Oracle8i Goes After NT Server

When Oracle Corp. previewed its new Oracle8i database earlier this month in New York City, CEO Larry Ellison set a lofty goal for his company's newest product. "We think it will overwhelm this old client/server model that NT Server is dependent on," he said.

When Oracle Corp. previewed its new Oracle8i database earlier this month in New York City, CEO Larry Ellison set a lofty goal for his company's newest product. "We think it will overwhelm this old client/server model that NT Server is dependent on," he said.

According to Ellison, Oracle8i, which is scheduled to be available at the end of the year, was designed specifically for what he calls the third generation of computing -- Internet computing -- which blends "the best of mainframe and client/server computing" by moving applications back onto the server while distributing access to data.

Ellison decried the recent proliferation of servers in distributed locations, which he blamed in great part on Windows NT Server. Because of distributed databases, Ellison said, companies are unable to obtain global information about their companies. He also said many companies are forced to build data warehouses to "reconsolidate what was accidentally deconstructed because of client/server computing."

With Oracle8i, companies will be able to reconsolidate their data while maintaining and even extending data access through the Web, Ellison explained. This is possible with Oracle8i because it contains a Java server and what Oracle says is the world's first database-resident Java Virtual Machine (JVM).

Thanks to the embedded JVM, Java applications will be able to run directly inside the Oracle8i environment. Ellison said he believes such Web-based applications, which run on the server and are accessed with a browser, will eventually replace all existing client/server applications.

One Oracle customer who spoke at the presentation agreed with Ellison on this point. "We see people looking to the Internet to fundamentally change the way applications are delivered," said John Luongo, president and CEO of the Vantive Corp. The embedded JVM also enables developers to add to or modify the functionality of Oracle8i. "If 8i is not doing everything you want it to do, you buy or write a component," Ellison said. Many of the components of 8i are also written in Java.

Doug Leland, Microsoft Corp. group product manager for SQL Server, counters that a centralized database model is a throwback to the past. "It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense for each transaction to go back to a central database. We firmly believe that a distributed model is absolutely necessary and critical." He argues that a centralized model becomes dependent on network availability and performance, which could hamper a distributed organization from processing local transactions, such as a fast-food restaurant’s orders. "They need to process transactions or take orders without access to a centralized database."

On the subject of the JVM embedded within the database environment, Leland was more positive: "I actually think Oracle is heading in the right direction here." Microsoft will follow Oracle’s lead by embedding Microsoft Transaction Server (MTS) into its database engine, which will allow execution of COM objects written in C, C++, Visual Basic or Visual J++. . However, such capabilities will not be delivered until the release following SQL Server 7. "The fundamental difference is [Oracle’s] myopic focus on Java. The world doesn’t program only in Java," says Leland.

In conjunction with the release of Oracle8i, Oracle also announced the release a new product called the Internet File System (IFS), which enables Windows-based documents stored in proprietary file formats such as Word and Excel to be imported into the database using a drag-and-drop procedure. The files are parsed and can then be viewed in a standard Web browser. "A database is a much better place to keep your data than a file system," Ellison said, calling IFS the "world's best Windows file system."