The year is 2020, and the roles and responsibilities of the
Oracle professional have changed dramatically over the past 15
The Bureau of Labor Statistics shows the Oracle DBA job as top 10 job for growth
To fully understand the benefits of computer hardware in
the year 2020, we must begin by seeing how the constant changes
in CPU, RAM, and disk technology have effected database
management over the past six decades.
Once we see the
history in its correct perspective, we can understand the evolution of Oracle
database systems into their current state.
The economics of
server technology has changed radically over the past 60 years. In the 1960s,
IBM dominated the server market with giant mainframe servers that cost millions
of dollars. These behemoth mainframes were water-cooled and required huge
operations centers and a large staff to support their operations.
- Only the largest of corporations could afford their own data processing
center, and all small- to mid-sized companies had to rent CPU cycles from a
data center in order to automate their business processes.
- Small UNIX-based servers existed, such as the PDP-11. However, they were
considered far too unreliable to be used for a commercial application.
- In 1981, the first commercial personal computer (PC) was unveiled, and
practically overnight, computing power was in the hands of the masses.
Software vendors rushed to develop useful products that would run on a PC,
and the introduction of VisiCalc heralded the first business application
outside the mainframe domain.
- Oracle appears, and relational databases dominate the IT market. Large
shops have hundreds of small UNIX-based computers for their Oracle
- Monolithic servers reappear, and Oracle shops undertake a massive server
consolidation. By 2008, servers with 256 processors run hundreds of Oracle
- Disk becomes obsolete, and all Oracle database are solid-state. Hardware
costs fall so much that 70 percent of the IT budget is spent on programmers
result of the advances of hardware technology, the Oracle professionals of the
year 2020 have far different challenges than their ancestors way back in 2005.
- Very Large mainframe servers
(Exadata) start to replace the minicomputers of the early 21st century
- The cloud processing paradigm shows that much proprietary software
is accessed over the Internet (Word processing, spreadsheet, DBMS)
- PCs are replaced by IAs
(Internet Appliances), and laptops and just screens and keyboards with a Java-enabled web browser.
- High-speed network
bandwidth allows instant content delivery and server-to-server
- The Internet becomes
non-anonymous (thanks to Oracle?s Larry Ellison)
- All database systems are
- Databases become three
dimensional, allowing for temporal data presentation
important to note that all of these changes were the direct reaction to advances
in hardware technology. Let?s quickly review the major advances in hardware over
the past 15 years:
- The first database server with more than 1,000 CPUs is introduced,
enabling massive IT server consolidation. Dubbed ?Special K? servers because
they have more than 1,000 processors, these boxes allow even the largest
corporation to place all of their Oracle instances on a single server.
- The first 128-bit processors are introduced.
? Hardware prices fall so much that they become negligible, and the bulk of
the IT budget shifts to human costs.
- Gallium Arsenide replaces silicon for RAM chips, increasing access speed
- Worldwide high-speed satellite becomes the backbone of the Internet.
- Optical eye readers can identify your retina signature, and a quick glance
is all that is required for positive identification.
changes also precipitated important social changes, and the increasing
availability of computing resources led to worldwide infrastructure regulations:
- Microsoft Office 2005 uses XML standards for MS Word documents and
spreadsheets. Business documents are now sharable among all software.
- The United Nations passes the Worldwide Internet Certification Act (WICA),
requiring positive identification for Internet access.
- The SQL-09 committee simplifies data query syntax, allowing natural
language database communication.
- 2021 - W3C introduces the Verifiable Internet Protocol (VIP), requiring
verifiable identity to access the Web.
- Internic implements WICA and VIP, reducing spam and cybercrime by 95
- Luddites protest the new lack of Internet privacy. The U.S. Congress
passes the Data Privacy Act (DPA), requiring all custodians of confidential
data to meet rigorous security and privacy requirements.
- Internet bandwidth increase to allow high-speed communications between any
- Internet Appliances (IA) replace personal computers, and all proprietary
software is accessible only through the Internet.
- Advertising becomes active, and retinal imaging allows for instant
identification and customizing of marketing messages. Walk down the street
and billboards target their content to the needs of those viewing it at that
Corporation has played an integral role in the movement, offering low-cost
database management and capturing over 90 percent of the database market in
2020. During the past 15 years, we see Oracle playing a major role in
facilitating the new technology:
- Oracle 14m provides inter-instance sharing of RAM resources. All Oracle
instances become self-managing.
- Oracle 16ss introduces solid-state, non-disk database management.
- Oracle?s Larry Elision finances the Worldwide Internet Identification
Database, requiring non-anonymous access and reducing cybercrime. Ellison
receives the Nobel Peace Prize for his humanitarian efforts.
- Oracle 17-3d introduces the time dimension to database management,
allowing three-dimensional data representation.
- Oracle starts manufacturing IAs for $50 each, replacing PCs and making the
Internet available everywhere in the world. Elision becomes the world?s
As we see, there
have been a huge number of changes over the past 15 years, but what caused them?
Let?s take a closer look at how the advances in computer hardware precipitated
these life-changing technologies.
Advances Between 2005 and 2020
Director of the Research and Development Laboratories at Fairchild
Semiconductor, published a research paper titled ?Cramming More Components into
Integrated Circuits? in 1965. Moore performed a linear regression on the rate of
change in server processing speed and costs, and noted an exponential growth in
processing power and an exponential reduction of processing costs. This
discovery led to ?Moore?s Law,? which postulated that CPU power gets four-times
faster every three years (refer to figure 1).
Figure 1: Moore?s
?real? Moore?s Law cannot be boiled down into a one-size-fits-all statement to
the effect that everything always gets faster and cheaper.
Prices are always falling, but there are important exceptions to Moore?s Law,
especially with regard to disk and RAM technology (refer to figure 2):
Figure 2:The ?real?
As we can see,
these speed curves are not linear, and this trend has a profound impact on the
performance of Oracle databases. Let?s take a closer look.
I?m old enough to
remember when punched cards were the prominent data storage device. Every year,
I would get my income tax refund check on a punched card, and we would make
Christmas trees from punched cards in the ?Data Processing? department.
My college kids
have no idea what the term ?Do not fold, spindle or mutilate? means, and they
missed out on the fun of dropping their card deck on the floor and having to use
the giant collating machines to re-sequence their deck.
In 1985, I
remember buying a 1.2 gigabyte disk (the IBM-3380 disk) for more than $250,000.
Today, you can buy 100 GB disks for $10, and 100 GB of RAM for $100. With these
types of advances, Moore?s Law for storage costs indicates that:
- Disk storage costs fall
10x every year.
- Storage media is
obsolesced every 25 years.
Note that the
change to Moore?s Law for disks shows the limitations of the spinning platter
technology (refer to figure 3).
Figure 3: Disk speed
peaked in the 1990s.
Platters can only
spin so fast without becoming aerodynamic, and the disk vendors were
hard-pressed to keep their technology improving in speed. Their solution was to
add a RAM front-end to their disk arrays and sophisticated, asynchronous
read-write software to provide the illusion of faster hardware performance.
Today in 2020,
you can buy 100 GB of RAM for only $100, with access times 600,000 greater than
the ancient spinning disk platter of the 20th century. In 2020, a terabyte of
RAM costs less than $200.
of Quantum-state Gallium Arsenide RAM in 2009 was the largest breakthrough in
RAM in more then 40 years. Before 2009, RAM always became cheaper every year,
but it did not get faster. This meant that CPU speed continued to outpace memory
speed, and RAM subsystems had to be localized to keep the CPUs running at full
Figure 4: Silicon
chips did not increase in speed.
Until 2009, RAM
speed remained constant at about 20 microseconds (millionths of a second), and
even the solid-state database had to deal with the continued increasing speed of
CPU resources. Let?s examine the CPU changes over the past 15 years.
The same trend
also exists for processor costs and speed. In the 1970s, a 4-way SMP processor
costs over $3,000,000. Today in 2020, the same CPU can be purchased for under
$300. CPUs continue to increase speed by four times as much every three years
and cut cost in half.
- I/O bandwidth capacity
doubles every ten years:
- 8 bit 1970s
- 16 bit 1980s
- 32 bit 1990s
- 64 bit 2000s
- 128 bit 2015s
- 256 bit 2020s
super-fast processors sounded the death-knell for the age of small computers,
and server blades (and Oracle10g
Grid computing) were replaced by large, monolithic servers.
Between 2005 and
2009, RAM had to be physically localized near the CPU to keep the processors
running at full capacity.
After 2009, the
speed of RAM increased to picoseconds (billionths of a second); this development
changed server architectures. The largest source of latency was not the wires
between the CPU and RAM, and fiber optic cables were required to keep up with
the processing speeds. During this period, computer servers first began to take
on the familiar tower configuration that we know today. (As we all know, the
tower configuration is required to minimize the fiber optical length between the
CPU and RAM, and this is required to keep the CPUs operating at full capacity.)
As RAM speed
broke the picosecond threshold and approached the speed of light, even the
fastest 20th century networks could not keep up with the processing demands.
Quantum mechanics and atom-state technology were combined with fiber optics to
improve line speeds to keep pace with the hardware.
These advances in
hardware made mini-computers instantly obsolete, and management recognized that
multiple servers were far too labor intensive. Starting in 2005, we began to see
the first wave of the massive server consolidation movement. The large, 64-bit
servers with 16, 32, and 64 CPUs became so affordable that companies abandoned
their server farms in favor of a single-server source.
This article has
shown the major changes to Oracle database technology between 2005 and 2020, and
demonstrated how hardware advances preceded and facilitated the changes to
The main points
of this article include:
- RAM speed remained
significantly unchanged until 32-state Gallium Arsenide technology broke the
- Solid-state RAM disks
made platter disks obsolete and heralded the creation of the first
solid-state Oracle architecture.
- Improvements in Internet
bandwidth made it possible to have on-demand software delivery from Oracle.
In our next
installment, we will consider how the Oracle DBA?s job role is far different in
2020 than it was in 2005. We will also examine the changes to Oracle software
over the past 15 years and see how the changing database technology has
drastically changed the duties of the Oracle DBA.
Inside Oracle 2020
The year is 2020 and we are taking a historical look at how
Oracle database management has advanced over the past 15 years.
As we noted in our first installment on Oracle 2020, the
hardware advances preceded the changes to 21st century
technology. It was only after vendors introduced the new
hardware that Oracle databases responded to leverage the new
One of the greatest hardware-induced technology changes was the
second age of mainframe computing which began in 2005 and
continues today. Let?s take a look at the second age of
mainframes and see how this architecture has changed our lives.
The Second Age of Mainframe computing
At the dawn of the 21st century, a push toward Grid computing
began with Oracle10g, as well as a new trend called
server consolidation. In both Grid computing and server
consolidation, CPU and RAM resources were delivered on-demand as
required by your application. In other words, the computing
world went straight back to 1965 and re-entered the land of the
large, single computer!
The new mainframe-like servers were fully redundant, providing
complete hardware reliability for all server components
including RAM, CPU and busses. It was clear that server
consolidation was a trend that had many benefits and many
companies dismantled their ancient distributed UNIX server farms
and consolidated into a large single server with huge savings in
both management and hardware costs:
CPU speed continued to outpace memory speed. RAM speed had not
improved since the 1970s. This meant that RAM sub-systems had
to be localized to keep the CPUs running at full capacity.
Platter Disks were being replaced by solid-state RAM disk.
Oracle databases were shifting from being I/O-bound to
CPU-bound as a result of improved data caching.
From a historical perspective, we must remember that the initial
departure from the ?glass house? mainframe was not motivated by
any compelling technology. Rather, it was a pure matter of
economics. The new mini-computers of the 1990s were far cheaper
than mainframes and provided computing power with a lower
hardware cost, but a higher human cost. This required more
expensive system administrators and DBAs to manage the multiple
servers. This low TCP led IT management to begin dismantling
their mainframes, replacing them with hundreds of small
UNIX-based minicomputers (refer to figure 1).
Figure 1: The multi-server architecture of the late 20th century
In shops with multiple Oracle instances, consolidating onto a
single large Windows server saved thousands of dollars in
resource costs and provided better resource allocation. In many
cases, the payback period for server consolidation was very
fast, especially when the existing system had reached the
limitations of the 32-bit architecture.
The proliferation of server farms had caused a huge surge in
demand for Oracle DBA professionals. Multiple database servers
may have represented job security for the DBA and system
administration staff that maintained the servers, but they
presented a serious and expensive challenge to IT management
because they were far less effective than a monolithic mainframe
High expense - In large enterprise data centers, hardware
resources were deliberately over-allocated in order to
accommodate processing-load peaks.
High waste - Because each Oracle instance resided on a single
server, there was significant duplication of administration
and maintenance, and a suboptimal utilization of RAM and CPU
Labor intensive - In many large Oracle shops, a shuffle
occurred when a database outgrew its server. A new server was
purchased, and the database was moved to the new server.
Another database was migrated onto the old server. This
shuffling of databases between servers was a huge headache for
the Oracle DBAs who were kept busy, after hours, moving
databases to new server platforms.
When the new 16, 32, and 64-CPU servers were introduced in the
early 21st century, it became clear to IT management that the
savings in manpower would easily outweigh the costs of the
Oracle professionals realized that within a consolidated server
you could easily add CPU and RAM resources to the server as your
processing demands increase. This offered a fast, easy, and
seamless growth path for the new mainframe computers of the
early 21st century (refer to figure 2).
Figure 2: The Intel-CPU mainframe architecture of the early 21st
century (Courtesy UNISYS)
Server consolidation technology not only greatly reduced the
number of servers. It also reduced the amount of IT staff that
was required to maintain the server software.
single server meant a single copy of the Oracle software. Plus,
the operating system controlled resource allocation and the
server automatically balanced the demands of many Oracle
instances for processing cycles and RAM resources. Of course,
the Oracle DBA still maintained control of the RAM and CPU
within the server, and they could dedicate Oracle instances to a
fixed set of CPUs (using processor affinity) or adjust the CPU
dispatching priority (the UNIX ?nice? command) of important
If any CPU failed, the monolithic server would re-assign the
processing without interruption. This offered a more affordable
and simpler solution than Real Applications Clusters or Oracle
By consolidating server resources, the DBA had fewer servers to
manage and they no longer needed to be concerned about
outgrowing their server. But the server consolidation movement
also meant that less Oracle DBAs were needed because there was
no longer a need to repeat DBA tasks, over-and-over, on multiple
servers. Let?s take a closer look at how the job of the Oracle
DBA has changed.
Changing Role of the Oracle DBA in 2020
In the late 20th century, shops had dozens of Oracle DBA staff
and important tasks were still overlooked because DBAs said
?It?s not my job,? or ?I don?t have time.? Changing technology
mandated that the 21st century DBA would have more overall
responsibility for the whole operation of their Oracle database.
Winner of the ?It?s Not My Job? award
what did this mean to the Oracle DBA of the early 21st century?
Clearly, less time was spent installing and maintaining multiple
copies of Oracle, and this freed-up time for the DBA to pursue
more advanced tasks such as SQL tuning and database performance
But the sad reality of server consolidation was that thousands
of mediocre Oracle DBAs lost their jobs to this trend. The best
DBAs continued to find work, but DBAs who were used for the
repetitive tasks of installing upgrades on hundreds of small
servers were displaced (refer to figure 3).
Figure 3: The changing dynamics of human and hardware costs
The surviving Oracle DBAs found that they were relieved of the
tedium of applying patches to multiple servers, constantly
re-allocating server resources with Oracle Grid control, and
constantly monitoring and tuning multiple systems. The DBA job
role became far more demanding, and many companies started to
view the DBA as a technical management position, encompassing
far more responsibility than the traditional DBA.
Consequently, many computer professionals and Oracle DBAs were
faced with a new requirement to have degrees in both computer
science and business administration. The business administration
allowed them to understand the working of internal systems and
helped them to design the corporate database.
By 2015, the automation of many of the Oracle DBA functions led
to the Oracle professional accepting responsibility for a whole
new set of duties:
Data modeling and Oracle database design
Data interface protocols
Managing data security
Managing development projects
Predicting future Oracle trends for hardware usage and user
Now that we understand how the DBA job duties expanded in scope,
let?s take a look at the evolution of the Oracle database over
the past 15 years.
Inside Oracle 2020
The world of Oracle management is totally different today than
it was back in 2004. We no longer have to worry about applying
patches to Oracle software, all tuning is fully automated and
hundreds of Oracle instances all reside within a single
Looking remarkably like the access architectures of the 1970s,
all Oracle access is done via disk-less Internet Appliances (IAs),
very much like the 3270 dumb terminals from the mainframe days
of the late 20th century. The worldwide high-speed network
allows all software to be accessed from a single, master
location, and everything including word processing, spreadsheets
and databases are accessed in virtual space.
Software vendors save millions of dollars and they can instantly
transmit patches and upgrades without service interruption. Best
of all for the vendor, software piracy is completely eliminated.
The SQL-09 standard also simplified data access for relational
databases. Forever removing the FROM and GROUP BY clauses, the
SQL-09 standard made it easy to add artificial intelligent
language pre-processors to natural language interfaces to Oracle
To see the difference, here is a typical SQL statement from the
customer_location = ?North Carolina?
SQL-09 SQL removes the need for the FROM and GROUP BY clauses,
pulling the table names from the data dictionary.
customer_location = ?North Carolina?
Oracle?s cost-based SQL optimizer is now 100% effective and
dynamic sampling ensures that the execution plan is optimal for
We also see that all Oracle software is dynamically accessed
over the Web and a single copy of Oracle executables is accessed
from the main Oracle software server in Redwood Shores. Several
hundred master copies of Oracle exist on the worldwide server
and applying patches is a simple matter of re-directing your
Oracle instance to pull the executables from another master copy
Oracle first started on-demand computing way back in 2004 when
the Oracle10g Enterprise Manager would go to MOSC
and gather patch information for the DBA. This has been expanded
to allow for all Oracle software to be instantly available by
any Internet-enabled appliance.
Oracle?s Inter-Instance Database
If any of you are old enough to remember back to 2008, Oracle
abandoned Grid computing in favor of inter-instance sharing of
RAM resources. As corporations migrated onto the large
monolithic servers, companies began to move hundreds of Oracle
instances into a single box. These servers were excellent at
sharing CPU resources between instances, but RAM memory could
not be freed by one instance to be used by another (refer to
Figure 4: Oracle Inter-instance RAM architecture
Oracle borrowed from their Real Application Clusters (RAC) and
Automatic Memory Management (AMM) to create a new way for
hundreds of Oracle instances to share RAM resources between
instances. With RAM costs falling below $1,000 per Terabyte,
multi-gigabyte data caches became commonplace.
All Oracle instances become self-managing during this time, and
AMM ensured that every instance had on-demand RAM resources.
Solid-State Oracle Database
The first new generation of disk-less Oracle databases was
introduced back in 2011 when Oracle 16ss was introduced.
Appropriate for all but the largest data warehouses, this
disk-less architecture heralded a whole new way of managing
With the solid-state architecture, the old-fashioned RAM region
called the SGA disappeared forever and was replaced with a new
scheme that managed serialization, locks and latches directly
within the RAM data blocks. The idea of ?caching? was gone
forever, and everything was available with nanosecond access
speeds. With this greatly simplified architecture, Oracle was
able to reduce the number of background processes required to
manage Oracle and exploit the new solid-state disks. Oracle also
improved the serialization mechanisms to make it easier to
manage high volumes of simultaneous access. Oracle 16ss was the
first commercial database to break the million transactions per
Oracle3d Adds a New Dimension
With all Oracle database running in solid-state memory, the
introduction of the new 32-state Gallium Arsenide chips with
picosecond access speeds shifted the database bottleneck to the
network. By now, all traditional wiring has been replaced by
fiber optics and all system software is delivered over the web.
In 2016, Oracle 17-3d was introduced to add the temporal
dimension to database management. Adding the third dimension of
time, Oracle was able to exploit the ancient concept of their
Flashback product to allow any Oracle database to be viewed as a
dynamic object with the changes to the database available in
Where from Here?
We have seen Oracle technology come a long way in the first
twenty years of the 21st century all as a direct response to
advances in hardware. As computing hardware continues to make
advancements, Oracle will respond and incorporate the new
hardware technology into their data engine.
While it?s always impossible to accurately predict the future,
we can always take clues from the advances in hardware, knowing
that Oracle databases will step-up to utilize the new hardware
advances within their database products and tools.