Oracle made a slick move in picking up Tangosol, a leader in object/data caching for all sorts of major OLTP apps. They do financial trading, telecom operations, big web sites (Fedex, Geico), and other good stuff. This is a reminder that the list of important memory-centric data handling technologies is getting fairly long, including:
- Object caching (e.g., Tangosol, Progress ObjectStore)
- In-memory RDBMS (e.g., Oracle TimesTen, Solid BoostEngine, McObject eXtremeDB)
- Stream processing (e.g., Progress Apama, Streambase)
And that’s just for OLTP; there’s a whole other set of memory-centric technologies for analytics as well.
When one connects the dots, I think three major points jump out:
- There’s a lot more to high-end OLTP than relational database management.
- Oracle is determined to be the leader in as many of those areas as possible.
- This all fits the market disruption narrative.
I write about Point #1 all the time. So this time around let me expand a little more on #2 and #3.
Except at the high end, banging OLTP data into a relational database is pretty much a commodity. You need transaction integrity, referential integrity, 24×7 operation – and what else? Answer that “what else”, and you’ll probably be talking about scalability, TCO, or both.*
*Well, there’s also unattended/embedded operation. But – and here I’m putting the point very mildly – that’s hardly an area of Oracle competitive superiority.
One Oracle response is to provide lots of add-on technologies for high-end customers, on the database and middle tiers alike. In app servers it’s done surprisingly well against BEA. It’s sold a lot of clustering. And it’s bought into and tried to popularize niche technologies like TimesTen and Tangosol’s.
This all makes perfect sense – it’s a great fit for Oracle’s best customers, and a way to get thousands of extra dollars per server from enterprises that may already have bought all-you-can-eat licenses to the Oracle DBMS. And being so sensible, it fits into the Clayton Christensen disruption story in two ways:
- Oracle may be helpless against mid-tier competition, but it sure has the high-end core of its market locked up.
- As one type of technology is commoditized, value is created in other parts of the technology stack.
The latter point is particularly important, because it applies not just to the new high-end systems software, but also to the whole application/analytics focus of Oracle’s much bigger strategic moves. And it’s one I believe in. Software features have been going from niche to mainstream to commodity, and being replaced by newer compatriots, for as long as there’s been a software industry.