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Oracle server features VRML

Oracle next week will ship a revised version of its scalable Web Application Server, to include a demonstration of VRML technology.

Oracle (ORCL) next week will ship a revised version of its Web Application Server that will include a demonstration of VRML (virtual reality modeling language) technology.

The company will post Web Application Server 3.0, a combination Web and application server, to its Web site on Tuesday, said Magnus Lonnroth, a product manager at Oracle. The server lets developers build Web applications for electronic commerce and other uses, linked to databases from Oracle and other makers. It also gives developers tools to move existing client/server systems to the Web.

Version 3.0's main feature is its ability to add additional front-end application servers and eliminate Web access bottlenecks from ever-sprawling Web sites, said Lonnroth. Web Application Server includes Oracle's home-grown object request broker that allows multiple Web servers to be wed to form "clusters" of Web servers for greater scalability, he said.

The server also includes preview versions of an application programming interface (API) and other Oracle technology that allows the software, in conjunction with Oracle's database software, to store and retrieve VRML models, Lonnroth said.

The VRML technology is intended to support applications that model three-dimensional data, such as diagrams depicting cable layouts or construction cutaway drawings.

Lonnroth stresses that the VRML technology is a preview only, and that Oracle has not decided when or if to ship the technology.

Web Application Server includes Oracle's own Web server, licensed from Spyglass. The server can also be used to add transaction server capabilities to Web servers from Microsoft, Netscape Communications, Apache HTTP Server Project, and other makers.

The new server replaces Oracle's existing Web Server, which was not capable of being distributed across multiple servers to improve scalability.

Web Application Server competes with a growing crop of application server middleware that includes Microsoft's Transaction Server, Sybase's Jaguar CTS, and Kiva Software's Enterprise Server.

Analysts said application servers will be crucial as companies build more elaborate Web sites to front new and existing database-centric applications. "It's no big surprise. With thin clients you need fatter servers," said Eric Brown, an analyst with Forrester Research. "Oracle's server provides scalability and that's its big value right now."

Web Application Server will ship in two versions. The Standard version includes the company's object request broker, connections to Oracle's database software, and other tools, and is priced at $995. An Advanced version adds additional transaction services and drivers to other maker's databases, and is priced at $3,995.