Users of Oracle 9i and 10g databases will have a pain-free upgrade to 11g, the company has promised.

Oracle's vice president of database product management and server technologies, Mark Townsend, said there were a few ways customers can upgrade to 11g, due for release in the second half of 2007.

"If you have a production environment, you probably have a test and development environment, so you can upgrade to 11g, which can capture workloads, on that," Townsend said. "Having verified no major problems from the upgrade you can switch production environments over."

For mission-critical environments, Townsend said, the two databases can run in parallel and, when the user is ready, switch to 11g. It can be done with "only a few seconds downtime", Townsend claimed. Upgrading part of a 10g cluster to 11g is not an option, however.

Townsend, a 15-year veteran of Oracle responsible for the development of the 9i, 10g, and 11g products, said a key area of concern today is about ILM and compliance. "Compliance is driving requirements for data online and that means additional storage requirements. Customers are looking at ways to apply grid computing for storage," he said. "We're seeing more multi-tier data clusters and Oracle has the software to drive that."

Among 11g's new features is data partitioning, "audit-vault" for central storage of all audit information, and automated "phone home" incident response. "Change itself can be a pain if you're changing storage or moving from SMP to clusters," Townsend said. "11g is about change assurance to prove performance has improved from one release to another."

On the recent announcement of Unbreakable Linux, which puts Oracle in competition with Linux distributors Red Hat and Novell, Townsend said customers are looking at Oracle now the company has a lot of business applications, and they see value in having "a small number of throats to choke" for the database, middleware, and now operating system.