Thursday, February 25, 2010

Oracle GoldenGate

For large technology businesses acquisitions are a way of life. In the book Necessary But Not Sufficient by Eli Goldratt, the fictitious ERP company at the centre of the novel, BGSoft, has found itself making acquisitions in order to meet shareholder targets for sales and revenue - the only way high targets could ever be achieved was to buy another company and add their sales to BGSoft’s actual sales in order to reach the yearly goals. The company was not in a position to continue this strategy and in the story senior management try to develop new offerings in order to move into different markets instead.

Despite the book being pretty lame all round, I imagine that this situation is not far from the truth for large tech firms who have to operate "Acquisition for Growth" strategies, and it goes some way to explaining the unusual purchases some of these firms make. Microsoft has always been known for its aggressive acquisition strategy; Cisco were accused of buying research as opposed to doing any; HP picking up Compaq (technically a merger, but it felt like a buyout) was so wacky it contributed to Carly Fiorina losing her job; and over the years Oracle has made some odd decisions on how to spend its cash, not least of all the recent purchase of Sun, though upon closer inspection you can see where Larry was going with that one.

Mergers & Acquisitions = Murders & Executions (at least in "American Psycho")

The motivations behind acquisitions aren’t often clear, but every now and then a company buys another and it makes total sense, like when Oracle picked up the little known software firm GoldenGate and thus its data integration product of the same name.

Oracle sent out a rather low-key email alert to herald the addition of GoldenGate to their product portfolio so I was surprised to discover upon further investigation what this new product really is. Oracle GoldenGate (as it’s now known) is software that allows users to synchronise data between databases, in any direction, regardless of the database software or platform its running on, in real-time, without touching the data in the database. So, with GoldenGate it is possible to synchronise data between, for example, an Oracle database running on AIX and a SQL Server database on Windows Server 2003. Not only can data be replicated from a source database to a target, but any changes that occur on the source can be applied, in real-time, to the target. Using GoldenGate, it’s possible to keep two databases in sync even if they run on totally different platforms.

From a technical standpoint, what makes GoldenGate special is how the designers leveraged the architecture of the database systems their software works with. Enterprise scale RDBMS don’t write data directly to database files but instead utilise intermediary log files to allow for concurrency and resilience. GoldenGate reads the log files not the database itself to determine what data goes where. It extracts the data into “Trail Files” that it transports over standard network infrastructure to the target system where it is loaded, performing operations on the data along the way if so desired. The reading of the source databases transaction log files to extract data and changes means that data stored within the database is untouched and therefore the overall performance of the system is unaffected.

Golden Gate - an image normally associated with a different technology firm...

At first, the ability to perform these types of actions seemed obvious, but when I thought about how to achieve real-time data synchronisation with the existing Oracle offerings I realised just how powerful this software is – it’s a far cry from database links and materialised views, and when you consider that the database doesn’t have to be Oracle at all you begin to imagine all types of areas where this can be of real use, which is why Oracle’s promotional literature offers a series of scenarios where they envision GoldenGate to be a critical component. The key areas Oracle focuses on are:
  • Data Synchronisation
  • Zero Downtime Upgrades & Migrations
  • Disaster Recovery & Data Protection
  • Operational Reporting
  • Operational Real-Time Business Intelligence
  • Support for Event Driven Architectures and Service Orientated Architectures (EDA/SOA)
Oracle's purchase of GoldenGate is going to have major repercussions if they are able to fully integrate the technology as they plan to. Oracle Streams is soon to be extinct as a result, and DataGuard had better watch its back too. GoldenGate really feels like one of those game changing technologies that only come along every now and then.

What Oracle has really done with their acquisition of GoldenGate is bring the software into the mainstream. As a standalone offering it was interesting, but now with the might of Oracle behind it GoldenGate is a must-have for the large enterprise with serious data integration concerns, despite the high price tag Oracle have put on the software.

Oracle adapting this technology, either by development or in this case purchasing it, not only makes sense, it actually makes you wonder what took them so long?


Larry Ellison – Oracle CEO:

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