Oracle Beefs Up Data Security, Cuts Prices

Oracle Corp. ( began shipping a new release of its database that includes beefed up security features and built-in OLAP capabilities. In addition, the database giant has slashed prices and loosened up its licensing structure. While Oracle claims that these changes are designed for Web-centric environments, analysts say it also gives Oracle more solid footing to compete against Microsoft Corp.'s SQL Server 7.0 and IBM Corp.'s DB2 Universal Database (UDB).

For example, Oracle8i Release 2 includes built-in OLAP tools similar to Microsoft's OLAP Server bundled with SQL Server 7.0. Oracle's new analytical tools provide capabilities for analyzing Web traffic and transaction data, says Robert Shimp, senior director of product marketing for the Internet platform at Oracle. "These kinds of analyses have been fairly complicated to execute with SQL statements," he adds. "These functions make it simple and straightforward to create programs that query information from your Web site." Specifications for these tools have also been submitted to standards bodies for adoption by other database vendors, Shimp adds.

In addition, Oracle has beefed up its data security features in Release 2, including multiple layers of encryption, SSL support, and centralized access management across networks based on LDAP.

This includes support for technology from leading Internet security vendors such as Entrust Technologies Inc. (, a provider of public key infrastructures (PKI) and security management solutions. Data is encrypted within the database itself, Shimp explains.

Such an approach can slow down hackers’ attempts to steal stored data -- such as the recent theft of credit-card numbers from CD Universe (, Shimp says. "If data is encrypted inside the database, then it's pretty much a useless exercise for hackers to break into it. All the information would appear as garbled data."

Oracle has also improved upon the "virtual private database" feature included with the first release of Oracle8i. The virtual private database, which masks individual rows in a database from unauthorized users, can now scale to support thousands of end-users in an online marketplace. "You may have thousands of suppliers tying into your exchange," Shimp says. "You want to be able to make sure that every supplier can see their purchase orders and their delivery status, but not competitors' material. There's only two ways to do that -- create thousands of individual databases, one for each supplier, or maintain a single database and use virtual private databases to protect individual data for each account."

Oracle8i Release 2 includes native support for Java2, remote debugging of Java programs and a 100 percent-Java XML parser to Oracle8i's Java virtual machine (JVM), the Oracle JServer. The database system also incorporates Oracle Enterprise Manager 2.1, new high-availability database configurations of Oracle Parallel Server.

In another move designed to maintain its leadership in the database market, Oracle announced lower software and support prices for the Oracle8i database. In December, Oracle announced it was lowering the price of Oracle8i Standard Edition by 40 percent, from $25 per power unit to $15 per power unit. The price per unit for Oracle8i Enterprise Edition was cut 50 percent, from $200 per power unit to $100 per power unit. Support is priced at 7 percent of the software price, while upgrades are 15 percent of the software price.

Analysts have predicted that Microsoft's BackOffice licensing agreements -- which automatically includes SQL Server -- may cut into Oracle's Windows NT/2000 base. In addition, IBM's DB2 UDB has been gaining market share among companies deploying Web-centric applications.

The most significant aspect to Oracle's price-cutting announcements is the elimination of the concurrent-user license, says Mary Welch, vice president and research director at GartnerGroup ( This simplifies the process of opening up databases to Web access, she adds.

These changes, however, may have been prompted more by dissatisfaction with Oracle's business practices than Internet access, Welch continues. "For years, [Oracle] has had out-of-control discounting," she says. "There's been a reduction in price, but there's also going to be a reduction in their discounting. I have seen examples, not necessarily common, of two identical deals where the discount on deal has been half of the discount on another deal. That's the kind of stuff they're desperately trying to get under control."

Oracle reports more than 5,000 sites are now running Oracle8i, which was released in March 1999. The company also calculates that another 2,500 plan to deploy on Oracle8i within the next 12 months; more than 800 ISVs have developed applications and tools for Oracle8i, and that developers have downloaded more than 100,000 copies of Oracle8i for Windows NT, and a like amount for Linux.