Some users already buying into new Oracle9i app server

Oracle Corp.'s latest version of its application server may help users tie together their applications more tightly than before and slash costs, company executives claim.

As expected, the company Tuesday announced its Oracle9i Application Server Release 2 (9iAS), which will support the most current Java standard, J2EE, as well as Web service related technologies, such as UDDI and S OAP. Other new features include advanced clustering and caching functions and wireless and unified messaging.

This is an important move to Oracle, which sees 9iAS as a third line of business, next to its database and business application products, said James Governor, an analyst at Nashua, N.H.-based consultancy Illuminata Inc. Oracle already owns approximately 80% of the database market. And to achieve the sort of rapid growth the company is accustomed to, it's incumbent for it sell its database customers on the product, he said.

Some users are buying into 9iAS ahead of the pack.

At the California Public Employees Retirement System in Sacramento, IT staff believe 9iAS will enable them to more tightly couple their heterogeneous enterprise applications and cut down on the high costs of integration. "Java 2 is a major piece of my strategy," said Jack Corrie, division chief of IT services. "I'm looking to knock costs out of the organization." After testing the application for some eight months, the agency went live on 9iAS last month.

Corrie's enterprise was assembled piecemeal over time and requires constant maintenance and testing as different applications are added or upgraded. He hopes 9iAS will help rein in the cost and expense. "Thirty percent to 40 percent of the cost of a project is building it," said Corrie. "The integration is something more complex."

Mark Dixon, IT director of service-provision at London-based Barclays Bank PLC, said the financial institution plans to roll out 9iAS across its channels during the next two years to provide a unified, consistent infrastructure to clients. "Over time, we've been picking best of breed applications, and it's created a number of problems," said Dixon. "Our customers use more than one channel and they expect the same experience in them."

Barclays started going live with 9iAS last week; Dixon also said it's running IBM Corp.'s WebSphere application server on some systems as "insurance." He noted that Barclays was traditionally an "IBM shop" and that it wanted to evaluate WebSphere, too. He said it's too early to judge how WebSphere and 9iAS compared financially.

"We don't have the figures yet,' he said.

A free developer edition of 9iAS is available for download; standard and enterprise editions will ship in the first quarter.

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