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Oracle gets a shot of Java

The database maker continues its push to the Internet by announcing support for a new Java programming interface and by releasing a Web-based tool.

Oracle continued its push to the Internet today by announcing support for a new Java programming interface for developers and by releasing a Web-based tool that lets users query databases and create ad hoc reports.

Oracle said it will implement the Java programming interface, called SQLJ, in its Oracle 8i database and JDeveloper 2.0 Java programming tool when they are released this quarter.

Oracle today also released a Web-based version of Oracle Discoverer Viewer, its ad hoc query and analysis tool to access databases, data warehouses, and data marts--and create reports.

One analyst, however, was not impressed.

Creating a Web version is good, but Oracle's competitors, such as Cognos and BusinessObjects, have had Web versions much earlier, said Teresa Wingfield, vice president at Giga Information Group.

"Any type of database has to support the Web right now, but Oracle's behind everyone else by about a year. They're very late," she said.

The Java programming interface, called SQLJ, was adopted by the American National Standards Institute as a standard in December. It embeds SQL statements directly in Java. That allows Java developers to access a database by writing one line of code. Before, they had to write 10 lines of code while using JDBC, the Java Database Connectivity programming interface, Oracle said.

"Accessing relational data from Java has been much more complex until the availability with SQLJ," said analyst Mike Gilpin, of Giga Information Group, in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

SQLJ is a good interface to use if developers are building a quick Web application that needs to get a small amount of data out of relational databases, Gilpin said. For applications that move large amounts of data, developers may want to use an alternative such as an application server that supports Enterprise JavaBeans, and specifically a variation called "entity beans," he said.

"It's a cleaner model architecturally for building new applications if you use entity beans in the middle tier. You get more re-use that way," he said, adding that GemStone Systems supports entity beans with others like IBM and Sun Microsystems' NetDynamics planning support in future versions.

The Web version of Oracle Discoverer Viewer--a Java applet that users can download from their Web browser--allows a larger number of people within a company to use the tool, said Lisa Namphy, product marketing manager for Oracle's tool's team.

Before, it was more of a client/server environment where you had administration and management. "Now it's opened up to thousands of users," she said. "Users can run a query form from the Web, drill down and pivot, and slice-and-dice, and run queries," she said.

Namphy added that the Web version has the same look-and-feel as the previous Windows version, so users don't need additional training. She also said the new version offers more security. Oracle Discoverer Viewer for the Web uses the Oracle Applications security model, so when users log on and want to use the Viewer, it recognizes users' names and passwords and the type of data they're allowed to access, she said.

Discoverer costs $495 for the viewer edition, $995 for the base user edition and $1,995 for the administration edition.