The company has been talking about Oracle 8, which executives describe as the cornerstone of Oracle's software architecture, since 1992. But few details of the database's object support, first described five years ago by Oracle chief Larry Ellison, have emerged until today.
The database is a central part of the company's architecture, called the Network Computer Architecture (NCA) for deploying network-based applications. Company officials liken the product's strategic significance to the importance of Windows 95 for Microsoft.
"Oracle 8 is our Windows 95," said Oracle president Ray Lane. "It's what Windows 95 is to Microsoft. Oracle 8 is the centerpiece of our architecture."
The object support will be an evolutionary technology that will allow corporate developers to incrementally add support for images, video, and text to new and existing applications, the company said.
Oracle intends to make object database technology mainstream through the added support in Oracle 8. Still, core relational technology isn't going away, said company officials. "Ten years from now, relational databases will still be a very large part of the market," said Jerry Held, senior vice president of server technologies at Oracle.
The database, to be officially unveiled on June 24, will offer out-of-the-box support for text, video, spatial, numeric, character, and date data types, and for two new data types, image and time series. In addition, Oracle 8 will allow third-party and corporate developers to add additional custom-defined data type support via a feature called extensibility.
Extensibility allows developers to use an Oracle-supplied software development kit, due in the second half of this year, to build data cartridges for specialized data support.
The extensibility feature, Java support, and support for JSQL (Java Structured Query Language), a Java-friendly data query language, will be delivered in Oracle 8.1, Held said. The point release is due later this year, he said.
The release's object support will put additional pressure on a handful of already marginalized specialty object database vendors, such as Object Design and Versant. "I think they will find themselves under considerable pressure," said Mitch Kramer, an analyst with the Patricia Seybold Group.
No pricing for Oracle 8 has been announced. The database is expected to ship later this month on Windows NT and Solaris, with additional platform support expected to debut later this year.