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Oracle Database 21c brings blockchain and JavaScript

Oracle's flagship DB platform is moving beyond its roots with the 21c update, to embrace more languages and models in a bid to create a universal converged database offering.

Oracle said its Oracle Database 21c is generally available today, with new features added to the widely deployed database platform, including blockchain tables and JavaScript.

The new database is currently available in the Oracle Cloud, with on-premises versions set to be available later this year.

Many of the features that are part of the Oracle Database 21c release were developed for the Oracle Database 20c update that was originally scheduled to be available in 2020, but was never actually publicly released due to coronavirus pandemic-related problems.

Among the new features is support for persistent memory (PMEM), automated machine learning, native blockchain tables and advanced JavaScript support, including JSON. JSON is a widely used protocol for data interchange and in 2020 Oracle announced a standalone Oracle JSON database service.

The new Oracle Database 21c further extends the multimodel approach that Oracle has been building out in recent years.

"For me it is really Oracle pushing the universal database -- one database for all needs -- further and further," said Holger Mueller, an analyst at Constellation Research. "It is now going beyond general database capabilities like in the past, but now includes programming languages as well -- with the in-database JavaScript and the new JSON capabilities."

Screenshot of blockchain table in new Oracle database
Oracle database blockchain table

Delayed database features land in Oracle 21c

The Oracle Database 21c has more new features in it than a typical Oracle database update, as it also includes capabilities that were originally intended to debut in the 20c release.

Jenny Tsai-Smith, vice president of product management for database development, explained in an interview that Oracle Database 20c was released as a preview in February 2020.

For me it is really Oracle pushing the universal database -- one database for all needs -- further and further.
Holger MuellerAnalyst, Constellation Research

The original roadmap was for Oracle Database 20c to become generally available in April 2020, but due to the pandemic that didn't happen. Tsai-Smith said Oracle used the extra time over the course of 2020 to further enhance the 20c features now manifest in the 21c release.

One of the features that was originally set for 20c that has been advanced inside of 21c is blockchain tables. Blockchain tables enable an immutable ledger that is easy to use and scalable within the Oracle Database, Tsai-Smith said.

The promise of an immutable ledger is that the data is cryptographically verifiable, which is helpful for authenticity.

Expanded memory, sharding and language support

PMEM has also been advanced in 21c, with support for the Intel Optane persistent memory technology. Tsai-Smith said the benefit of PMEM support is faster memory than flash cache, and it is less expensive than traditional dynamic random access memory.

Oracle Database 21c also introduces a new Sharding Advisor feature that enables better data scaling. Data sharding has long been supported in Oracle Database but what is new is the advisor capability that helps users with optimal configuration and deployment.

Support for the JSON binary data type is another key feature in Oracle Database 21c. JSON is commonly used to enable document databases such as MongoDB and Amazon's DocumentDB. Beyond just supporting JSON, which uses the JavaScript programming language, Oracle is now also embedding the Graal Multilingual Engine, which enables JavaScript to be processed by the database.

Graal is an open source effort Oracle launched in 2018 that enables different types of code to run within an embedded virtual machine.

"We have now baked the Graal engine into Oracle Database 21c and the first primary language that we're supporting with it is JavaScript and we'll be introducing support for Java, Python and other language in upcoming releases," Tsai-Smith said.

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