What becomes a mighty oak starts as a tiny acorn. Software application development follows this same ageless pattern.
And that’s the idea behind Oracle offering a new “Always Free” version of Oracle’s database—to give ideas a place to take root, no matter how much noodling they need, with the potential to grow an idea into a useful app, or even a juggernaut.
Launched at Oracle OpenWorld in September, the Always Free version of Oracle’s Autonomous Database has quickly taken root in the database development community, with more than four times more trial users signed up in the first month compared to previous months. Some are experts looking to create proofs of concept, while others are taking the opportunity to get their feet wet.
“OK, I'm thinking of going zero knowledge to a personal dive app with APEX and the Always Free database,” tweeted Debra Lilley (right), who’s an expert in business applications but hasn’t done much hands-on database development. Her modest goal is to build an online log for her scuba diving excursions.
That’s the kind of low-risk experimentation that can lead to all kinds of new applications, says Brendan Tierney (below), a database and machine learning expert from Ireland. “It’s a very easy way for people to build up a test environment and start playing around and expanding and sharing their knowledge,” he says.
Developers who sign up for a cloud account under the new Always Free program receive access to:
Users also get access to a host of free tools for building applications, such as Oracle Application Express, as well as drivers for popular programming languages, REST services for publishing data, and even a popular notebook for doing data science. The Always Free program works alongside a program of free credits that developers can spend on an extended list of cloud services.
The kicker for developers, says Tierney, is that the database “is autonomous, so you don't need to worry about administration,” he says. Once a user sets up a login and requests a cloud database, the autonomous database can deploy, tune, patch, back up, and secure itself with no human intervention, so a developer can tinker with these resources without calling in an IT support team. “You can just start using it for what you want to use it for.”
Heli Helskyaho is a database and data modeling expert in Finland who wants to use the free Oracle Database and cloud infrastructure as a way to sell new ideas into her company—without having to shell out cash up front. “If I want to use machine learning on data in our on-premises database, I first have to buy the machine learning option, and of course I don’t buy it because it’s expensive,” she says.
The free autonomous database is the same feature-rich Oracle Database that big banks, telecoms, researchers, and many other organizations use to run some of the world’s most demanding data workloads.
That means the free autonomous database service has “all the coolest enterprise options-built in,” Helskyaho says. “So if I can build something for free in autonomous using machine learning and I find something from our data that’s useful,” like a way to know when a customer is preparing to leave her company, “then that would be proof that [the machine learning option] is worth buying.”
Tariq Farooq (below) runs a technology incubator with offices in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the US, and he sees the Always Free autonomous database as a great way to connect the young developers he hires to the most popular enterprise database.
“Autonomous essentially brings the world’s prevalent enterprise database to the fore for kids in Pakistan or Kenya or California or wherever,” he says. “Free autonomous [database] paired up with tools like APEX…can be an enabler for those kids or organizations like ours to go out there and very rapidly spin out enterprise-ready applications.”
Farooq, whose company backs projects as diverse as auction sites and health care apps, sees possibilities for his young teams to turn ideas into products—because the Always Free database offers a seamless upgrade path to the paid and scalable platform. “We can do soft launches and tests and if things start trending in Asian markets, like India, which is a billion-plus market, we’re ready to grow,” he says.
But first, ideas must start small, like Debra Lilley’s scuba diving data log. “The APEX community really intrigues me,” Lilley says. “So when the announcement of the always free service mentioned using APEX I thought, “That’s it, I will have a go.’ And I thought I would try with data that really meant something to me, my scuba dive log.”
Big or small, the ideas are worth exploring—especially with the Always Free version of an autonomous database and cloud infrastructure at the ready—says Brendan Tierney. “Go use it. Embrace it,” he says, “It's the only way you can really see what it does.”