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Oracle revs up with business integration software

The database giant revamps its flagship database software and plants its flag in the market for software that integrates business applications.

Oracle today revamped its flagship database software and planted its stake in the software integration market.

The database giant kicked off its annual Oracle OpenWorld users conference in Los Angeles today by unveiling an update to its Oracle 8i database server software.

The database update, the second release of Oracle's Internet-focused Oracle 8i database, includes data warehousing tools for extracting information from databases and building businesses analyses and reports. Oracle said the database now supports SQL:1999, the latest version of the Structured Query Language (SQL) standard for database access.

Oracle said the new version of Oracle8i supports Java 2 Enterprise Edition, which includes the Enterprise JavaBeans programming language and the ability to debug Java code while the application is running on the database.

Since Oracle 8i was released early this year, the company has sold the database to 5,000 customers, according to Jeremy Burton, Oracle's vice president of server marketing.

As first reported by CNET News.com, Oracle as expected jumped into the business software integration market today by introducing software, called the Oracle Integration Server, that allows business applications to communicate with each other, regardless of which operating system they run on or where they're located.

In conjunction with the product availability, Oracle Consulting, the company's consulting and IT services arm, will begin selling services to help Fortune 1000 companies integrate new Web-based applications with legacy systems.

With the explosion of e-business, companies are trying to build Web sites that link their customers, partners, suppliers and employees. But to do so, they need to integrate business software never meant to communicate and interoperate, such as mainframe software and human resources and financial applications.

Software companies such as Oracle and Microsoft have their eyes on the enterprise application integration (EAI) market, which is expected to grow from about $400 million in revenue this year to $1.8 billion by 2002, according to analyst firm Gartner Group.

Early leaders in the market include IBM, Tibco, Neon Software, TSI and Vitria--but the market is still young enough for bigger companies like Oracle and Microsoft to join, said Gartner Group analyst Roy Schulte. Microsoft offers some integration software but plans to release more next year when it introduces an integration server, code-named Babylon, as part of its Windows DNA 2000 products.

"It's a white-hot market. A company smaller than Oracle would have trouble getting in now, but if you're Oracle, you can still get in and make a good mark," Schulte said.

The Oracle Integration Server includes business messaging software based on the Java programming language and Extensible Markup Language (XML), a popular Web standard that helps businesses exchange data. The software works with Oracle's database software, application server and development tools.

Oracle is launching a beta program and will ship a final version of the Integration Server next spring, possibly in March, said Burton.

In other news, Oracle today announced plans to integrate Oracle8i Lite, Oracle's database for mobile computing and embedded systems, and the Hewlett-Packard Chai Appliance Platform, an integrated software suite of development tools, applications, and services for designing appliances that use Java applications and Internet connectivity, the company said.

News.com's Erich Luening and Melanie Austria Farmer contributed to this report.