Oracle Gives Developers Access to Internet File System

Oracle's much-delayed Internet File System (iFS), a significant piece of the Oracle 8i database, is finally shipping, at least to 700,000 members of the Oracle developer community. General availability is scheduled for May.

iFS, touted by Oracle as "the first file system built for the Internet," is designed to give 8i users the ability to manage a wide range of information, including Web pages, e-mail and video. IFS allows developers to enhance simple file system capabilities through automatic version control, check-in/check-out, and advanced search. Oracle says that iFS can be used to create advanced Web applications, like corporate portals, that span over 150 file types. iFS is designed automate what developers now do in hand-coding file system capabilities, like version control.

By building a file system into a database, rather than an operating system, Oracle is short-circuiting the Windows operating system. The company claims that iFS breaks the tight links between legacy file systems and specific desktop applications, such as e-mail, Word, and Excel. Breaking these links that isolate information from applications offers developers a single information store.

Analysts see some advantages in a file system built into the database. Files, for example, have more protection in case of computer crashes, because databases provide a way of backing up information. Another advantage—a database file system offers better searching capabilities than operating systems, as well as the ability to find content through a browser. There are disadvantages though, the biggest of which may be the cost of powering these databases on high-end servers.

Oracle iFS is available now to Oracle developers for download on Sun Solaris. Once installed, iFS can be accessed through any regular PC.