Oracle's file system for all kinds of data

Oracle finally has released a version of its Internet File System, a software program lets users store, search and e-mail Web pages, documents and other unstructured data in an Oracle database.

IFS is intended to substitute for the file system associated with a given operating system, such as Unix or Windows NT. Oracle says its graphical interface makes it as simple to create folders, and drag and drop them, as with the Explorer feature found in Windows. In fact, it can be used in place of Explorer.

By linking IFS with the Oracle database, users gain important benefits: they can store, search and protect data using the database's security and redundancy features.

Oracle execs make even grander claims, touting IFS as a way for database application developers to free themselves from having to depend on a specific underlying file system. "IFS lets you treat all kinds of data as if it were one type," says Jeremy Burton, Oracle vice president of Internet platforms. "The Web browser broke the link between applications and the operating system. IFS will break the link between the file system and the operating system."

As a result, developers can use IFS with the database to "version" unstructured data - to keep different copies, with different access privileges, of such things as documents, no matter by what application the documents are used.

The IFS project has been a tough one, Burton acknowledged. "Trying to split out the file system from the operating system is not something Microsoft would want anyone to do," he says.

The software released Monday is an "early access" version, intended for corporate software developers and application vendors. Customers will be able to order it starting about mid-May, at which point pricing will be revealed.

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