(Originally published on Forbes)
While the self-driving database technology announced by Oracle's CTO Larry Ellison at its recent Oracle OpenWorld conference represents a new vision for data management—it's made possible in part by database features and architectures that the company has been perfecting for decades, said Andy Mendelsohn, executive vice president of Oracle Server Technologies at a general session following Ellison's announcement.
It's this foundation of innovation that makes it possible for Oracle to offer an autonomous database, with a 99.995% uptime guarantee, in a way that no other cloud provider can. Mendelsohn provided examples of the features and architectures that make it possible.
The Road to Automated Availability
"Ask why customers run big transaction or operational systems on Oracle and their top reasons will probably be high availability, reliability, and scalability," Mendelsohn said. These customers have grown to rely on technologies like Oracle Real Application Clusters (RAC), Oracle Active Data Guard, and Oracle's Exadata database machine, which, he said, are unique to Oracle, "and are highly fault tolerant and scalable and that allow systems to run at 99.995 percent availability," he said.
While individual customers often run a subset of these technologies in their own data centers, he said "we implement all of them," in autonomous database services on Oracle Cloud. "The experts in our Maximum Availability Architecture group are implementing best practices throughout the autonomous cloud services that you'll be using," he said.
That's why Oracle is confident in offering service-level commitments that offer true 99.995% uptime guarantees, he said. "Others talk about 99.995% uptime," Mendelsohn said, "but when you read the fine print, you find out that pretty much every source of downtime is excluded."
"We're not going to do that with our SLAs," he said. "We're going to implement online patching using RAC rolling upgrades and use best practices on top of one of the most powerful and reliable platforms for running Oracle Database—Oracle Exadata."
The Elastic Database
While Amazon popularized the idea of "elasticity" in its EC2 elastic compute cloud, which can grow and shrink compute resources very quickly, "they can't do the same with database," he said. That's because Amazon relies on simple, open source databases that won't allow it," he said.
Oracle Autonomous Database Cloud plans to offer instant elasticity for databases. This is valuable, according to Mendelsohn, because a customer could, for example, go from eight cores of database computing to sixteen cores to scale-up for end-of-quarter processing, then back down to the less expensive eight cores. "We can do it instantly because our RAC technology lets you scale across clusters of servers very quickly, so we won't have to move data around," he said. "In order to grow its databases, Amazon has to move data to a new, bigger system and this can take hours or days, he said. "That's not truly elastic." Mendelsohn envisioned a scenario using Oracle where, "you could even shut down all your compute CPUs over the weekend so you're not paying for them, then start them up again on Monday morning," he said. "That's elastic."
Proven Security Features
Many data break-ins happen through systems vulnerabilities for which there was already a patch available, but not yet applied, noted Mendelsohn. "If you don't apply a patch to a known vulnerability you can guarantee that there will be hackers trying to penetrate your systems using that vulnerability," he said. "For external threats, we apply patches as soon as they're released using RAC rolling upgrades," he said. Oracle also encrypts the data at rest so that even if hackers get through, they won't be able to read it without a key.
"For internal users, we can use Oracle Database Vault, which separates duties to make sure your data is not visible to the people who administer your systems," Mendelsohn explained. Another existing feature, Oracle Data Masking, keeps software testers from seeing your data. "These security practices are always applied to Oracle Autonomous Database Cloud," he said.
Machine Learning in the Cloud
On top of these proven high availability and scalability technologies, Oracle Autonomous Database Cloud integrates a set of next-generation monitoring, management, and analytics capabilities that leverage machine learning and artificial intelligence techniques to automate performance tuning, prevent application outages, and harden security across the entire application and infrastructure portfolio.
The first such service scheduled to be available will be Oracle Autonomous Data Warehouse Cloud, followed by an autonomous OLTP and mixed workload cloud and an autonomous NoSQL cloud after that. Oracle Autonomous Data Warehouse Cloud leverages years of investment in self-tuning technologies like Oracle Exadata storage indexes and flash cache, powerful query optimization, automatic memory management, and automatic storage management to provide a completely self-tuning database.
No traditional performance tuning by administrators and developers is required. With Oracle Autonomous Data Warehouse Cloud, Mendelsohn said, "You just define tables, load data, and run queries; the database is completely self-tuning." The service is so efficient that at Oracle OpenWorld CTO Ellison discussed offering a guarantee that customers could move their analytic databases from Amazon's cloud and run them at half the cost on Oracle Autonomous Database Cloud.
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