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Oracle aims small with database

Mirroring its competitors' moves, Oracle pushes into the small and midsize business market with a single-processor edition of its namesake database.

Oracle on Wednesday released a low-priced edition of its database that's aimed at boosting its presence among small and midsize companies.

The Redwood Shores, Calif.-based company said it has simplified the installation and administration tools of its Oracle Standard Edition database to appeal to small and midsize businesses, or departments, within larger corporations.

The database giant will now sell a single-processor version of Oracle Standard Edition for $5,995. Oracle is also offering the same database on a per-user licensing arrangement. Customers can pay $195 per user, with a minimum of five people, allowing a company to purchase a database for less than $1,000.

Oracle's move echoes that of its primary database competitors, IBM and Microsoft, which have both singled out the midmarket as a crucial area for growth. Oracle's lead on the overall database market slipped last year, losing the top spot to IBM, which brought in more than Oracle in new license revenue, according to market research company Gartner Dataquest.

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IBM earlier this year released an "express" edition of it DB2 database, targeted at midsize companies. Microsoft's base of customers for its SQL Server database is largely made up of smaller companies and departments within large companies.

Like IBM, Oracle's traditional customer base comprises large companies that need high-end database features. However, Oracle and its competitors are trying to create low-cost databases in order to stave off competition from Microsoft and open-source alternatives.

Oracle is heavily marketing its Oracle Real Application Clusters (RAC) software on Linux, a configuration of its databases that lashes together several low-cost servers to perform the work of larger, pricier machines. Oracle has signed on Dell and Sun Microsystems as hardware partners for its clustering software.

Oracle is planning to release an update to its database line called Oracle 10g, which could be available as early as the end of the year. The company said license-holding customers can update to the latest version at no additional cost.