Some users slow to jump on 9i upgrade

Oracle last week unveiled an upgrade of its Oracle9i application server software and pitched its latest database tousers, claiming that the two technologies can simplify the integration and management of corporate IT architectures.

Attendees at Oracle's OpenWorld conference said they were intrigued by the claims. For example, the company pushed theclustering features of the Oracle9i database, which was released in June, as a way for users to save money on hardwarecosts.

But the new database has had only limited adoption thus far, said James Governor, an analyst at Illuminata, so it's hardto pass judgment on how its clustering capabilities will work in future installations. He said some server vendors maystill need to tune their systems to support high-performance clustering.

Governor said the biggest 9i database rollouts to date have been on Compaq Computer's Unix systems, which alreadyinclude extensive clustering capabilities that were developed by Digital Equipment Corp before it was acquired byCompaq.

In addition, not all users are ready to invest in Oracle's new technology, given the current state of the economy and ITbudgets. For example, a database administrator at a network hardware vendor that uses Oracle8i said his company istrying to hold off on an upgrade.

"We're being told to make do with what we have," said the administrator, who asked not to be identified. "We'd love tobe in a position where we had to use [the clustering features in 9i]."

Certification concerns

Other users are waiting for application vendors to certify their products for use with Oracle9i. That's the case atEastman Chemical Co in the US, which uses Oracle8i as the database for its SAP AG enterprise resource planning system,said George Miles, a senior systems associate at the chemical maker.

Miles said Eastman is interested in some of 9i's new features, such as disk space management, which is supposed to boostperformance and data availability. The company might upgrade next year, once SAP supports Oracle9i with its R/3applications, he noted.

A spokesman for SAP America said R/3 should be tied to 9i by the middle of next year, but that won't include Oracle'sReal Application Cluster technology, which SAP hasn't yet committed to supporting.

Alwyn Santos, a database administrator at Comark in the US, said the $US1.55 billion technology reseller is also waitingfor SAP to certify 9i so it can upgrade. In addition, Santos, who didn't attend OpenWorld, criticised Oracle's databasepricing and characterised the vendor as "greedy". But, he said, 9i does appear to include "great technology".

Oracle claimed that its prices are in line with the fees charged by other database vendors. In response to complaintsfrom users, the company eliminated a controversial capacity-based licensing approach earlier in the year and beganswitching its database users to per-processor pricing.

Amazon.com has Oracle9i in limited use and is happy with the database's performance and availability features, saidMatthew Swann, director of database systems and engineering at the online retailer. But Swann said he's putting off afull rollout of the database until after the holiday shopping season.

9i upgrade adds Java, Web support

Release 2 of Oracle's 9i Application Server is due to support Java 2 Enterprise Edition, as well as Web technologiessuch as the Simple Object Access Protocol and the Universal Description, Discovery and Integration directory ofbusiness-to-business services.

Oracle said a free developers' edition of the upgrade is available for downloading from its Web site. Standard andenterprise editions of the software are scheduled to ship in the first quarter.

Scott Lee Clawson, director of application server and network services marketing at Oracle, said the software vendorviews its application server as a separate product line that can be used by customers who have bought rival databases.

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