Carl Olofson has performed research and analysis for IDC since 1997, and manages IDC’s Database Management Software service, as well as supporting the Data Integration Software service. Mr. Olofson’s research involves following sales and technical developments in the structured data management (SDM) markets, including database management systems (DBMS), dynamic data management systems, database development and management software, and dynamic data grid managers, including the vendors of related tools and software systems. Mr. Olofson also contributes to Big Data research and provides specialized coverage of Hadoop and other Big Data technologies. Mr. Olofson advises clients on market and technology directions as well as performing supply and demand-side primary research to size, forecast, and segment the database and related software markets.

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