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Oracle Database 23c brings JSON, graph to relational database

The tech giant previewed the next major milestone for its namesake database at the CloudWorld conference, providing users with features to better work with different data models.

The beta release of the Oracle Database 23c is out today, providing users of the software/hardware giant's namesake relational database technology with a preview of new capabilities that improve data management, performance and security.

The new beta release, introduced on Tuesday at the Oracle CloudWorld 2022 conference in Las Vegas, marks the first major update to Oracle's database since the Oracle Database 21c milestone was released in January 2021.

Among the new features in the 23c beta is the integration of an enhanced SQL firewall to provide security against potentially malicious queries. Oracle is also previewing a feature that will help its users better handle microservices transactions within the database. The new relational database preview also integrates JSON and graph database functionality.

The Oracle Database line competes against many vendors' systems in the relational database market, including Microsoft Azure SQL Database, Amazon Relational Database Service and Google Cloud SQL as well as commercial offerings of the open source PostgreSQL software.

The 23c update will help Oracle users feel good about their choice of database platform as it continues to add new features, said Holger Mueller, analyst at Constellation Research.

In particular, the most immediate benefit that users will notice from the 23c database update is a rolling patching capability that will help reduce potential system downtime, Mueller said. Oracle also introduced enhanced schema level privileges that provide better access control, he noted.

Oracle Database 23c previews JSON relational duality

A key feature Oracle added to the 23c beta release is a capability it calls JSON relational duality.

Oracle has supported JSON as a data format in its database for several years. The basic idea behind JSON relational duality is to more deeply integrate JSON with Oracle's relational data model.

The JSON relational duality feature lets developers program with the JSON API and syntax. It also lets database administrators use the full suite of SQL queries to access JSON data, said Marc Staimer, an analyst at Wikibon.

"It comes down to fewer steps; faster, higher-performance queries to JSON documents; and faster time to actionable insights," he said.

It comes down to fewer steps; faster, higher-performance queries to JSON documents; and faster time to actionable insights.
Marc StaimerAnalyst, Wikibon

One of the advantages of using JSON is that it doesn't force the developer to think about the data model, said Jenny Tsai-Smith, vice president of product management for database development at Oracle. With JSON, developers look at the functional aspect of an application and write the code based on that perspective in an approach that doesn't first require a schema.

The challenge is that over time, as applications become more complex, Tsai-Smith said it becomes increasingly difficult to execute queries against JSON data stores.

JSON relational duality provides the ability to store JSON data as relational database tables. The Oracle Database 23c then provides users with a JSON view on top of the relational tables. Developers still just see the JSON and can interact with it the data as they have in the past.

Graph capabilities converge in Oracle Database 23c

Oracle is also bringing graph data capabilities to its relational data model.

Oracle has supported graph as a separate data model before. But much like what it is doing with JSON, it is now more deeply integrated graph with the Oracle Database. With 23c users can now build graph data on top of tables within the database.

The ability to put a graph data model on top of existing relational table data has several potential applications, including real-time fraud detection, for example. Oracle also added support for the SQL Property Graph Query Language, which helps developers create graph applications.

"This language simplifies the amount of code that's required for graph," Tsai-Smith said. "We hope that this is also going to help adoption of graph within databases."

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