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Oracle Database 21c looks for adoption of blockchain tables

Blockchain isn't just for cryptocurrency. The technology can be an additional layer of security and authenticity enabling an immutable transaction ledger in a relational database.

When Oracle Database 21c first became available in the Oracle cloud in January, it introduced a series of new blockchain capabilities to Oracle's flagship database.

To date, Oracle Database 21c has only been available in the cloud, with general availability for the on-premises version set for May.

As a lead up to the on-premises availability, Oracle highlighted and explained, in a media and analyst briefing on March 1, current blockchain capabilities that are in Oracle Database 21c and more blockchain features to come.

It's an approach the tech giant has referred to as blockchain for the masses. Blockchain is a cryptographically secure distributed ledger that enables immutable transactions in a database.

With Oracle Database 21c, the idea is to use blockchain to enable a highly secured set of database tables that can be cryptographically verified to be authentic and not manipulated or changed by an unauthorized entity or user.

What Oracle Database blockchain tables enable

According to Constellation Research analyst Holger Mueller, Oracle is strengthening its database value proposition by adding blockchain tables. Blockchain tables are a table option available within Oracle Database that enable the immutable ledger capability.

Mueller said he expects that the blockchain capabilities in Oracle Database 21c will enable transactional applications to also use blockchain.

Screenshot of blockchain tables in Oracle Database 21c
Blockchain tables in Oracle Database 21c enable an immutable ledger of transactions, with each new input getting a cryptographic signature to ensure authenticity.

For example, the database will only write the critical data to the blockchain table, which would provide authenticity assurances that the data has not been changed or tampered with.

"There are a good number of use cases inside of enterprise for this mixed approach, and that is what Oracle is aiming at with its universal database strategy -- one database for all enterprise database needs," Mueller said.

Not all blockchains are the same

Meanwhile, IDC analyst Carl Olofson noted that other big data management vendors also offer blockchain technology.

In particular, the Amazon Quantum Ledger Database (QLDB) offers many of the features of blockchain, but without the neutral server consensus governance model, Olofson noted. With the regular blockchain there isn't a central authority or source, which is needed in enterprise applications. Oracle's version of blockchain is similar to Amazon QLDB's, he said.

However, Olofson pinpointed a few key benefits of Oracle's blockchain tables.

"It enables users to report on the transactions recorded, but not to alter them. This is the key attribute," Olofson said. "Transactions, once entered, cannot be altered or removed, yet they can be queried with SQL, unlike regular blockchain."

Olofson said he thinks most organizations will find the blockchain tables in Oracle Database 21c easier to manage than regular blockchain. He noted that Oracle's approach gives users nonrepudiation that helps to assure the validity of a data input. He added that nonrepudiation is important for financial transactions, especially those with legal or regulatory implications, and can be a key tool for regulatory audits.

[Blockchain] can be used as a means of better managing the movement of assets, such as inventory items to and from a warehouse, that cannot be tampered with. This will be a benefit for many Oracle users.
Carl OlofsonAnalyst, IDC

"It also can be used as a means of better managing the movement of assets, such as inventory items to and from a warehouse, that cannot be tampered with," Olofson said. "I think this will be a benefit for many Oracle users."

What Oracle expects blockchain will bring to users

Oracle sees the blockchain tables capability as being part of the vendor's security narrative, providing a new level of assurance for users.

Juan Loaiza, executive vice president of mission-critical database technologies at Oracle, said Oracle is trying to bring blockchain into mainstream enterprise and government applications, while making minimal changes to those applications.

Among the blockchain capabilities is an end-user data signing feature. When an authorized user adds data to a blockchain table inside of Oracle Database 21c, they are provided with a cryptographic signature to prove who made the addition.

"It's about protecting data from being illicitly modified or deleted," Loaiza said. "It's not a replacement for security -- it adds on top of it."

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