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Weighing the Pros and Cons of Oracle Autonomous Database

Editor’s Note: Because our bloggers have lots of useful tips, every now and then we update and bring forward a popular post from the past. Today’s post was originally published on August 20, 2019. The next generation of managed database services is upon us, offering organizations of all sizes the ability to scale database workloads quickly without forking out huge investments in either hardware or specialized expertise. One of these services is Oracle Autonomous Database (ADB), marketed by the company as the “world’s first self-driving database” that uses machine learning to replace previously manual tasks. Sounds pretty cool – but is ABD a good choice for you and your organization?

What exactly is the Oracle Autonomous Database?

If you’re in any way used to working in an on-premises Oracle system, you’ll be at home in ADB, as it’s built on the same underlying (and well-known) technology; Oracle Exadata hardware combined with software like Pluggable Database (PDB), which isolates each client to their own data neighborhood by restricting their ability to see outside their own PDB. These all run on Real Application Clusters (RAC) in a container database in one of Oracle’s cloud data centers with Oracle managing the whole thing, either on shared or dedicated underlying hardware. It’s also worth pointing out that ADB is a relational database. That’s a clear differentiator between it and, say, Google BigQuery, a fantastic big data solution with the ability to scale to petabytes. ADB only scales to 128TB, but comes with relational database management system (RDBMS) functionality such as referential integrity (primary key / foreign-key relationships), server-side code objects such as procedures and functions and triggers. One important thing to keep in mind, however, is that ADB isn’t a standalone product or service. It’s actually an umbrella term for the combination of two underlying Oracle services: Autonomous Data Warehouse (largely tuned for data warehouse workloads with data stored in columnar format) and the Autonomous Transaction Processing database (tuned for Online Transaction Processing-type workloads using the more traditional row storage format).

Makes sense. But what else is so great about it?

Think of it as essentially a fully-fledged Oracle database that’s far easier and less costly to procure and scale up and down than an on-premises counterpart. And instead of your IT team managing various services, ADB automatically deals with things such as:
  • Monitoring
  • Addressing underlying component errors
  • Fine-tuning and query stabilization
  • Backups and recoveries
It also provides many features users have come to expect from one of the most powerful RDBMS systems in the world. These include everything from simple tables to the more advanced features such as server-side code (procedures, functions, triggers, types) and complex table and index types. That’s along with the ability to monitor query performance using tools to which users have grown accustomed.

Sounds impressive. But what are the drawbacks?

We all know the saying “you’ve got to give to get” and unfortunately, even though new features are constantly being added, it’s just as applicable to ADB as many other things in life. Any managed database is great for scaling up and improving efficiency, but in exchange ADB sacrifices certain benefits and features typically found in an Oracle on-premises system, for example:
  • Database Vault, OLAP, Text, Multimedia, Workspace Manager and other features are not available.
  • There’s no control over database initialization parameters or tablespaces.
  • There’s no ability to control database instance memory sizes or configurations.
  • You can’t monitor via Oracle Enterprise Manager.
PDB lockdown profiles also restrict certain commands such as ALTER TABLESPACE. Interested in learning more about Oracle Autonomous Database? This post only scratches the surface of the deep dive that is our new white paper on ADB and whether it might be a good fit at your organization. Download the Oracle Autonomous Database White Paper to continue your evaluation of one of the most powerful cloud databases in the world.

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