Oracle adds wireless, voice to app server

Oracle Corp. will boost support for wireless and voice applications in the upcoming version of its Oracle 9i Application Server, one of several enhancements highlighted by the vendor as it officially launched the product at Oracle OpenWorld Tuesday.

Oracle hopes Oracle Application Server Release 2, which is due to be released in the first quarter next year, will help it gain ground on BEA Systems Inc., IBM Corp. and Sun Microsystems Inc.'s iPlanet E-Commerce Solutions subsidiary, all of which lead the applications server market according to the most recent figures from market research company Dataquest Inc., a division of Gartner Inc.

Application servers offer a software platform on which developers can build a range of business applications that can be accessed by employees, customers or partners. They provide a kind of middleware layer of software that can pull information from a database and reformat it for delivery to a PC, a server at another company, or a gadget like a cell phone or a PDA.

The 9i Application Server's new voice and wireless features should help boost worker productivity and at the same time save companies money, because the features can be used with relatively little in the way of special skills or hardware, according to Oracle.

The company has already said its new application server will add support for the latest version of Java, standards for building Web services such as WSDL (Web Service Description Language) and SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol), and software that makes it easier to cluster applications.

In addition, it revealed Tuesday that developers will be able to write applications that can make automatic voice calls alerting users to important events. It will also add programming interfaces allowing J2EE (Java 2 Enterprise Edition) applications to deliver text messages to wireless devices using protocols like SMS (Short Message Service), the company said in a statement.

The application server will also come with a J2EE application called Mobile E-Mail that allows companies to add wireless or voice capabilities to e-mail and communication programs like Microsoft Corp.'s Exchange and Lotus Software Group's Lotus Notes.

Other enhancements include support for location-based services that deliver image maps, phone directory listings or driving directions to wireless gadgets; improved security based on the WTLS and HTTP-S standards, and software that allows carriers to link their applications to an e-commerce payment systems so that mobile users can make purchases on the go, Oracle said.

Finally, the vendor said it plans to launch an online portal resource for developers that are building wireless applications.

Oracle also said Tuesday that it is incorporating new Web portal-building capabilities into the application server upgrade. It claimed to have attracted more than 2,500 new customers to the current version of Oracle 9i Application Server in the first quarter of its fiscal year 2002, including Bank of Ireland, Calpers, CargoSmart Ltd. and DCTech, according to a separate statement.

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