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Oracle beefs up Internet position

Determined not to be eclipsed by Netscape and Microsoft, Oracle today moved to strengthen its Internet position with a new version of its World Wide Web server and a partnership with secure payment company VeriFone.

Determined not to be eclipsed by Netscape and Microsoft, Oracle today moved to strengthen its Internet position with a new version of its World Wide Web server and a partnership with secure payment company VeriFone.

At Internet Expo 96 in San Jose, California, Oracle today announced Oracle WebServer 2.0, a release that tries to catch up with recent enhancements from Netscape and Microsoft by adding a service called the Oracle Web Request Broker. The service allows Oracle WebServer to communicate directly with databases without using common gateway interface (CGI) programs, which significantly slow server performance.

Oracle timed the unveiling of its new server with the announcement of a partnership with VeriFone to provide an integrated end-to-end Internet payment system by the third quarter. The deal follows a recent announcment that Netscape and VeriFone are working on a secure payment system.

Under the deal announced today, Oracle and VeriFone will incorporate the VeriFone Pay Windows software into Oracle's PowerBrowser, enabling users to employ different credit cards in electronic transations over the Internet. The two companies will also add VeriFone's back-end Internet payment software to the Oracle WebServer.

Lastly, the two will develop an Oracle/VeriFone Internet Gateway to be used by financial institutions that want to accept transaction payments over the Internet. The transaction system will support all major secure payment protocols including the SET standard proposed by Visa and MasterCard. Again, Netscape and VeriFone are working on a similar Internet gateway for Netscape software.

In the meantime, Version 2.0 of the WebServer is due for release in March and will let the server access database applications written in any development language, including Java, PL/SQL, and C/C++. The broker also contains an application programming interface (API) that lets developers add on to Oracle WebServer's capabilities. Oracle will also bundle WebServer with a Java run-time engine, as well as Java class libraries for Oracle 7 databases. And the company is throwing in support for Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) 2.0 encryption and WebServer Manager, a collection of HTML-driven forms.

Oracle WebServer 2.0 will cost $2,495 and will run on Windows NT and Sparc Solaris.

According to analysts, Oracle is focusing on a more specific segment of the Internet market with its products than are either Netscape or Microsoft.

"The database-centric strategy is the way to go [for electronic commerce applications]," said Michael Sullivan-Trainor, research director in the Internet commerce division of International Data Corporation, a market research firm in Framingham, Massachusetts. "The Netscape approach is more general purpose. But [Oracle] has got a large base to build from. They're the leading RDBMS vendor. You can't discount them."