Posted on October 16, 2014 by Randy Hardee
Well, it's that time again, when the whole Oracle database community will be dealing with the questions around upgrading to Database 12c from 11g (and some even older releases). Oracle released the major version upgrade of Database 12c in July 2013, which also triggered the 11g version end-of-life support cycle. The 11g support clock is ticking, with the first step of Extended Support starting Jan 2015 (in order to get Extended Support you will have to be on Oracle Database 126.96.36.199, the terminal patch set).
Oracle Database Version Upgrade Matrix
But instead of focusing on the 11g de-support issue as the primary driver of the 12c upgrade, let's look at some of the reasons why it makes sense to upgrade to 12c sooner rather than later.
Reason 1 - Better Upgrade Experience: The major release upgrade process has become much better and less risky since the old days. Oracle has automated much of the process with the Upgrade Assistants. There are many more options and proven paths for performing the upgrades and data migration between versions if necessary. There are lots of online resources and a whole series of Oracle technical seminars dedicated to the 12c Upgrade program (see link below for some good online resources).
Reason 2 - Dollars and Cents: Besides the additional uplift for Extended Support (after the waive period from Jan 2015-2016, it ramps to 20%). Think about it this way: you are already paying for the upgraded 12c new features and improvements with your Support dollars, even if you are not adding any new licenses or options. The vast majority of your 11g Support Renewal went into R&D to develop the innovations and improvements of 12c, so why not upgrade now and get your money's worth? If you are planning to patch your older, pre-188.8.131.52 database to the terminal release just to pay the extra Extended Support uplift, why not upgrade to 12c and save yourself lots of time and money?
Reason 3 - Better Support Experience: The 12c release has been out for over a year now, and support for the latest and greatest release always seems to be better than for older releases. While the Extended Support programs for 11g provides a lot of runway for the 12c upgrade, Oracle's support resources will inevitably be more focused on the newer current releases, and will become more so over time. Once again, according to Oracle, only a small percentage of your annual maintenance fees apply directly to software fixes, so it makes sense to maximize your support dollars by getting off old versions of software as quickly as possible.
Reason 4 - ISV and Packaged Applications: While there are some packaged apps that have been laggards in certification on new Oracle releases, many of the big players have already completed or announced 12c certification. The “second dot release” in the 12c series (12cR2 aka 184.108.40.206) has been out since July 2014, and the "second release" usually triggers the ISV community's certification process, since it usually contains the most stable release, and contains any missing new features that didn't make it into the "first release" (like In-Memory Database).
Besides the reasons for upgrading outlined above, there are many compelling new features and improvements in 12c.
Here are the three big hitters:
Automatic Data Optimization - A Heat Map feature monitors database read/write activity enabling DBAs to easily identify the data that is hot/warm/cold in terms of access frequency. Also smart compression and storage tiering, automatically compress and tier data based on the activity and age of the data. This applies to OLTP, Data Warehouse, and Archive data.
In-Memory Caching, Compression, and Column Store – This isn’t the TimesTen Database cache, but is a new set of features which allow for large amounts of memory-based data caching beyond the traditional buffer caches, and the cached data is stored in a compressed columnar format. This can dramatically improve performance and optimize server resources, and is surprisingly easy to implement since it is built into the database kernel and transparent to the application.
In summary, there are "My Oracle Support" notes and plenty of online resources on the 11g de-support timeline and details, so I won't get into that here. But every Oracle DBA knows this is always a big factor in the decision of when to make the jump from one major release to the next. If we look at this "upgrade" decision historically, many Oracle database shops would defer the major release upgrade process as long as possible by patching to the terminal dot release and pay the extra dollars for Extended Support. But the 12c release has removed many of the obstacles to upgrading, as well as provides many technical benefits and business value that make a really a strong case for upgrading as soon as possible.
If you are exploring the idea of a 12c upgrade and need some help, take a look at a new services bundle we've put together Mythics Oracle Database 12c Upgrade Solutions. This services bundle led by the Mythics Consulting has been successful with other Mythics customers, that were looking for expertise and experience in building an enterprise 12c upgrade road map and then provided a cost effective clear plan to prepare, upgrade / migrate, report and even then even manage those new 12c environments.
Randy Hardee - Vice President, Technology