Oracle released it's Q4 numbers, and the usual strong but entertaining statements on achievements and the competition were heard on the earnings call. Andrew Nusca over at ZDNet has done a great job to extract the 25 striking things from that call, you can find it here. You can find the webcast here and a transcript here.

During the call Larry Ellison also gave a preview of events scheduled for next week in regard to the next Oracle database release, Oracle 12c. Oracle 12c was announced back at OpenWorld in 2012 - as the first pluggable database that would separate user data from metadata and allow multiple tenants in the same database.

Multi-tenancy Confusion

There is  now some confusion around the term multi-tenancy. Though in general there is agreement that multi-tenancy means the co-existence of multiple tenants for shared resources - there are now two interpretations of the term.

The classic multi-tenancy term was related to the database sharing data elements (or records) across tenants. That design was critical for the first and early SaaS vendors - as they needed to share precious data base resources. Often this is referred to as a tenant striped database. 

The Oracle view on multitenancy is that user data becomes the tenant - and as you can run multiple user data stores (or containers as Oracle calls them) in the same database - you have a multi-tenant database. Oracle complements this by separating the metadata from the user data and can point multiple user data stores to a common set of metadata, thus achieving better hardware utilization and with that better elasticity of the database. Or in other words - you can run more database on the same server with 12c.

The key advantages of 12c

As already mentioned above, the separation of the user data from the meta data allows 12c to use less resource than its predecessors and with that a better hardware utilization. Better hardware utilization with putting  more user data on the same machines is better elasticity of the offering, which is key for anything cloud these days.

But there are  more key advantages to this tenant concept. First of all, the standard tool you may want to run on the database are still available to run - with no changes to the the security model. A BI tool like e.g. .SAP's Business Objects can just run on the 12c database - with no modification. To the user its just looking at the database as with no multitenancy. In the striped multi-tenancy case the unmodified tool would give access to all tenants data - something clearly not desirable if you want to stay in business as a SaaS vendor.

Moreover you can move and copy the user data more easily. And you can change the schema both on the metadata and user data separately - and then just point upgraded versions to the right partners of metadata and user data. Big advantage for upgrades and high availability.

And finally most enterprise software needs some way to customize it. With the striped multi-tenancy model this was very limited - as all tenants were on the same schema. With the new multi-tenancy architecture - more can be done to the individual schemas of a tenant. Theoretically anything and independent from the tenants - but of course with a price when upgrading, no discussion needed.

Is this new?

Not really - most SaaS and PaaS vendors today will store one tenants data in a separate database, often even on separate servers. The advantages are  mentioned beforehand - and often database scalability even drives to that design (more about that next week). But these vendors pay the price with a higher operating cost -- all their databases run with the overhead of a one to one relationship of user and metadata - which results in a larger footprint and with that higher cost to operate and less elasticity. 

Oracle's innovation is to provide the separation of meta data and user data from each other and achieving better elasticity for the offering. If Oracle will be able to make the upgrade to 12c transparent in the sense that a pre 12c Oracle database user may take advantage of 12c easily and e.g. be able to unstripe the older usage - will remain to be seen. It will make adoption of 12c much easier.  

Big expectations

Larry Ellison mentioned events next week to provide more details on 12c - and the endorsement of NetSuite, salesforce and... Microsoft. And while NetSuite was hardly a surprise - salesforce was more surprising. But Ellison had almost kind words for Marc Benioff. Now what Microsoft may do here - will be very interesting - expect lots of speculation till the event.


Oracle was not shy to tout 12c back at OpenWorld and now in the Q4 earnings call. With missed earnings - maybe a diversion strategy - but when 12c ships - it will change multi-tenancy as we knew it. And can't wait for the partnership announcements Oracle said the company would make next week. Heightened expectations. 

My latest take on Oracle overall can be found here - takeaways from the Oracle analyst summit.