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Oracle software users getting more options

The company unveils plans to give its customers several options when renting its e-business software as a service.

Oracle outlined a list of new delivery options for its hosted software Tuesday and signed partnerships to support its newly revamped strategy via

As previously reported, part of Oracle's plans gives companies several options when renting Oracle software as a service. The move is seen as a way to boost its position in the finicky world of application hosting.

Redwood Shores, Calif.-based Oracle touted a new delivery option, dubbed "Oracle E-business Suite Online Any Place," as a way to address various companies' needs.

Oracle said customers will have the flexibility of choosing where they want to house their server hardware that supports the applications they want to rent. Oracle can handle the complete package, such as by hosting the application and the hardware that supports it, or it can host the software while the customer handles the management and maintenance of the servers and hardware. Oracle customers who wanted to rent its software as a service typically had to buy the hardware management services from Oracle as part of the package.

Compaq Computer, Sun Microsystems and Hewlett-Packard have partnered with the database software giant to provide hardware support for Oracle hosting customers, but Oracle said it intends to link up with additional partners. Compaq has already configured servers to automatically support Oracle software as an online service. Oracle said Sun servers will be available within 30 days and HP within 90 days.

Oracle's move to dig deeper in the hosting market follows the company's recent introduction of Earlier this year, Oracle trumpeted its new brand name as a software rental hub, where customers can gain access to all of its software over the Web. It also acts as a portal site for business content created by Oracle or partners.

The re-branding effort replaced Oracle's earlier attempts to tackle the ASP (application service provider) market through its Business Online division, also known as BOL.

Gartner analyst Yvonne Genovese says the latest Oracle announcement seems to be an example of "if at first you don't succeed, try, try again."

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Timothy Chou, president of, said the new strategy calls for a transformation of the whole company and how it plans to deliver software.

The hosting strategy "is not just a re-branding," Chou said. "That's not what we're doing here. This is the mainstreaming into Oracle. It's Oracle's business transforming."

Like a number of players that have tested out the waters in the ASP market, Oracle has seen its share of challenges. ASPs host applications that customers can access from a desktop for a fee, attempting to make money from businesses that want a low-cost, low-management way to use software.

Many companies, from the start-up ASPs to the larger players like Oracle, PeopleSoft and SAP, have had a rough time signing customers on to the new concept. Many companies have been busy fine-tuning their strategies.

"We've all been through a bunch of bumps and bruises as we figure this out," Chou added. "This is a huge learning process for a lot of us, but the (learning) curve we're on now puts us several years ahead of any enterprise level (software) players today...We've demonstrated to customers that this all really works."

Oracle also announced plans Tuesday to target small businesses with a new suite of online services aimed at that market. The company said its "Oracle Small Business Suite" will provide small companies, which have fewer than 100 employees and revenue of $50 million or less, a package of business applications to suit their needs. Oracle's software helps companies manage and automate a range of business activities, including sales, customer services, manufacturing and financials.

The suite is available immediately to customers for an introductory price of $99 per month and can be accessed through Oracle is working together with NetLedger to provide the new service. NetLedger, which is partly backed by Oracle CEO Larry Ellison, specializes in providing small companies with business management software over the Web.

Additionally, Oracle created a new online partner network as part of its effort to beef up as a portal site equipped with various content.