Oracle touting new 9i features at user show

Looking to entice users to upgrade, software vendor Oracle Corp. showcased some of the new features of the next flavour of its database, which it claims will offer companies management and performance enhancements.

Yesterday, executives here at the independent International Oracle Users Group IOUG Live 2002 conference outlined some of the new features included in Oracle9i Version 2, which is due to ship next month.

Oracle has already announced that the product will support clustering, Java 2 Enterprise Edition, and Web technologies such as the Simple Object Access Protocol and the Universal Description, Discovery and Integration directory of business-to-business services. The company is also adding more granular and automated management tools and other improvements.

For instance, Oracle claims that the ability to take raw data and use it to make business decisions using the database technology will be 50 per cent faster.

While exact numbers are hard to come by, Oracle’s senior vice-president for database and applications server, Andrew Mendelsohn, estimated during a keynote speech that perhaps 10 per cent to 15 per cent of Oracle’s installed base has upgraded to 9i from previous versions. By year’s end, he said, that range should be closer to 60 per cent to 70 per cent.

The improvements are striking a chord with a number of users who want improved productivity.

“Anything making the management of the database easier is welcome with open arms,” said Kimberly Floss, a database administrator team leader at The Quaker Oats Co. in Chicago and an IOUG board member. The company currently runs multiple instances of Version 8 of the Oracle database on Windows NT and HP-UX servers and plans to eventually migrate to 9i. “I think it’s the best product out there,” she said of Oracle’s database.

While Oracle is pushing in the right direction for its product, it does not yet have features some users want — such as self-administration — compared with offerings from competitors such as Microsoft Corp., said Charlie Garry, analyst at Stamford, Conn.-based Meta Group Inc.

Garry also said he feels that Oracle’s estimate of the migrations in 2002 is a bit “aggressive” and said that if 50 per cent of the installed base moves to 9i by year’s end, the company will be doing extremely well.

The following are among the planned new features in release two of 9i:

— The ability to convert XML data into a relational database format to let a company’s business partners share information, such as a purchase order, with back-end enterprise resource planning systems.

— The standby database used for fail over in case the primary database crashes will now be able to do read only functions. Formerly, it sat there unused.

— The completion of the integration of data mining and OLAP tools, allowing users to run queries directly against the database.