Hails Spar M7 memory protection chip as “the most important thing we’ve done in silicon maybe ever”.
Security is Oracle’s top priority, according to CTO Larry Ellison as the database giant unveiled a microprocessor that stops malicious apps infecting memory.
The founder used a keynote at Oracle OpenWorld 2014 to emphasise Oracle’s focus on security as the company announced the chip, called Sparc M7 – a development of technology Oracle acquired in its Sun Microsystems takeover in 2010.
"Security is on the way to being job one at Oracle," Ellison said. "Security has been in our blood for a very long time, and it’s very important that we have that DNA, that we have that heritage moving forward into the cloud."
He then announced the silicon Sparc M7 chip, saying it was "the most important thing we’ve done in silicon maybe ever".
The hardware is basically memory protection, and it stops apps accessing any memory they are not entitled to access.
Ellison added: "Read it, or write it, or change it, or inject code into it, take control of your microprocessor, you can’t do it. You’ve got hard-wired protection in the silicon itself defending against memory violations.
"You can discover those bugs really early, so it saves you a fortune finding really difficult bugs. But the cool thing about it is because it’s in hardware, you can leave this memory protection on without paying any performance price."
Another feature of the new processor is its ability to decompress data at very high speed, added Oracle. Database performance is improved when the data being used can be loaded directly into server memory, eliminating the latency in transferring data from external storage. However, to fit a large amount of data into server memory it must be compressed, and then decompressed on every database query.
The decompression takes time, however, and eats up processor resources, leading to a bottleneck. To address that constriction, Oracle engineers have incorporated a decompression acceleration engine onto the M7 processor.
"We’ve actually put database acceleration engines into our microprocessor," said Ellison. "We put in-line decompression into the acceleration engines and we can speed up memory access.
"With that we can speed up pre-performance by a factor of 10, it’s a big deal."
That is ten times faster query performance compared to a standard hardware-software integration, Ellison claimed, putting it at 120GB per second.
Customers CBR spoke with appeared impressed with the announcement, and welcomed Oracle’s public statements around security as it tries to bolster its cloud reputation.
Xerox CIO Stephen Little said: "We’re just as aware of the security challenge as everybody else. We have a lot of conversations about private cloud, public cloud. I was encouraged with Larry’s comment saying security is job one, it’s good."
But analyst Ian Murphy, from Creative Intellect UK, said Oracle’s apparent commitments to security are less impressive than they sound.
"The company talks about security in their DNA but Java is one of the key attack surfaces, which suggests that it still has little idea what to do with it apart from using it as a bargaining tool with developers and other
players in the industry," he said.
"The same is true of other parts of the Java Community Process. Rather than help solve some of the issues, Oracle has let it dribble on but it would have cost them little to provide better direction.
"Their entire middleware is based on Java so they understand the benefits from it but they do need to provide more leadership."
Oracle has not committed to a firm release date for the technology, only saying it will come out some time in 2015, but it plans to make it available to other software vendors if they wish to use the chip.
Renato Ribeiro, Oracle director of product management for SPARC Systems, confirmed: "We plan to make these functions available to other software vendors that would like to take advantage of them."