Oracle Takes on NT-Like File Management

BOSTON (05/20/2000) - If Oracle Corp. Chairman and CEO Larry Ellison had his way, all of the world's data would reside in an Oracle database. But first things first: Oracle databases need a file management system like the one Microsoft Corp. has in Windows 9x, NT and 2000.

With this week's release of Internet File System (IFS), the campaign to take over the world's data has begun. Oracle is offering IFS, along with a developer's kit, for Sun Microsystems Inc.'s Solaris and the Windows NT platform as a free download from the Oracle Technology Network Web site. And it's bundled with both the standard and extended editions of Oracle8i.

IFS enables users to store files in a directory on an Oracle database server.

Files maintained in IFS can be accessed by a Web browser or through the familiar Windows file management utility, Windows Explorer.

Users can search for files, as well as for text within files; create file versions; and secure files, using database security attributes. The result, said Ellison, is "a universal repository, gracefully managed," for documents, spreadsheets, Web pages, XML-formatted business forms and graphics.

Users attending the Oracle iDevelop2000 conference at Oracle's headquarters in Redwood Shores, California, last week had varying reactions to the IFS announcement.

Karl Goldstein, a developer at ArsDigita Corp. in Cambridge, Massachusetts, said he hasn't downloaded IFS from the Oracle Web site and doesn't know of anyone who has. He said he's concerned about the security implications of allowing the database, rather than the operating system, to manage files.

Security Claims

But according to Ellison, Oracle8i has "the highest level of government certification for security," meeting Federal Information Processing Standard 140. He also noted that "documents stored in IFS inherit the security attributes of the database," so the files are as secure as any other data maintained in Oracle8i.

Still, Goldstein said he's waiting to see how IFS is accepted in the market.

Besides, he said, he can accomplish the same task using existing utilities from other vendors, so an Oracle offering may not attract a lot of developer attention right now.

Karl Büttner, president of 170 Systems Inc. in Cambridge, Massachusetts, said his company used the IFS developer's kit to incorporate extensive file management capabilities into its MarkView document management and imaging system, which it implements over the Internet for its customer base of Fortune 1,000 companies.

"IFS was attractive due to the notion of having all of the data [centrally managed], regardless of its source," he said.

Teri Palanca, an analyst at Giga Information Group Inc. in Cambridge, Massachusetts, said IFS doesn't synchronize data in the files it manages with native database files, so updates to the database aren't reflected in the IFS file system.

"It's strictly a file system replacement, and there's no measure yet of how attractive this is to customers," without stronger integration with the database management system itself, Palanca said.

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