Oracle chief to hackers: You can't break in

Oracle Corp.'s top executive told computer hackers Monday night that his software is so secure they would never be able to break into Oracle's Web site, a boast that may be taken by many as a challenge.

"This is a very dangerous thing to say -- I'm not inviting a bunch of hackers to bring down the Oracle Web site," said Larry Ellison, Oracle's chairman and chief executive officer. "But so far, with more than 1,000 attacks a day, we've had no downtime, no interruption of service."

Ellison made his remarks in a keynote speech at Comdex Monday night, which he used to deliver a lecture on the stability of Oracle's software -- particularly when used in clustered configurations -- compared with those of his rival Microsoft Corp.

The database giant recently launched an advertising campaign with the slogan "Unbreakable", which is meant to suggest that Oracle's software doesn't break down and can't be broken into.

"Everyone at Oracle was very nervous," Ellison said. "We're just going to cause every hacker around the world to attack the Oracle sites. They said, Larry, are you crazy?"

Sure enough the number of hackers trying to bring down Oracle's Web site has increased 10-fold since the company started the campaign, to 1,000 attacks a day, according to Ellison. But his nerve is holding steady.

"The new version of Oracle is completely fault-tolerant," he said. "You can't break in."

The fault tolerance comes from using what Oracle calls Real Application Clusters, or using groups of servers to access a database for improved redundancy. If one of the servers goes down, the workload is shifted to another server and the application, such as a Web site, stays up. He asserted that Oracle's clustering system is more effective than those offered by rivals Microsoft and IBM Corp.

On a similar theme, the Oracle chief announced a program designed to entice users of Microsoft's e-mail server software to switch to the Oracle 9i database, which can act as a mail server. Companies running 10 or more Microsoft Exchange servers could cut costs by switching to 9i, he said.

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