Inside Data 63

by Graham Keitch

Graham Keitch takes us through the new features on offer from Oracle Database 12c.

HardCopy Issue: 63 | Published: May 20, 2014

IT projects don’t always allow you to start with a clean sheet, and this is especially true where database technologies are involved. More often than not, you will be working with the data infrastructure which underpins the company’s existing systems, and for which expertise is already in place. A lot of today’s modernisation projects are being driven by a business requirement to exploit new mobile technologies and reach across multiple platforms including the cloud. It is important to ensure your data framework can grow to support these new technologies and scale in terms of capacity and performance. In recent years, databases have evolved to support the Internet, business intelligence, data warehousing, complex data types such as spatial, unstructured data, and now the cloud.

Software and hardware upgrades or a migration may become an important part of the project if the incumbent database is unable to deliver in its current state. To help address this, Oracle Database maintains code compatibility across all editions, from the free XE version through to the top-end Enterprise Edition, which makes it easier to scale when the need arises. Oracle has also been a consistent industry leader when it comes to technology innovations and enabling users to adopt such innovations with minimal code reworking.

The latest Oracle Database 12c was released in July 2013 and continues this tradition. Most of the key new features relate to the Enterprise Edition for which a number of add-on options are available to handle the needs of the most demanding database environments. The most pressing issues for both IT and the business relate to manageability, performance and security. There is a growing need to minimise the complexities and costs associated with handling ever increasing volumes of data. A single major new feature of 12c Enterprise Edition goes a long way towards tackling nearly all of these requirements. This is the multi-tenant support which I covered in issue 61 (Winter 2013).

The multi-tenant architecture allows you to plug multiple databases into a single container database which handles all the memory and background processes. The DBA only needs to deal with the single container instance for upgrades, patching, monitoring, tuning and other administrative tasks. At present, only the Enterprise Edition offers full support for multi-tenant with the ability to host up to 252 pluggable databases. This is the architecture of the cloud and is quite likely to be increasingly adopted for on premise and hybrid systems too as an ‘in-database’ virtualisation solution.

EM Express screenshot

EM Express for managing Oracle Database 12c.

Security should no longer be a project afterthought. It is a key part of most project specifications and Oracle continues to innovate with new security features. Data Redaction allows you to obscure data using a policy that specifies who may view sensitive information. Other security enhancements include the ability to specify which program units may invoke a procedure, and to attach invoker rights. For the most advanced security requirements, Oracle provides Advanced Security, Label Security, Data Masking and other Options that address auditing and role based access to data.

Turning to performance, multi-tenant allows you to allocate a percentage of CPU power to each pluggable database. Oracle shared objects such as PL/SQL can be shared across all the pluggable databases using object stubs. This can also be thought of as a type of ‘in-database’ virtualisation of resources – in this case shareable code.

Increasing quantities of data puts pressure on storage and the costs associated with it. The Advanced Compression Option tracks usage at row and segment levels to produce a Heat Map that shows database hotspots. Automatic data compression and other optimisation tasks make use of Heat Maps to improve performance.

Partitioning tables into smaller chunks also helps optimise storage and improve speed. Less active partitions and those containing historic data can be offloaded on to cheaper and slower disks, reserving high performance kit for frequently accessed and important data. Smaller partitions also allow queries to execute faster and are beneficial for loading data, backup, recovery and other such tasks. The Partitioning Option is available for the Enterprise Edition.

Other new features include Basic Flashback Data Archive in all editions. Optimisation for Flashback Data Archive requires the Enterprise Edition and Advanced Compression option. Transaction Guard ensures a known outcome for every transaction despite outages that would otherwise cause work to be lost without the user knowing something was wrong.

There have been enhancements for Big Data and analytics too, including SQL Pattern Matching which allows you to find patterns in subsequent rows of the result set using regular expressions. SQL has been enhanced and there is better integration with PL/SQL and JDBC. XMLDB now provides improved compatibility with other Oracle technologies such as Dataguard and GoldenGate.

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Graham Keitch is the database pre-sales specialist at Grey Matter and has been working in IT for 30 years. For further information and advice on Oracle Database, call him or one of his colleagues on 01364 654129, or email him at