SAN FRANCISCO — Enterprise IT managers want to get a better sense of what’s going on in their infrastructure before they make the leap to grid computing, according to customers attending the OracleWorld Conference this week.

Oracle

said it has approximately 200 organizations participating in a beta-testing program for its 10g database and accompanying Application Server product. The “”g”” in 10g refers to grid computing, the process whereby several computers share a common workload. Oracle executives are using the conference to try and convince customers to move to computing environments where resources are managed around peak periods, like the end of a financial quarter, in order to better align IT with the business.

The release of the 10g database is supposed to help advance grid computing into the commercial space, but a panel of early beta customers mostly consisted of academic and research communities where the grids are already becoming common and other technology firms. These included CERN, the European institute largely credited with the development of the Internet, French telecommunications school ENST Breatagne and CDMA chipmaker Qualcomm. Several customers praised the management software Oracle is introducing with 10g more than any capability to increase resource utilization in otherwise idle servers. Oracle has added a number of additional tools within its latest crop of software releases, including automated storage management, Flashback point-in-time data recovery and identity management for security.

At Qualcomm, IT manager Arvind Gidwani said he was particularly impressed by the self-management features in Oracle 10g that allowed him to deploy all major fixes in his server environment at the same time. “”That has been such a great feature for me,”” he said. “”I can’t thank Oracle enough for that.””

Jamie Shiers, database group lead in CERN’s IT division, said the lab is in the process of taking apart one of its particle accelerators, which is used in advanced biological and physics research. This is the first step in creating a new accelerator for a 2007 launch date, which is expected to run for another 10 to 15 years, he said. Given the fact that much of CERN’s work is spread out in facilities around the world, he said he was pleased with 10g’s capabilities for unplugging a database in one area and immediately setting it up in another.

“”Self-tuning, self-managing software isn’t a wish,”” he said. “”It’s a requirement if you want to get into grid computing.””

Adding or changing capacity quickly was one of the key drivers in the most recent product development, Application Server development senior vice-president Thomas Kurian told another technical session. “”It can take hours, even days for a systems admin to configure a new device,”” he said, describing how Oracle’s Enterprise Manager software will speed the process. “”We’ll be able to reduce the time to bring something into a production environment.””

Some Oracle customers got their first taste of what grid computing can offer through the deployment of Oracle Real Application Clusters (RAC), where two or four computers share an application. Peter Bass, senior database administrator at St. Laurent, Que.-based printing firm Transcontinental Inc., said his success in using RAC to maintain availability during the launch of a new production control system last month has him interested in 10g’s potential to free up developers and DBA staff. (Transcontinental Inc. owns Transcontinental Media, which publishes ITBusiness.ca.)

“”A lot of it is fear,”” he said of enterprises that are reluctant to rely on advanced management tools. “”I think this is the moment where we let go of some command lines.””

Bass said Transcontinental doesn’t have lot of under-capacity servers, but that Oracle 10g may give the company a better sense of what’s being used more often. It could also make the IT department more proactive in serving the company’s needs, rather than spending time monitoring and reacting to problems. This was a theme echoed by the beta customers, who said the management capabilities would free up their DBAs for other tasks.

“”Maybe now they can balance work and family life,”” Gidwani joked.

OracleWorld 2003 continues through Thursday.

Comment: info@itbusiness.ca

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