Oracle looks to lead businesses on-line

It seems that everyday a new product comes out to help all those e-business wannabees to get on-line.

Not to be left in the dust, Oracle Corp. has now tossed its hat in the ring with Oracle9 i.

Chuck Rozwat, vice-president of server technologies at Oracle, called 9 i a complete e-business infrastructure for the Internet.

“9 i is a combination of an Internet application server and database – everything you need to deploy e-commerce sites,” Rozwat said.

9 i is an upgrade of Oracle’s 8 i database product, but this version comes complete with an application server.

The addition provides just about everything a company would need to go on-line, according to Tyler McDaniel, an analyst with the Hurwitz Group.

“There is a lot under the hood, so it could be a little more than an enterprise would want to implement,” he said.

Other features include a server cache, which stores frequently accessed Web pages in memory and is run on a separate dual-processor server at Oracle’s on-line store; and an updated version of Oracle Portal, which is used for creating intranets. The cache server will also provide load balancing and surge protection.

Kevin Restivo, an analyst at IDC Canada, said this integration of business intelligence into database systems is the current trend for database vendors.

“I think that is a significant part of this release,” he said. “It’s always a matter of adding value…thus the integration of business intelligence tools.”

This product is the centre piece of Oracle’s integrated back-end applications, such as ERP and CRM, “all of which are accessible to the BI tools through a portal interface, which is built into the 9 i database,” Restivo said.

The portal comprises what Oracle calls portlets or views into back-end data sources, he said. This would, for example, allow a marketing manager to open a portlet to an OLAP cube which holds information on how certain campaigns are going.

Oracle CEO Larry Ellison said the company would like all of its customers to run the same configuration of the new 9 i suite so that reliability and interoperability problems could be solved.

“There are too many permutations. This is the whole problem with the computer industry,” Ellison said. “We think that it is a fundamental flaw in the way software is sold. We would like every one of our customers to have the same configuration.”

Oracle is working with different hardware manufacturers to come up with a certified configuration for the software that everyone should run, he said.

“We don’t even want you to install the software,” Ellison stated, adding he would like to see 9 i come preconfigured, pre-installed and pre-tested, so people would not have to mess with the software.

Ellison was adamant that 9 i would speed up any e-commerce site, boasting that such sites could triple performance on any IBM or Microsoft site by installing the 9 i suite – and if performance didn’t improve threefold, Oracle would pay that site US$1 million.

Another feature of 9 i, flashback query, allows for self-servicing corrections. Oracle also added real application clustering, which Rozwat said works with every platform to interconnect all applications, which would enable users to cluster several servers.

Other features include automated recovery, dynamic memory allocations, simplified storage and memory management, and enhanced resource management.

Oracle also built in virtual private database technology, which allows a service provider to host multiple customers within a single database while preventing any company from seeing another’s data.

Oracle 9 i is set to ship late this year, and pricing information is not yet available.