Product Review: Oracle8i Lite delivers data/apps to mobile workers

Oracle's Oracle8i Lite 4.0 enables extension of your data and applications outward to a distributed, mobile workforce, while its centralised deployment and management facilities can help rein in administration functions.

With this release, Oracle turns up the heat on rivals, such as IBM and Sybase, which also offer lightweight databases. Like these competing products, Oracle8i Lite has a small footprint ideal for mobile devices, such as personal digital assistants (PDAs) and smart phones.

This release includes a new browser-based feature -- Web-to-go -- that simplifies development, deployment, and management functions. I liked the centralised deployment feature as well as the automated client setup. Web-to-go supports any application written in Java or HTML.

Also compelling in this Oracle8i Lite release is the extension of Oracle8i Advanced Queuing (AQ) functionality. Known as AQ Lite, this feature enables developers to build applications that use message-queuing services to get specific data to and from mobile devices as an alternative to replication. AQ Lite provides concise application control and reduces the amount of time mobile workers must spend interacting with the server.

I was able to use Oracle8i Lite to successfully deploy and manage my test application on both Palm and Windows CE devices. Oracle is also supporting smart phone deployment and rival IBM has announced plans to do the same.

A big disappointment is the limited platform options for management. I used Windows NT 4.0, but I'd like to see some non-Windows platform choices made available. Oracle has announced plans to port Oracle8i Lite to Linux in the near future and to offer a multi-user version of the lightweight database.

Companies that want to extend data and applications to mobile workers will want to evaluate Oracle8i Lite. Although some up-front development will be needed, the centralised deployment, management, and increased end-user productivity will provide a good return on investment.

Maggie Biggs (maggie_biggs@infoworld.com) is a senior analyst in the InfoWorld Test CenterTHE BOTTOM LINE: VERY GOODOracle8i Lite 4.0Summary: This lightweight database is a good match for sites that want to extend Oracle8i data and applications to mobile workers or business partners.

Business Case: Oracle8i Lite 4.0 holds the promise of extending your enterprise outward to a mobile user base while maintaining centralized deployment and management. However, expect to make an initial investment in development prior to reaping the rewards of distributing data and applications.

Pros

+ Small-footprint database (50K to 750K bytes)+ Offers persistent messaging+ Supports major development tools+ Automated client setup+ Centralized deployment and managementCons- Limited management platforms- Requires development investmentCost: Free development download at technet.oracle.com; US$295 per user licensePlatforms: Palm OS, Epoc 32, Windows CE, Windows 95/98 and Windows NTOracle Corp., Redwood Shores, California; +1-800-633-0596; http://www.oracle.com/mobile/olite

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