Oracle Proxy Server version 1.0 entered beta testing last month and will ship by June, according to the company. It works with Oracle's Web Application Server and database software.
A proxy server is designed to boost network performance for intranets by caching copies of Web pages from the Internet at large. Instead of traversing the Net, where traffic jams often slow things to a crawl, users can instead quickly retrieve pages from a local proxy server. Such servers can also block access to verboten Web sites.
Oracle actually shipped a version of its proxy server with its Web Server version 2.0. But to complement its next-generation Web Application Server 3.0, the company has redesigned the proxy server and has broken it off into a separate product, according to Magnus Lonnroth, a product manager at Oracle's internet server products division.
The proxy server also lets Oracle offer corporate developers yet another frequently needed Internet software component. Oracle increasingly sees Microsoft, not traditional database software makers, as its direct competitor.
The company has adopted a policy of either building all its own software or buying technology and selling it under the Oracle label. It's a strategy that Oracle's database software competitors, such as Sybase and Informix Software, can't afford to mimic. Those companies have instead inked partnerships with specialized technology vendors.
Still, analysts are puzzled by the move. "Why bother with a proxy server?" questioned Eric Brown, an analyst with Forrester Research "It's not very complex software. But then Oracle also built its own browser," he added.
In fact, Oracle has a reputation for sometimes reinventing the wheel. The company developed its own Web browser and Web server, and its own Visual Basic-like development tool, Oracle Power Objects, despite the ubiquity of Microsoft's original.
However, Brown and other analysts agreed that the Proxy Server does give Oracle one more piece of critical technology that it can sell in addition to its database software and tools. And Oracle has a fat research and development budget that allows it the luxury to build whatever technology it chooses.
"It's not like it will drain the company," Brown said.
A beta copy of Oracle Proxy Server is posted to the company's Web site. The server will support HTTP, FTP, and Gopher objects, IP and Domain based filtering, SSL (secure sockets layer) tunneling and proxying, and includes a cache manager and other administration tools.
Oracle officials refused to disclose pricing for Proxy Server. A formal product announcement will take place in the next few weeks, an Oracle representative said.