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Oracle behind the 8i ball

The database maker postpones shipment of Oracle 8i until the end of February so it can complete the integration of software and development tools.

    Oracle has postponed shipment of Oracle 8i until the end of February so it can perform final tests and complete the integration of software and development tools with the Internet-centric database.

    Oracle originally hoped to release the highly touted database by the end of 1998, but a two-month delay allows the company to make sure everything works together, said Jeremy Burton, Oracle's vice president of server marketing.

    "It's like with any kind of software. You shoot for a date, and it's been a two-year plus development for Oracle. We thought we could hit our date, but the big thing here is we're getting all our planets aligned," he said.

    The database code has been completed and frozen, but Burton said Oracle developers need to ensure the Oracle Application Server, Oracle Applications, and the company's new Java development tool called JDeveloper 2.0 work well with Oracle 8i. The company is still testing WebDB, a new tool built into the database to enable software to run entirely within a Web browser, he said.

    Oracle hopes to capitalize on the Internet frenzy with 8i, with chief executive Larry Ellison calling it the only technology a business needs to deploy applications that are accessible through the Internet. Oracle 8i includes several new technologies, including a built-in Java Virtual Machine to run Java application code and an "Internet File System" to store and manage Web pages, word processing files, spreadsheets, and multimedia data.

    Analysts say Oracle is smart to delay a product that isn't ready, even if it might make the company look bad for missing its original release date.

    "It's good they're trying to have no major problems before they send it out. It's an important sign of discipline in the software industry," said analyst Frank Gillett, of Forrester Research, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. "Too much software ships and customers have to apply bug fixes later. Just look at the revs of Microsoft NT and the service packs that go out."

    Gillett said Oracle learned a good lesson from Sybase, whose release of its System 10 database several years ago disappointed its customers. "They put out System 10 and said, 'here's the greatest version,' and customers had problems with it," he said. "Sybase only succeeded in winning back their trust a year or two ago."

    Analyst Merv Adrian, of Giga Information Group, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, agrees, saying users should not be concerned with the two-month delay.

    "It's to be expected for a major release that has as many substantial fundamental technology changes as Oracle 8i," he said. "When you start adding support for fundamental [Internet] protocols, these kind of changes are not trivial."