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Transaction Processing from Oracle is Now Autonomous

Maria Colgan
Master Product Manager

Today Larry Ellison announced the general availability of Oracle Autonomous Transaction Processing Cloud Service, the newest member of the Oracle Autonomous Database family, combining the flexibility of cloud with the power of machine learning to deliver data management as a service.

Traditionally, creating a database management system required a team of experts to custom build and manually maintain a complex hardware and software stack. With each system being unique, this approach led to poor economies of scale and a lack of the agility typically needed to give the business a competitive edge.

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Autonomous Transaction Processing enables businesses to safely run a complex mix of high-performance transactions, reporting, and batch processing using the most secure, available, performant, and proven platform - Oracle Database on Exadata in the cloud. Unlike manually managed transaction processing databases, Autonomous Transaction Processing provides instant, elastic compute and storage, so only the required resources are provisioned at any given time, greatly decreasing runtime costs.

But What Does the Autonomous in Autonomous Transaction Processing Really Mean?

Self-Driving

Autonomous Transaction Processing is a self-driving database, meaning it eliminates the human labor needed to provision, secure, update, monitor, backup, and troubleshoot a database. This reduction in database maintenance tasks reduces costs and frees scarce administrator resources to work on higher-value tasks.

When an Autonomous Transaction Processing database is requested, an Oracle Real-Application-Cluster (RAC) database is automatically provisioned on Exadata Cloud Infrastructure. This high-availability configuration automatically benefits from many of the performance-enhancing Exadata features such as smart flash cache, Exafusion communication over a super-fast InfiniBand network, and automatic storage indexes.

In addition, when it comes time to update Autonomous Transaction Processing, patches are applied in a rolling fashion across the nodes of the cluster, eliminating unnecessary down time. Oracle automatically applies all clusterware, OS, VM, hypervisor, and firmware patches as well.

In Autonomous Transaction Processing the user does not get OS login privileges or SYSDBA privileges, so even if you want to do the maintenance tasks yourself, you cannot. It is like a car with the hood welded shut so you cannot change the oil or add coolant or perform any other maintenance yourself.

Many customers want to move to the cloud because of the elasticity it can offer. The ability to scale both in terms of compute and storage only when needed, allows people to truly pay per use. Autonomous Transaction Processing not only allows you to scale compute and storage resources, but it also allows you to do it independently online (no application downtime required).

Self-Securing

Autonomous Transaction Processing is also self-securing, as it protects itself from both external attacks and malicious internal users. Security patches are automatically applied every quarter. This is much sooner than most manually operated databases, narrowing an unnecessary window of vulnerability. Patching can also occur off-cycle if a zero-day exploit is discovered. Again, these patches are applied in a rolling fashion across the nodes of the cluster, avoiding application downtime.

But patching is just part of the picture. Autonomous Transaction Processing also protects itself with always-on encryption. This means data is encrypted at rest but also during any communication with the database. Customers control their own encryption keys to further improve security.

Autonomous Transaction Processing also secures itself from Oracle cloud administrators using Oracle Database Vault. Database Vault uniquely allows Oracle’s cloud administrators to do their jobs but prevents them from being able to see any customer data store in Autonomous Transaction Processing.

Finally, customers are not given access to either the operating system or the SYSDBA privilege to prevent security breaches from malicious internal users or from stolen administrator credentials via a phishing attack.

Self-Repairing

Autonomous Transaction Processing automatically recovers from any failures without downtime. The service is deployed on our Exadata cloud infrastructure, which has redundancy built-in at every level of the hardware configuration to protect against any server, storage, or network failures.

Autonomous Transaction Processing automatically backs up the database nightly and gives the ability to restore the database from any of the backups in the archive. It also has the ability to rewind data to a point in time in the past to back out any user errors using Oracle’s unique Flashback Database capabilities. 

Since users don’t have access to the OS, Oracle is on the hook to diagnose any problems that may occur. Machine learning is used to detect and diagnose any anomalies. If the database detects an impending error, it gathers statistics and feeds them to AI diagnostics to determine the root cause. If it’s a known issue, the fix is quickly applied. If it’s a new issue a service request will be automatically opened with Oracle support.

How Does Autonomous Transaction Processing Differ from the Autonomous Data Warehouse?

Up until now, all of the functionality I have described is shared between both Autonomous Data Warehouse and Autonomous Transaction Processing. Where the two services differ is actually inside the database itself. Although both services use Oracle Database 18c, they have been optimized differently to support two very different but complementary workloads. The primary goal of the Autonomous Data Warehouse is to achieve fast complex analytics, while Autonomous Transaction Processing has been designed to efficiently execute a high volume of simple transactions.

Configuration

The differences in the two services begin with how we configure them. In Autonomous Data Warehouse, the majority of the memory is allocated to the PGA to allow parallel joins and complex aggregations to occur in-memory, rather than spilling to disk. While on Autonomous Transaction Processing, the majority of the memory is allocated to the SGA to ensure the critical working set can be cached to avoid IO.

Data Formats

We also store the data differently in each service. In the Autonomous Data Warehouse, data is stored in a columnar format as that’s the best format for analytics processing. While in Autonomous Transaction Processing, data is stored in a row format. The row format is ideal for transaction processing, as it allows quick access and updates to all of the columns in an individual record since all of the data for a given record is stored together in-memory and on-storage. 

Statistics Gathering

Regardless of which type of autonomous database service you use, optimizer statistics will be automatically maintained. On the Autonomous Data Warehouse, statistics (including histograms) are automatically maintained as part of all bulk-load activities. With Autonomous Transaction Processing, data is added using more traditional insert statements, so statistics are automatically gathered when the volume of data changes significantly enough to make a difference to the statistics.

Query Optimization

Queries executed on the Autonomous Data Warehouse are automatically parallelized, as they tend to access large volumes of data in order to answer the business question. While indexes are used on Autonomous Transaction Processing to access only the specific rows of interest. We also use RDMA on Autonomous Transaction Processing to provide low response time direct access to data stored in-memory on other servers in the cluster.

Resource Management

Both Autonomous Data Warehouse and Autonomous Transaction Processing offer multiple database “services” to make it easy for users to control the priority and parallelism used by each session. The services predefine three priority levels: Low, Medium, and High. Users can just choose the best priority for each aspect of their workload. For each database service you have the ability to define the criteria of a runaway SQL statement. Any SQL statement that excesses these parameters either in terms of elapse time or IO will be automatically terminated. On Autonomous Data Warehouse only one service (LOW) automatically runs SQL statements serially. While on Autonomous Transaction Processing, only one service (PARALLEL) automatically runs SQL statements with parallel execution. You can also use the Medium priority service by default which allows the Low priority service to be used for requests such as reporting and batch to prevent them from interfering with mainstream transaction processing.  The High priority level can be used for more important users or actions.

 Can I Use Autonomous Transaction Processing to Develop New Applications?

Autonomous Transaction Processing is the ideal platform for new application development. Developers no longer have to wait on others to provision hardware, install software, and create a database for them. With Autonomous Transaction Processing, developers can easily deploy an Oracle database in a matter of minutes, without worrying about manual tuning or capacity planning.

Autonomous Transaction Processing also has the most advanced SQL and PL/SQL support accelerating developer productivity by minimizing the amount of application code required to implement complex business logic. It also has a complete set of integrated Machine Learning algorithms, simplifying the development of applications that perform real-time predictions such as personalized shopping recommendations, customer churn rates, and fraud detection. 

Where Can I Get More Information and Get My Hands on Autonomous Transaction Processing?

The first place to visit is the Autonomous Transaction Processing Documentation. There you will find details on exactly what you can expect from the service.

We also have a great program that lets you get started with Oracle Cloud with $300 in free credits, which last much longer than you would expect since the trial service has very low pricing. Using your credits (which will probably last you around 30 days depending on how you configure Autonomous Transaction Processing) you will be able to get valuable hands-on time to try loading some your own workloads. Below is a quick video to help you get started.

 

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