Among the posts Oracle is making for its flagship database, adding new developer paths has become just as important as adding new data types. This month, Oracle is releasing the next version of Oracle Database, version 21c. In a session moderated by Andrew Mendelsohn, executive vice president of database server technologies, the company also announces a new cloud-based APEX service designed to create a new path for low-code developers who traditionally thought writing applications for Oracle was complex. and expensive. To entice new developers, Oracle is adding a free tier to this new cloud service.
Also: Low-code, no-code development changes the way software is built – and who builds it
As Oracle now numbers its versions based on the calendar year, 21c is the next version, which was announced as generally available last month. In reality, 21c is a dual version because the previous version, 20c, never went out of the preview. It had nothing to do with technology but everything to do with the upheaval of the. As the world entered lockdown last spring, Oracle’s on-premise customers (like many others) were more concerned with the survival and backbone of their businesses, so accepting further upgrades was not exactly at the top of their lists.
What’s New in Oracle Database 21c
The strengths of the mixed 20c / 21c version are more functions in the database for new languages; a wide selection of popular machine learning algorithms; a new, easier-to-use graphical interface; extensive in-memory processing options; and new sharing features supporting the deployment of distributed databases. Some of these features are new while others come from features already available in the cloud or in Exadata. With this release, Oracle consolidates a wave of recent features in the mothership.
Let’s start with the features previously introduced in the cloud. Oracle has adopted a cloud-centric strategy where new features are released to Oracle Cloud Infrastructure (OCI) before they become general releases. In version 21c, this includes the JSON data type, which is another step in Oracle’s converged (multi-model) database strategy. Oracle has supported JSON in the database for some time, but this support has evolved from its origins as a variable character (VARCHAR) or BLOB to binary support. This binary support, which enables 10x faster scans and 4x faster updates, was produced with the release of the stand-alone JSON database service on OCI this summer.
In other cases, 21c is upgrading existing capabilities that, to add complication to the plot, recently appeared in another new Oracle cloud service. We are talking about an in-memory database. First appeared in the 12c database in 2013, it was designed to speed up analysis. Customers could declare which tables from a row-based transaction database would be replicated to an adjacent in-memory column store for analytical queries. In 21c, this capability has evolved significantly, automating the process into a form of policy-based data prioritization, where data frequently affected by complex analytical queries will automatically be replicated to the in-memory column store. If this sounds familiar to you, it is. The new in-memory automated functionality incorporates functionality included in Oracle’s recently announced MySQL cloud service.
And there’s more. With Database 21c, Oracle adds another form of query processing for data held in memory: vector processing for queries involving repeated actions such as hash joins. With vector processing, repetitive query actions are consolidated into a pipeline in a single step. You may have heard of it before, as Actian has been offering this feature for some time in its Vector columnar data warehouse.
While we are talking about memory, 21c also adds another form that is geared towards transaction processing: persistent memory (PMEM) previously introduced in its high-end Exadata system. PMEM is a new tier of high-performance storage that was introduced in September 2019 in the Exadata X8M platform, and more recently in Exadata Cloud Service X8M. To recap, Oracle benchmarks show that PMEM has more than doubled transaction processing performance and reduced latency by up to a factor of ten. Certainly, these results will certainly hold up with just one instance. But the overall benefits are likely to be more modest given that single instances are likely to work with smaller data volumes where OLTP bottlenecks may not be as much of a problem as instances (like Exadata) that consolidate multiple databases. data in a business.
Other improvements to 21c focus on multi-tenancy. Since database 12c, Oracle customers have been able to manage multiple database tenants (known as pluggable databases) in a single “container” (different from Docker container). The challenge with failover is that if a single database tenant goes down, you will have to fail over the entire container. In 21c, the failover is more granular; it can be limited to individual database tenants, eliminating the need to dismantle the entire container.
And no, we’re not quite done yet. Oracle added support for Blockchain tables, providing immutability and cryptographic support to designate the table as a trusted source of unchanged data. This means that as long as the table is active in the Oracle database, users cannot modify the data it contains. But that doesn’t mean the table is permanent; Blockchain tables can be deleted or aged from the database as part of routine data lifecycle management practices. While we are talking about blockchain database, AWS has also introduced its own offering; the difference is that if AWS divides it into a separate database, Oracle includes blockchain tables on the mother ship, reflecting its converged database strategy.
Expand developer access
But the most dramatic announcement is the new cloud-based Oracle APEX service that will run on Oracle Autonomous Database as a serverless service. APEX, abbreviation of Express application, is a highly visual drag-and-drop development environment intended for so-called “non-programmers” – who tend to be professional users. Oracle also claims that APEX can help experienced developers become more productive. While APEX was not the world’s first visual development language (some of the earliest tools date back to the 1990s), its emergence – and other similar languages - are perfect examples of how new development languages visual require less and less coding. After nearly 20 years in the making, APEX has become an overnight success, especially with the very public endorsement of Larry Ellison as a way to expand the Oracle developer community.
Oracle arrived early and late in the low-code / no-code game. As noted, APEX was designed in the early 2000s, but, at the time, AppDev was in the spotlight with Oracle’s middleware level and its existing development languages. It also has Visual Builder, but it was aimed more at an audience of more skilled developers, as it required a certain degree of coding expertise.
Low-code / no-code has become popular as companies seek to resolve AppDev bottlenecks by allowing business analysts and subject matter experts to take justice into their own hands, rather than waiting for backlogs. computers disappear. The common thread running through all of these tools is that you can develop applications faster with much less code.
Since a significant part of application development tends to rely on existing software infrastructure, with projects such as mobile applications, low-code / no-code has gained in importance and adoption by Suppliers. For example, Microsoft has promoted the extensibility of its Office 365 and collaboration suite with Power Platform. Earlier this year, Google acquired AppSheet, while SaaS providers such as Salesforce and ServiceNow offer low-code development environments to extend their services. And specialist players such as OutSystems, Mendix and Appian have developed large customer bases in this area.
With APEX service, Oracle does not strive to compete with systems like OutSystems or Mendix. Instead, it charts wider paths to create the Oracle Database, which has always been best known for its features, a more welcoming platform for business users. This seals the deal with tight integration with the 21c database which should make run times much more efficient thanks to an architecture that reduces round trips between application code and the database of a factor of ten.
Disclosure: AWS and Oracle are dbInsight customers.