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Yesterday Oracle treated OpenWorld conference-goers a guided tour of its new 12c database and its much-buzzed-about Exadata X3 machine, announced on Sunday by CEO Larry Ellison.

The most notable feature of the new 12c, set for release sometime next year, is multitenancy, which enables users to create multiple "pluggable" databases that reside within a single container.

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This constitutes "a fundamental re-architecture of the database," announced senior vice president Andy Mendelsohn, "Now if I'm an administrator, I have one database overall to administer."

The pluggable database concept is "sort of like a Swiss Army knife," giving DBAs a flexible tool to run their environments, he said.

Database 12c also makes much more efficient use of hardware resources, saving companies money. For example, it incorporates a "heat map" feature that tracks how frequently different chunks of data are used, allowing customers to archive rarely accessed information on lower-cost mediums.

Database upgrades and patches are made simpler than in the past thanks to the pluggable database concept. Backup and recovery efforts benefit as well, allowing administrators to back up the system as one unit but recover at the pluggable database level.

Pluggable databases are also ideal for creating development and test environments, and are "perfect" for SaaS (software as a service) applications since they keep each customer's data private.

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