A key component in Oracle's strategy to render Microsoft's Windows unnecessary is finally hitting the streets.
Oracle today began shipping its Oracle 8i database, two months after the company's initial release date.
"We had a minor hiccup with an eight-week slip, but for a two-and-half year development for Oracle, we almost hit our date on the nose," said Jeremy Burton, Oracle's vice president of server marketing.
"We said two months ago that we were...doing integration and testing of software and development tools, and we're happy today to ship the product out the door," he said.
Oracle has touted its Oracle 8i as a product that could kill off or at least hurt Microsoft's Windows NT Server operating system. It is packed with new features the company says offers customers a complete application deployment platform for the Internet, including built-in development tools, directory services, and a Java Virtual Machine to run Java application code.
With the new release, Oracle is trying to free itself from relying on core Windows NT functions, such as the NT file system. The upcoming Internet File System, now in beta and planned for a final release in late summer, will store and manage Web pages as well as Windows application files.
A sister product--the forthcoming Oracle 8i "Raw Iron" appliance, with a Solaris operating system kernel from Sun Microsystems--will allow businesses to build and use applications without having to use an operating system, such as Windows NT. The product will be sold by Dell and Hewlett-Packard. Oracle executives expect the appliances--which they say will be cheaper and easier to manage than NT--will ship in late spring or early summer.
Merv Adrian, vice president of Giga Information Group, said Oracle's challenge now is to do a good job marketing and selling the new database.
"What they need to do to make 8i successful, which they already are doing, is put together an effective, coherent, and focused strategy for competing with Microsoft--and they're doing a hell of a job."
Jeff Grant, IT manager for record company Nettwerk Productions, said he was jazzed about 8i, but doesn't think it or the "Raw Iron" appliance will kill off Windows NT.
Grant, who began tinkering with the beta version of 8i two weeks ago, raves about the built-in Java Virtual Machine that executes Java application code. The company has between 40,000 to 60,000 subscribers to its mailing lists for artists such as Sarah McLachlan and the Barenaked Ladies--and using the Java Mail package will save him time because he can send email directly from the database, he said.
"It's like a life saver," he said. "No more using another mail server. No more screwing around with building data cartridges for the server. Now you have the ability to call the Java routine straight from the database and no longer have to use a go between."
He doesn't see 8i--or the upcoming appliance--as the Windows NT killer Oracle hopes it will be, but it can hurt Microsoft's sales.
"8i gives you a lot of stuff, but it can't get rid of NT," Grant said. "The whole Sun, HP, NT thing: It's politics. And some guys live and breath and swear by NT."
Grant, who uses Solaris on the Web site, but uses NT to code software with his laptop, said he's excited about the 8i appliance "You no longer have to deal with an operating system. You don't have to be a specialist in NT. In order to be a good database administrator, all you need is to understand the Oracle side of things."
Oracle 8i is available for Windows NT, Solaris, HP-UX, IBM-AIX, Compaq Tru64 Unix, and Sequent DYNIX/ptx. Pricing is the same as Oracle 8, starting at $1,475 for a five-concurrent user license.
Oracle today also began shipping the new Oracle Internet Platform ISV Development Kit, a set of tools to help software vendors to integrate their applications with 8i.