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New Oracle software aims to fix "disasters" faster

The database giant says new software it is building, Oracle Parallel Fail Safe, can restore a failed Web site to working condition in 30 seconds.

Oracle today said it is building new software designed to keep its customers' e-commerce sites up and running, even when a major system fails.

Oracle is claming the software, called Oracle Parallel Fail Safe, can restore a failed Web site to working condition in 30 seconds. That recovery time is about 10 times faster than previous Oracle technology, said Bob Shimp, senior director of product marketing for Oracle's Internet platform.

The new technology runs on Oracle's 8i database management software and Hewlett-Packard servers. Oracle said it plans to support other server manufacturers, including Sun Microsystems and Compaq Computer, within six months.

With the new software, Oracle claims that if one server goes down, data processing will switch over to another nearby server to ensure transactions continue. If a company's entire collection of servers go down in one city, the software can quickly route all transactions to another collection of servers the company owns elsewhere, Shimp said.

"They can cut over in seconds," Shimp said. "If you're on a network on a Web browser trying to buy something at a 'dot com' store, you won't notice."

Such so-called disaster recovery software has been available for years to protect business computing systems running on mainframes and other large systems from natural disasters and power outages. The concept is slowly gaining hold in the e-commerce world to ensure that increasingly complex, and important, Web sites stay up and running. Oracle's new software is notable for the speed with which it can restore transaction processing, analysts said.

Patricia Seybold Group analyst Anne Thomas Manes said the new technology puts Oracle ahead of its competitors in the database market, including IBM, Sybase, Informix and Microsoft, in ensuring that computing systems stay up and running. Oracle previously had similar technology, the low-end "Windows NT Fail Safe" and the higher-end Oracle Parallel Server, but those products were much slower, she said.

"To do a full recovery within 30 seconds is remarkable," Manes said. "Oracle is saying you can keep a live snapshot of the database, which can be instantly recovered and put back online. In case of catastrophic error, it will actually take a mirror image of the database and flash that over to other machines, so the other machines can pick up where the first machine left off."

Oracle did not disclose pricing for the new software.

As part of today's announcement, Oracle said it also has improved its other software to ensure better reliability of its e-commerce Web sites and computing systems.

The company has reworked its Oracle Application Server, Oracle Integration Server and Oracle Internet Directory to better handle more transactions and more users, a spokeswoman said. The three products now can better support the ability to switch over to other servers if they go down.

An application server sits between a Web browser and the back-end database and runs the transactions. The Oracle Integration Server helps link a company's computing software together so they can communicate. And the Internet Directory serves as a repository of information concerning users, systems, and network devices.

Oracle also added that it has 15,000 consultants and 6,000 support staff available to help businesses build and run these systems.