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Oracle's tight grip on the database

Microsoft may own the operating system but Oracle is refusing to let its archrival own the database.

Microsoft may own the operating system but Oracle is refusing to let its archrival own the database.

Oracle is to announce tomorrow two new tools for its much-hyped Oracle 8 database meant to undermine Microsoft SQL Server's momentum in the market.

The Redwood Shores, California-based Oracle is preparing a tool called Oracle Migration Workbench designed to speed and ease migration of data from Microsoft SQL Server to Oracle 8. The company is launching another tool designed to enhance third-party application development for Windows NT on Oracle 8.

"We have a message for dissatisfied SQL Server customers--it's faster and easier to migrate to Oracle 8 today than migrating to SQL Server 7 will be tomorrow," said Mark Jarvis, vice president of marketing at Oracle. "Oracle is committed to providing the best database on NT, and our market share shows that we continue to succeed in this goal."

In fact, according to analyst firm Dataquest in San Jose, California, sales on the Windows NT platform grew 91 percent in 1997 with Oracle owning 41.5 percent of the market and Microsoft 38.8 percent market share.

Robert Craig, analyst at the Hurwitz Group in Framingham, Massachusetts, said Oracle's new toolset is likely the first stone cast in an NT database feud that is certain to heat up in the coming year as nearly all of the database makers go after the NT market.

"I will not be surprised at all if Microsoft does the same thing, supplying a tool for quick migration of Oracle 8 data to SQL Server," Craig said. "This reinforces the idea that Oracle clearly has its sights on Microsoft, and Sybase and Informix are out of the picture."

But Craig said the migration tools are more marketing than substance because what's much more important is migrating the applications that run on top of the databases to a new platform.

"When migrating from one database system to another there are things you need to worry about but it's fairly easy and straightforward to build a tool for that," he said. "The gnarly problem is the application itself. Most users have some customization in their application for the database. If you have extensions then you need to convert those," which is generally a more difficult task than a simple data conversion tool can handle.

Oracle is releasing a new wizard for Oracle 8 to guide users through building applications on Windows NT. Called Oracle 8 Wizards for Visual Studio, the tool is a set of reusable code blocks designed to let developers create an application that compiles, links, and runs without the need to write code.

The wizards and the migration tool are currently in beta test. They are expected to be available, free of charge, by the end of the year.