Oracle 9i, the next version of Oracle's flagship database, will ship later this quarter -- probably in May -- launching with a big splash at the company's headquarters in Redwood Shores, Calif.
The company announced 9i at the start of October 2000 and has being trying to control the flow of information about the product since then. It has managed to do so quite successfully.
The latest element built into 9i that Oracle is talking about is what it calls "advanced analytic services," by which it means OLAP, ETL (extraction, transformation and loading) and data mining capabilities. It had earlier spoken about the content management features, such as built-in personalization, and released its Data Guard database backup product last month.
Oracle is well aware of the need to strike a balance between offering a platform on which its ISV partners can sell products while also providing a more complete product suite itself. And even though the company is being more aggressive than ever in encroaching on the territory of its partners, Jeremy Burton, Oracle's senior vice president of product and services marketing, insists there is still room for the major tools vendors, such as Cognos, to build on this new release. They have been among the earliest certified vendors, he said, claiming that certification for them is relatively simple. If they already support symmetric multiprocessing, then Oracle's Real Application Clusters will present no major problems for them.
As the451 has explained before, the clustering is the main technical development in 9i compared with its predecessors. The technology supplants Oracle Parallel Server, which has been part of the database for a long time. But Burton says its "barrier to entry" was too high, in that developers had to write their databases to suit the underlying cluster and partition the data in order to manage the competition for resources. That has been eliminated with the Real Application Clusters, he says.
Oracle 9i is also supposed to be a database for service providers, and Burton says it is the first to be able to run multiple customers, using multiple applications off a single instance of the Oracle database. Oracle 8i has a virtual private database feature that enables multiple companies to use a single database, but not multiple applications. This is obviously important for service providers, who do not necessarily want to buy a new license for each of their customers. The company has a fledgling ASP sales force, but Oracle hopes hosting companies and ASPs will become a useful channel for it to sell through, enabling it to deal directly with fewer people but hopefully still maintain and grow sales overall.
On April 24, Larry Ellison will further develop the themes for the database launch. He will talk about things like data center consolidation -- "eliminate complexity, don?t manage complexity," as Burton puts it -- and about the alleged advantage of buying all the elements from one vendor. Ellison will also go over his message -- essentially directed against the open source movement -- about not customizing the code because doing so will only make life worse and more expensive. "Doing more with less" is one of Oracle's taglines.
Larger software vendors, like Oracle, usually advocate buying everything from one company, while smaller companies advocate a best-of-breed approach. Because Burton doesn't see IBM as a software company, he describes its pattern as "buy everything from everybody else and we'll tie together because we're a services company." "IBM is the antithesis of us," he says, whereas SAP is the closest in terms of business models.
Oracle has published its first benchmark, a TPC-H decision support test, which was run against a 3TB database on Sun Microsystems hardware and allegedly achieved better results than an IBM DB2 database running at 1TB on IBM hardware. Burton claims the result is even more striking given DB2's decision support heritage. The announcement about the benchmark mentioned a release date of June 19, but actual shipping will begin earlier than that.
Oracle has finished its channel partner training, which came to about 1,000 partners. They will in turn train thousands more, which accounts for Oracle's earlier claims of training 3,000-5,000 channel partners. Pricing has not been announced yet for 9i, but it will retain the "power unit" pricing model, says Burton.
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