I know NOTHING about Oracle™ . . .

. . . except that Larry Ellison is a very wealthy guy. So, I figure I should know at least something about his showcase product.

Now, I do know that Oracle is a “relational data base”. But, that’s about it. What I’d like to know is who tends to use it? Is Oracle something that can serve both the “home user” as well as business? And, with respect to business use, what kind of companies are we talking about? Banks? Manufacturers? Department Stores? Is Oracle the “brains” underlying amazingly linked sites such as Amazon and eBay? Finally, how much does it cost? I assume a fair bit, otherwise Larry wouldn’t be worth $28 billion.


Mostly used by big businesses for all sorts of things involving storing data. You can use it as a regular database and write your own applications or Oracle will sell your their apps to go with the DB. For example they have Oracle Financial which is for accounting. Oracle Clinical is for clinical trial data.

It’s not cheap, it runs on big mainframes and also on Unix workstations. It’s used across many types of industries. People who run the systems are Oracle DBAs and they can make a lot of money.

I used to be an Oracla DBA. Glad to leave that profession behind! (The money was good but not insanely so, partly because I was working for a non-profit.)

Oracle is a widely used database, no question, and it’s expensive and requires well-trained people to take care of it. In my case we wrote our own apps for it, but even so you really do need someone trained to be your DBA to keep it running properly and efficiently. Although frankly I did spend more time maintaining and tweaking our own apps.

The users for Oracle tend to be people or corporations who need to take their data very seriously: banks, insurance, large corporations, and the like. I’d say Oracle is overkill for your average home user. I’m not sure what Amazon and eBay are using, but certainly they’re the scale of the typical kinds of companies that are using it. I suppose small businesses might reasonably be able to justify it as well. The basic idea is for the database to be extremely secure, stable, and reliable. Clearly this is important if you wish to avoid a lot of pissed-customers demanding to know what happened to their accounts, or something like that.

As for what it costs, I don’t remember, but certainly the cost scaled with the desired features and number of site licenses. It wasn’t cheap. There is a standard version and an “enterprise” edition (or used to be), but lots of options. Also a non-trivial cost is paying for the training–anyone who directly interfaces the database really needs to have had some decent formal training, otherwise you can really, really screw it all up. In my case, I was sent to Oracle for official courses.

(Incidentally, it doesn’t need Unix or a mainframe by any means. We ran it on a desktop PC with Linux. It runs fine in Windows and even on laptops.)

A quick check: standard edition is $350 per user, minimum 5 users.

A relational database is like a monster-truck spreadsheet system where all the spreadsheets can be linked to each other, you can have billions of rows of data, and you can write highly targeted queries with a specific kind of language called SQL. Usually people don’t sit there poking around directly in the database using SQL, although you certainly can. Normally some other software or web application will talk to it using a predefined set of SQL statements.

It’s actually a jillion times more complicated than that, but that’s enough to get you started.

Just to comment on the “home user” part of the OP, the idea that a home user is even capable of installing oracle and start it up (let alone configure it and keep it running) is… let’s just say it’s not a good idea even to try. Last time I checked there were free trial downloads for the database so if you really want to, give it a shot. At best, you’ll be wasting several Gb of disk space with nothing useful (to anyone) to show for it.

The other responders aren’t kidding when they say Oracle requires specialists. If you want to try something vaguely comparable that might be useful to the home user, install MS Access (which has pretty and useful frontends and is priced at home user prices), or MySQL or Postgres if you’re willing to dig a little deeper for free.

Og, you’re telling the truth. I’m not sure if it’s gotten easier, but in my day even installing Oracle and creating a test database was non-trivial, at least in Linux. Hopefully it’s gotten easier.

Thank you, all. Very helpful!

(And, I definitely wasn’t looking for a ‘home user’ version of Oracle or even something similar. Just curious was all.)

If you want to just learn the language that most of the big RDBMS’ use, then it’s actually not all that difficult. While each vendor has his own version of SQL, it’s fairly simple to learn the basics. It can take years to master fully, but you can be up to speed in basic query writing quite quickly.

As for administration, it varies so much by each vendor that you really would have to specialize.

If you want to play around, I’d recommend either SQL Server Express (free) or SQL Server Development version ($49 or so). The first is sort of a personal edition, while the latter is a full blown high end piece of software that would cost you about $25,000 per processor, if you were using it for production work. Once you learn SQL, you can fairly smoothly transition as a developer from one vendor to another, but not as a DBA.

While the rest of your post is substanitally correct, this it not. Oracle does not run on mainframes. It runs on Linux, Unix, and Windows servers.

On big mainframes, they use IBM’s DB2 database. It’s also a relational data base (the original one) and also uses SQL language to obtain the data.

The SDMB uses MySQL, which is now owned by Oracle Corp.


They got MySQL via this deal:

Sun Microsystems
Website: sun.com
Location: Santa Clara, California, United States
Founded: February, 1982
Acquired: April 20, 2009 by Oracle Corporation for $7.4B in Cash

Oracle used to run on mainframes but I guess they quit making that version. Wikipedia says it runs on mainframes but they note that was as of 2006 and they also mention that they dropped a lot of platforms.

There are a number of different DBMS systems that run on mainframes besides DB2. DB2 is not the “original” relational database. 30 seconds of googling would tell you this.

There is a free Express edition. They seem to be following Microsoft’s naming convention who have a free Express edition of SQL Server.

I used to use what I think was the predecessor of this called the Personal edition. I ran it on Windows 95 and then later Windows NT. I used as a test system for developing applications to run on a “real” Oracle system.

The Express editions of either Oracle or SQL Server are quite usable for a small web site or something although it’s hard to see why you’d use it instead of Postgress or MySQL.

I usually tell my customers that SAP and Oracle are “like the biggest Excel spreadsheet ever, only BIGGER.” Those who are familiar with Access are told it’s “like an Access database, with forms and tables and reports and so forth, only a lot bigger than anything Access can handle, and the forms and so forth are premade.”

I don’t really understand the technical details of it, but a lot of my SAP clients use a SAP ERP to manage a database that’s actually Oracle’s (you can also use an Oracle ERP to manage the database, and a SAP database, and… whatever, like I said it’s not my corner of the room). The database is a huge file with every piece of data the company needs, the “ERP” is the program that lets users fill more data in and see the data in ways that make sense for the user. It’s similar to how our browser let us interact with that SQL database holding every SDMB post: SAP is the “browser”.

Oracle is the back end you use for FileMaker when you have more than a few terabytes of data or need to accomodate more than 1000 concurrent end users.

Or if you want very good concurrency at any application size. Oracle excels in this area. (I’m not sure what to make of your FileMaker comment, do you think FileMaker offers everything Oracle does up until the limits you listed?)

I never liked relational databases. Unfortunately, my employer purchased Banner application software and it uses Oracle. So, I’ve gotten a gut full of Oracle. My biggest headache is their constant updates. We started with Oracle 4 and have migrated to every version since. I think we’re on Oracle 9 now. Every change in Oracle means that we have to update & test the Banner software. A major pain in the arse.

Oracle originally used the client/server model. That changed a few years ago. I think it was Oracle 7. Everything is hosted on the web. Even SQL requires a web client. That was a huge conversion for us. We had to update and train nearly 400 users. :eek:

I dated a couple of women from Oracle’s Sand Hill campus back in the 80’s. Cindy and LaVonne, where are you now?

Since you asked about Oracle.

Oracle Database Instant Client is what we now use on workstations to connect to Oracle. It’s more difficult to set up than the old client/server connection. Instant Client does give you an ODBC connection and it has a SQL *Plus client. Our users like Crystal Reports.