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Oracle database targets smaller businesses

A company executive touts self-managing features and quicker installation in Oracle 10g and says the database giant is making an "aggressive" push into the midmarket.

Oracle on Tuesday revealed features planned for its forthcoming Oracle 10g database aimed at small and midsize businesses.

Oracle 10g, slated for release by the end of the calendar year, will offer self-management features and quicker installation that will cut down on manual labor, said Robert Shimp, Oracle's vice president of technology marketing. He said the database giant is making an "aggressive" push into the midmarket.

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Oracle 10g is the company's update to its flagship database line, Oracle 9i. Oracle 10g is designed to allow companies to link multiple databases in a grid, or cluster, of several low-cost hardware servers. Grid computing unites pools of servers, storage systems and networks into one large system that better tackles complex computing jobs by sharing the workload across multiple machines.

Customers will be able to install Oracle 10g from a single CD in as little as 17 minutes, compared with a few hours required for Oracle 9i, Shimp said. Oracle 10g also will include features that automate database administration, which means that ongoing maintenance will be minimal, he said.

Oracle's accelerated push into the small and medium-size businesses (SMBs) mirrors similar efforts by rivals IBM and Microsoft. IBM on Monday announced a new licensing plan for its DB2 Express database. Big Blue will charge $3,899 for an unlimited number of people accessing the database. Microsoft already has a large customer base in smaller organizations with its SQL Server database.

"Oracle remains very strong in the Windows market, and we've expanded the Linux base dramatically, both of which play well in the SMB market," Shimp said. "We welcome the competition from IBM and Microsoft in that space."

Pricing for Oracle 10g has not yet been announced, but Shimp said the cost would not change from the earlier version. Meanwhile, customers can purchase a single-processor edition of its 9i database, called Oracle Standard Edition, for $5,999 with an unlimited number of users, or $195 per user with a minimum of five users. Oracle Standard Edition, introduced two weeks ago, is targeted specifically at smaller organizations and business partners such as distributors and value-added resellers.

Oracle is seeking to expand the distribution of its database in the midmarket through partners, Shimp said. The company has made a "significant effort" to woo partners to build customized business applications or embed Oracle's database with their hardware or applications, he said.

The company is adding diagnostics and performance tuning to the database, which will cut down on the amount of work required by database administrators, Oracle said. The self-management features are based on an artificial intelligence system developed in Oracle's research department, Shimp said.

"Our tuning and management capabilities are better than anyone can do by hand," Shimp said. Oracle plans to offer a two-day course on how to install and manage Oracle 10g operations.