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Oracle releases e-commerce software upgrade

Four months after releasing the software, the company is upgrading its 9i Application Server product for conducting transactions over the Web.

Four months after releasing the first version of its e-commerce software, Oracle is upgrading its 9iAS (9i Application Server) product for conducting transactions over the Web.

Though 9iAS Release 2 isn't expected to offer any major new features, it does include some new business-analysis capabilities that will link 9iAS more tightly to Oracle's database software.

The application server market is red hot, with nearly all of the top software makers vying for a piece of the e-commerce infrastructure pie.

BEA Systems continues to lead the market, with IBM, the America Online-Netscape iPlanet alliance, Oracle and others all scrapping for market share.

Software makers are integrating more and more formerly separate products and technologies into their core application server engines, in hopes of differentiating their wares and relieving customers of the task of integrating disparate middleware.

Oracle executives expressed confidence that the company will be able to use its strong database position to attract new customers for 9iAS Release 2, which is slated to ship by the end of February.

"It's early in the growth stage of this (application server) market," said John Magee, senior director of Oracle 9i product marketing. "It's been folks around the core IT group buying these kind of products until now--folks like a company's e-commerce team or a special SWAT team. But now everyone is doing Web-based applications."

Oracle is upgrading all three versions of 9iAS: the standard, enterprise and wireless editions.

The standard and enterprise versions will include new Web-based business-intelligence enhancements to the product that will allow the 9iAS to take advantage of the analytics functions that Oracle includes as a built-in part of its Oracle 8i database. Oracle is expected to include similar analytics capabilities in its 9i database, which is due to ship later this year.

Although the 9i Application Server works with a variety of non-Oracle databases, including Microsoft SQL Server and IBM DB2, the new business-intelligence enhancements only work when Oracle's application server and database are used together.

Also new to the standard and enterprise editions of Oracle 9iAS Release 2 is an embedded workflow engine, called Oracle Application Interconnect, that allows customers to link Oracle application software to third-party application software, whether it be standalone or Web-based.

Oracle has built three adapters that will be packaged with 9iAS Release 2 that will provide this kind of linkage; company executives said third-party software companies will build additional adapters.

Oracle also is embedding e-mail messaging capabilities and its own Oracle Internet Directory technology into Release 2.

In addition, the company is adding a feature to the wireless version of 9i Application Server Release 2 that will allow customers to use "location-based services"--latitude and longitude coordinates--for further personalization for customers.