Oracle enhances its Web image

Oracle Corp. is gradually becoming synonymous with Web computing, according to president and COO Ray Lane, who backed up this statement with several new e-commerce products announcements.

Foremost among the announcements is the Oracle Integration Server (OIS), which will address the enterprise application integration needs of Oracle’s customers, Lane said.

“This is nirvana, this is the goal,” he said, referring to the combination of Oracle’s recently released 8i database, the upcoming version 11i of Oracle applications, and the OIS, which Oracle officials said together comprise the IT industry’s first complete Internet software suite.

Lane made the comments at the Oracle OpenWorld customer conference held last month in Los Angeles. Based on Java and the Extensible Markup Language (XML) open Internet standard, OIS lets back-office applications share data with each other and the Web. It will be pitted against other offerings from better-established enterprise application integration vendors (EAI), including Tibco and IBM Corp. Officials expect OIS to ship in March 2000.

“None of these systems have been designed to work together,” said Rene Bonvanie, senior director of product marketing with Redwood Shores, Calif.-based Oracle, referring to applications such as competing ERP, customer relationship management and supply chain packages.

“Integration Server gets it all together. It standardizes the messages that go back and forth on the system, using XML.”

OIS can also help companies communicate internally, as well as externally among departments. OIS also keeps track of the messages, compiling them into a warehouse, so users can keep track of information such as who the best suppliers are, Bonvanie said. The idea is to let users build on-line marketplaces.

One analyst isn’t surprised to see Oracle promoting the OIS-XML vision. “If you’re Oracle, endorsing open standards furthers the case for their applications. It’s part and parcel,” said Kevin Restivo, software analyst with IDC Canada Ltd. in Toronto.

Restivo said Oracle’s emphasis on the Web is sure to find supporters in the Canadian IS community. “No question, companies are experiencing Internet-influenced application development. That’s what they want, they’re looking for open standards…and Internet-enabled applications,” he said.

During his opening keynote, Lane also told attendees about Oracle’s efforts to make its own back office resemble its marketing message. “We’re announcing we’re the best example of an e-business on the planet,” Lane said.

To that end, Oracle is “close to finishing” its corporate-wide e-mail server consolidation from 120 to two boxes. In all, Oracle will save billions as a result of its transformation, Lane added.

Chevron Corp. is among the Oracle customers

migrating applications to the Web. Current projects include an application that lets the vendors of Chevron’s machine lubricant business access information on various products, and a more recent endeavour that allows Chevron gas station owners to take advantage of best practice and other helpful business information. Both applications are modelled around Oracle 7.0, although the company is eyeing 8i.

Dave Clementz, president of San Francisco based Chevron Corp.’s

Information Technology Co., said the projects are only the tip of the iceberg.

“We got about nine or 10 other projects on the way right now that are pretty major, and dozens of little ones. The big surge is going to be next year,” he said. “We subscribe to the notion of cutting costs by using the Internet.”

Clementz said one Internet procurement project – where partners of Chevron would hook up in a portal environment – alone could help the company shave US$200 million in costs.

Among the other announcements made at OpenWorld was the news that Oracle 8i Release 2 will be generally available in December. Improvements include new analytical functions for data warehousing applications, support for Java2 and a Java XML parser, and the bundling of Oracle Enterprise Manager 2.1.

Also, as part of the wide-ranging partnership between Oracle and Hewlett-Packard Co., Oracle said Oracle 8i Lite databases for mobile devices will be included in HPs Chai Appliance Platform, a set of Java programs for running handheld tools.

Finally, Oracle’s on-line marketplace for Oracle customers and non-customers alike, called Oracle Exchange, is now live at