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Oracle goes after Windows NT

Oracle is beefing up its 8i database, with hopes of killing off, or at least severely damaging, the Windows NT Server operating system.

Oracle today said it is adding new directory software as part of its upcoming Oracle 8i database, a move that analysts say further strengthens the company's goal of providing an all-in-one Internet deployment platform.

With 8i, Oracle hopes to kill off the Windows NT Server operating system, or at least severely damage it, by offering a complete application deployment system.

The Oracle Internet Directory joins other new features the company is including in the database, including built-in development tools and an internal file system for storing and managing Web pages as well as Windows application files.

Oracle claims the new directory can support 500 million entries and tens of thousands of simultaneous users. The company will integrate it with the Novell Directory Services (NDS) to make sure they can work together. The two companies also announced they are integrating NDS into 8i.

Right now, many businesses have up to 180 directories that store employees' information, said Jeremy Burton, Oracle's vice president of server marketing. Oracle hopes its new directory service can help businesses whittle that number down to three or four directories.

"We see Novell as the center of the universe and Oracle Internet Directory as one of the satellites," he said. "What this gives you is a single sign on across all Novell and Oracle directories in the network."

Right now, the Novell and Oracle directories are interoperable because they conform to LDAP-standards. In the future, they will build more security and replication features, such as allowing data in one directory to automatically synchronize with data in the other, Burton said.

Adrian Viego, Novell's general manager of strategic relations, said Novell struck the deal to integrate both directories because Novell's product doesn't support all the platforms that Oracle does, such as the Red Hat version of Linux, HP/UX, and Digital Unix.

Regarding 8i, Viego said: "There are specific issues in managing an Oracle environment today that Novell is unable to do. We could either extend to Oracle 8i and take on unique features of Oracle at the lowest level. Or we could work with Oracle. That's what we're trying to do."

Analysts said adding a directory to 8i was a smart move for Oracle.

"It's certainly another step in their direction of providing a complete Internet platform on the server end," said analyst Carl Olofson of International Data Corporation.

Oracle built the directory not to compete with other LDAP-directory services, Olofson said. And while Novell and Oracle have announced a symbiotic relationship, Novell should be wary nonetheless because strategies often change in the software industry, he said.

"Novell has a well-established position providing directory services. There shouldn't be a sense of an immediate threat," Olofson said.

Olofson added that other database firms could emulate Oracle's strategy to build an all-in-one product, so that they can free themselves from using NT functions, such as the NT file system. "Oracle is not the only company in the position to come out with an announcement along these lines, only because there's a growing sense that it's possible to build a heterogeneous network environment," he said. "It's not a fait accompli that everything is concentrating on NT servers going forward."

An Oracle spokeswoman said the company has no plans yet to announce whether the company will include Oracle's directory in its Internet 8i appliance, code-named Raw Iron. The appliance--with a Solaris operating system kernel--allows businesses to deploy applications without having to use an underlying operating system, such as Windows NT, which Oracle executives say will make it cheaper and easier to manage.

The directory will ship Monday along with 8i, which was delayed two months so the company could perform final tests and complete the integration of software and development tools.

Oracle will announce prices Monday, but the company plans to ship two versions of the directory: one for businesses and the other for Internet service providers and telecommunications carriers. Oracle will charge per concurrent user for the business version and per entry for the ISP/telecom version, Burton said.