The product, called Oracle 8i Appliance and once code-named "Raw Iron," is Oracle's move to undermine Microsoft's efforts to push Windows 2000 as an operating system for servers. With Raw Iron, business buyers get an integrated box for running, or enhancing, databases that does not depend on Microsoft technology.
Because the server appliance comes as an integrated machine, the operating system becomes invisible. In addition, the prefab device ideally will make it easier and cheaper for businesses to run software. The product is an all-in-one system featuring a database, processor and parts of Sun Microsystems' Solaris operating system.
But the product has been delayed for about a year as Oracle worked out business details with partners.
A server appliance is a computer for specific tasks, such as handling email or storing data. PC manufacturers have all latched onto the emerging server appliance market, where sales are expected to grow from $1.1 billion in 1997 to $16 billion in 2002, according to Merrill Lynch.
During a conference with analysts today, Oracle executives said Hewlett-Packard and Intel have been shipping the Oracle 8i Appliance since March 1, while Siemens will release a product later this week. Compaq Computer will offer the product in May, while Dell will ship in June, said Oracle executive vice president Gary Bloom.
The Oracle8i Appliance is available on non-branded Intel systems that are being shipped by distributors including Hall-Mark/Avnet and Pioneer/KeyLink, the company said.
Oracle executives said they will target the product to small and medium- sized busineses. Oracle has signed on about 50 software makers who will support the product, including J.D. Edwards, maker of accounting and human resources software, and Web design software maker Macromedia. The appliance includes Oracle software that allows businesses to remotely manage the product via the Web; and Oracle WebDB, a tool that lets businesses develop and run their own Web-based software.
Oracle chief executive Larry Ellison also said the company will soon add new Web technology to its flagship product, the Oracle 8i database.
Ellison said the company this month will release its Internet File System, which will store and manage Web pages as well as Windows files. The product has also been delayed and was expected to ship last summer.
With the new release, Oracle is trying to free itself from relying on core Windows functions, such as the NT file system.
Ellison also said the company will release new caching technology next month that will allow Web sites to easily replicate Web site information from databases. The technology will allow Web sites to store the information on low-cost computers, giving Web surfers faster access to Web data, he said.