Oracle to ship new database release by May

Oracle Corp. plans to ship the next major release of its Oracle9i database by the end of May, in line with its original plans, an Oracle executive said Wednesday.

Release 2 of Oracle9i will be announced officially in the coming weeks and will ship during Oracle's fourth fiscal quarter, said Chuck Rozwat, Oracle executive vice president for server technologies, at a meeting for financial analysts here Wednesday. Oracle's fourth quarter ends May 31.

The release includes new technologies intended to make it easier to manage and manipulate XML (Extensible Markup Language) data and to boost the performance of data warehouses, he said.

The XML support comes in the form of a technology called XDB, which Oracle began to discussed briefly late last year. XDB should benefit companies that are using XML to integrate business applications, for advanced messaging services and for building Web sites that use XML, Rozwat said Wednesday.

XDB "turns the database into an XML database," he said. "It allows you to store XML natively with all the formatting and no need to have a separate file system for XML data."

Release 2 is "weeks away from being ready and will certainly be available in Q4," he said.

Meanwhile, Oracle has been lukewarm about XQuery, an emerging XML query language from the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) that may provide similar capabilities to XDB. Oracle's chief rival, IBM Corp., has tentatively embraced the standard, saying it plans to introduce an early test version of XQuery for its DB2 database this year.

The new Oracle9i release also will support what Rozwat described as an innovative way to build data warehouses. Users will have the option to integrate their data warehouse within their main database, boosting the performance of tools that analyze business data, he said. Data warehouses traditionally are kept on separate servers, he said.

The capability depends partly on new analysis tools that will be included with Release 2 of Oracle's application server, which was announced last year and also is expected to ship before the end of May, Rozwat said.

Oracle is hoping the new database release prompts existing customers to upgrade, as well as attract new users to its software. In its most recent financial report, it saw revenue from database sales decline 10 percent from the previous year, to $1.7 billion, amid a broader slump in IT spending. Revenue overall for the quarter fell 11 percent, to $2.4 billion.

Turning to pricing issues, Rozwat reiterated an argument made in the past by Oracle that while the price of its database may be higher than those of its rivals, customers sometimes end up paying less for Oracle software because of additional products it bundles for free in its database.

For example, he asserted that Oracle customers pay $160,000 for the Enterprise Edition of Oracle 9i with certain queuing, workflow and file management tools. A comparable set of products from IBM would cost about an additional $100,000, according to Rozwat, because Big Blue prices the tools in question separately. IBM could not immediately be reached for comment.

Oracle made similar claims at its OpenWorld conference in December, but they were met with skepticism from some users at that show.

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