Oracle's Cameron Purdy on Coherence 3.3 and the Future of the Grid

| by Scott Delap Follow 0 Followers on Aug 13, 2007. Estimated reading time: 7 minutes |

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Oracle has released Coherence 3.3. Coherence provides data replication, partitioning and caching across a grid of computers. Earlier this year Oracle acquired the Coherence product line as part of their acquisition of Tangosol. Oracle Coherence 3.3 is now available in three editions - Standard, Enterprise and Grid. Version 3.3 enhances the integration with Oracle Fusion Middleware as well as Oracle Application Server and Oracle Toplink. The release adds:
  • Availability - The introduction of Deterministic Request Execution features;
  • Clustering - Delivery of self-tuning communication capabilities, including both high-performance packet bundling and dynamic flow control;
  • Performance - Enhanced multi-core support for the latest commodity server hardware;
  • Platform Support - Expanded to include Java SE version 6, and a new revision of Oracle Coherence for the Microsoft .NET Platform.

Pricing and availability are as follows:

Standard Edition: for small-scale applications that require data caching and sharing clustered data. Pricing starts at $4,000 per CPU;

Enterprise Edition: for medium- to large-scale application deployments, typically in lines-of-business, that need distributed data management with capabilities such as persistence, transactions and deep integration with the application server infrastructure. Pricing starts at $10,000 per CPU;

Grid Edition: for a shared enterprise-wide data services platform, typically a separate tier or core piece of infrastructure in large-scale deployments that focus on real-time analytics, transaction management, event infrastructure, and sophisticated application data-caching implementations. Pricing starts at $20,000 per CPU.

InfoQ caught up with Tangosol founder Cameron Purdy who is now a Vice President of Development at Oracle to discuss the acquisition and the upcoming release. The first question Purdy was asked with the obvious one "Why did Oracle by Tangosol?":

Today's Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA), Web 2.0, and Event-Driven Architecture (EDA) are stretching the limits of backend infrastructures. To offload the burden from the backend processing systems, more real-time transaction processing capabilities need to be built into the middleware infrastructure. With Oracle's fast-growing middleware business, they recognized this trend early on and the value Tangosol's technology, with its proven track record as the foundation for eXtreme Transaction Processing (XTP) systems. The combination of Oracle Fusion Middleware and Oracle Coherence delivers the "extreme" scalability, reliability and performance that is quickly becoming mainstream. With Tangosol's best-of-breed technology and great engineering talent, it's an obvious fit within Oracle.
InfoQ then asked about the transition after the acquisition:

I am pleased to report that we've retained the entire team through this transition process. Since May our focus has been to push forward very aggressively with the product schedule and to look at ways Oracle Coherence can complement a variety of Oracle products. The Oracle Fusion Middleware group is well practiced at integrating acquired companies and getting those teams on board and up to speed quickly. There's some really impressive talent in this organization, and the environment is very positive.

Were we concerned with maintaining our small company cadence. We wanted to make sure that we could hit the ground running at Oracle, executing on all levels…and think we've done that…which is not necessarily difficult when you consider that essentially, we added five thousand sales people to our team.

Of course, there are challenges to being as large an organization as Oracle. As we know from technology, scalability is hard work. You have to design to scale, and there are trade-offs we're getting used to. On the other hand, we now have a huge set of resources that we never could have imagined having.

From a management perspective, my goal is to keep the product team focused, to maintain our velocity, while being as effective as possible in using the resources available within Oracle.

Purdy then elaborated on Oracle's future strategy in the area of Grid:

Oracle Coherence is part of the Oracle Fusion Middleware product portfolio and is benefiting from an increased number of resources. An example of the direct benefits of the increased resources is evident in the release of Oracle Coherence 3.3, just two months post-acquisition.

In addition to the .NET version of Oracle Coherence, you can expect some exciting things from us soon. Stay tuned.

While I'd love to talk about future strategy in detail, I am sure I'd be in hot water for spilling all the beans. What I can say is that the plan is for Oracle Coherence to be used by a number of other product teams, to add or improve clustering and grid functionality, and Oracle Coherence is a good fit for products that require a reliable, continuously available and linearly scalable foundation.

Fundamentally, we will have succeeded with "grid" when we no longer have to explicitly think about "grid". For example, the qualities of service that applications can achieve today by being architected on an Oracle Coherence Data Grid will become just another part of standardized infrastructure, just like we take database connectivity and transactions for granted today in application servers. Whatever the next generation of middleware infrastructure ends up looking like, I can say that it should have the ability to support continuous availability and scale-out across hundreds of servers while automating the complexity of managing such an environment.

... and on how Coherence stacks up versus the other players in the market such as GigaSpaces and Terracotta:

The GigaSpaces and Terracotta products are both based on the previous milenium's client/server technology, and that just doesn't hold up when you're trying to achieve continuous availability, and scaling to dozens, hundreds or thousands of servers. Oracle Coherence introduced the concept of organic clustering, which is the ability to maintain true clustered consensus across a dynamic collection of servers, and distributed computing will never be the same. As our customers have said, you can easily build the functionality of any of the other products on top of Oracle Coherence, but you can't build the capabilities of Oracle Coherence on top of them.

Customers who have switched from competing products to Oracle Coherence have painted a pretty stark picture: Oracle Coherence is unparalleled when evaluating any one of the "-ilities", such as reliability, availability and scalability, but Oracle Coherence goes further by achieving them all simultaneously. In a recent case, a customer increased their transaction rate by over 200x by switching from one of the products you mentioned to Oracle Coherence, and achieved significantly better availability and reliability at the same time. Welcome to the twenty-first century.

After discussing the market in general InfoQ then focused on the 3.3 release. One of the 3.3 features is deterministic request execution which includes options in terms of task scheduling and execution time limits. Purdy was asked about the driving force behind this enhancement:

Well, it started when a large customer of ours encountered some issues with other parts of their infrastructure that would lock up, including a database. Due to execution dependencies, a lock-up in the database could impact the application. They wanted to isolate those lock-ups so that - at worst - they would only affect an individual user, and not be able to impact the health of the overall system in any way. The "deterministic request execution" feature is the generalization of their requirements and we applied them to all types of processing that Oracle Coherence manages.
The latest version of Coherence also features improved clustering protocol enhancements. InfoQ asked how the protocol and communications infrastructure has evolved as the product has grown:

Over a number of recent releases, we have been rolling out version 3 of our TCMP clustering protocol. Each major version of TCMP has been designed to deal with larger and larger environments - up to thousands of servers in a single, fully coherent, clustered Finite State Machine - and to achieve higher and higher levels of qualities of service (QoS). For example, this release adds dynamically-modulated packet bundling, which is a feature requested from a customer with a web site serving over 2 billion dynamic data-intensive pages a week, whose hardware switches couldn't keep up with the volume of traffic that Oracle Coherence could push through the network when their website load would spike. We have a road-map in place that will keep us very busy with TCMP version 3 for at least two more years, and with the number of customers we have, we'll have plenty of feature requests queuing up for TCMP version 4.
Finally Purdy was asked if today's trend of more and more processors in a box is making Oracle's job easier or harder:

Well, that's kind of a funny question. We have an engineer who spends all of his time working with companies like Intel and Azul to profile and optimize for concurrent execution, so I guess it makes his job harder, but he loves the challenge and the result is that the thousands of applications running on Oracle Coherence all automatically benefit from modern multi-core hardware. Oracle Coherence itself was designed for multi-threaded SMP-based systems, and multi-core is just a natural evolution of that hardware, so we haven't had to re-architect for multi-core. On the other hand, the "Concurrency" support in Java - originally introduced by Doug Lea - provides a collection of great capabilities for optimizing highly concurrent multi-threaded systems, and we have been both replacing and optimizing critical data structures in order to achieveve higher utilization of multiple cores and CPUs. For example, most of our queuing is completely lock-free in the 3.3 release, which has given us some impressive performance improvements.

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How about money ?! by Dorel Vaida

In a recent case, a customer increased their transaction rate by over 200x by switching from one of the products you mentioned to Oracle Coherence.

I bet that product was GigaSpaces. I imagine no one would switch from Terracotta.

Pricing change is amazing by Alex Vasseur

Coherence is certainly a great product but I am curious with the pricing stated here for v3.3 (4k, 10k, 20k / CPU). RIP Tangosol had its price list on its website and for v3.1 and v3.2 it was 695$, 2k and 5k / CPU for then named "local edition", "clustered edition" and "enterprise edition".
See back in October 2006:

There are certainly extra features that explain this (and it seems the "local edition" has been dropped) but I am somewhat really surprised (lets left aside support costs that usually are indexed on license cost for such /CPU licensed software).

Re: How about money ?! by Nati Shalom

I bet that product was GigaSpaces. I imagine no one would switch from Terracotta.

Dorel I wouldn't bet on that if I were you. It is only wise to question self promoting claims that cannot be verified.

It's not surprising to see this type of “slanderous press" coming up from this vendor, although one would have expected a lot more from Cameron as i already mentioned to him in the past. Clearly if they were confident enough in their product and their value then they wouldn't feel such a need to bash others even as part of the launch of their new release.

I'm always amused by it.

In the same spirit, I can refer as an example (one of many) to a very recent evaluation of the two products done by a very large Oracle customer. Needless to say they chose GigaSpaces not just because of the fact that they found our product much more compelling in almost every aspect (including its vision) but more importantly because Oracle/Tangosol lost credibility very early in the process as soon as they brought this type of ludicrous slanders to the table. All that was required was for the customer to run a fairly basic evaluation to see that the opposite is actually true. A fair evaluation will always sort out the truth from factless mud-slinging.

At the end of the day – I always recommend that you ignore vendors’ self promotion (like mine…) and evaluate the technologies for yourself. However-If you’re interested in testimonials from real customers with real names – check out GigaSpaces Users Conference, London, June 12 and here, and here to understand that the reality is very different.

I can also tell you that a recent test of our Space Based Architecture compared the equivalent of the "integrated approach" combining a J2EE container, JMS and a Caching Product such as the one by Oracle (so much for “welcome to the twenty-first century”…), proved without any doubt our main argument - "When it comes to scalability you’re only as strong as your weakest link".

This is why we claim that the approach of integrating different products, technologies and clustering techniques (even if from one vendor) in a scenario with a strong latency, scaling and failover dependency between those various components, simply doesn't scale at the end of the day. This is without mentioning the complexity involved, which in itself leads to limited testability, which eventually leads to lower reliability of the entire application. I refer to this in one of my recent blog posts Testability – the orphan child in distributed systems. So much for “previous milenium's client/server technology”. If it wasn’t funny – it would be sad.

As I’m sure you'll be seeing more of the same coming from this vendor, let me repeat my advice to those reading these posts: keep an open mind and test for yourself. After all, we are just vendors trying to sell our technologies ;-). I trust that the community is intelligent enough to judge for itself when arguments are used that cannot be substantiated.

As a service to this community I'm going to ignore rest of the comments that will coming from that same source and focus on what we do best - deliver!

Nati S.
Write Once Scale Anywhere

Re: Pricing change is amazing by Michael Mitrani

Coherence is certainly a great product but I am curious with the pricing stated here for v3.3 (4k, 10k, 20k / CPU). RIP Tangosol had its price list on its website and for v3.1 and v3.2 it was 695$, 2k and 5k / CPU....
I am somewhat really surprised (lets left aside support costs that usually are indexed on license cost for such /CPU licensed software).

Welcome to the Oracle conFusion, sorry I meant to say Fusion.
This is probably the most important item in this announcement the rest is pretty much smoke to distract the attention from the real news.

Re: Pricing change is amazing by Cameron Purdy

Hi Alex,

Coherence is certainly a great product but I am curious with the pricing stated here for v3.3 (4k, 10k, 20k / CPU).

The main difference is between the Tangosol definition of CPU (which was what we call a "core" now) and the Oracle definition of a CPU as defined by the standard Oracle software license (which is more complex, but tends to fall somewhere between a "core" and a "socket"). The net result is that list pricing is as close to unchanged as possible as a result of the acquisition. For example, the three editions of Coherence 3.2 (including the then-newly-released "Data Grid Edition") were priced at $4k/$10k/$16k per socket.

Factoring in discounts, most of our customers are finding that the software is less expensive now than it was before. Large customers typically have Oracle ULAs, which allow them much more flexibility in how they license and much better discounts. My only personal concern is that the software may initially appear to be more expensive to small companies that are not used to Oracle licensing.


Cameron Purdy
Oracle Coherence: The Java Data Grid

Re: How about money ?! by Cameron Purdy

In the same spirit, I can refer as an example (one of many) to a very recent evaluation of the two products done by a very large Oracle customer. Needless to say they chose GigaSpaces ..

Just for the record, out of all of the POCs and evaluations that the Coherence team has been involved with since the acquisition, we have lost only one to a competing product, and in that case, the customer's preference was to use Coherence, but the other vendor basically gave away their product for free. While I would love to be in the business of giving away software for free, it unfortunately doesn't pay the bills unless you are a VC-backed startup ;-)


Cameron Purdy
Oracle Coherence: The Java Data Grid

Added Clients by Rob Misek

Hi Alex,

and it seems the "local edition" has been dropped

I just wanted to add that with Coherence 3.2 we introduced the concept of clients which connect to the Coherence server editions. This allows customers to scale the application and the data tiers independently (and more cost effectively) of each other. Take a look at the Features by Edition page on our wiki. These clients are a natural extension of the "local edition" concepts with the power of the data grid behind it (and also support Windows / .NET).

Rob Misek
Coherence Solutions Specialist
Oracle Coherence: The Java Data Grid

Re: Pricing change is amazing by Alex Vasseur

Thanks Cameron this makes perfect sense now - I think this was worth explaining rather than throwing away figures.

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