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Details of Oracle 8 emerge

Oracle's new database server upgrade to handle four times more data.

Oracle (ORCL) continues to dribble out details of Oracle 8.0, its long-awaited database server upgrade slated to be unveiled on June 24.

Company officials have already disclosed features aimed at supporting online transaction processing. This week, Oracle product managers elaborated on Oracle 8's data warehousing capabilities.

According to Kelly Herrell, Oracle's senior director of marketing for server technologies, Oracle has strengthened the database server in four key areas. Compared to the current release, Oracle 7.3, Oracle 8 will handle more data and users, work faster, and be more resilient to faults that can cause system downtime.

The database server will handle up to four times more data than previous versions, said Herrell. Specifically, Oracle 8 will be able to store and retrieve tens of terabytes and capture up to 1,000 columns of data, he said.

The company has tweaked the database's parallel architecture to make finding any specific bit of data easier.

Oracle 8 has been designed to support access over the Web by thousands of users, said Herrell.

A few years ago, users would send data-query needs to the IS department, which would run the queries and return the results printed out on reams of computer paper within a few days. Now, data warehousing applications need to be flexible enough to allow users to query systems over the Web and get instant results, said Herrell.

To make that happen, Oracle 8 will include technology to speed up data warehouse queries. The company has combined two querying techniques, parallel bitmaps and star query indexing, to make complicated queries against large amounts of data relatively painless for users, according to Oracle.

And to make sure the database stays running, Oracle has implemented automated server backup and recovery, as well as automatic failover, which makes sure that if one node in a clustered system goes down, user queries are maintained and transferred to an available node.

Oracle has still not detailed object-support features originally planned for Oracle 8. Herrell said further details should be disclosed within a few weeks.

Oracle 7, the company's current database iteration, introduced the ability to manage text, video, audio, and other nonrelational data through a set of loosely connected optional servers. Oracle 8 will improve support for those data types and introduce support for data access through ActiveX and Java component applications. It will also support the Common Object Request Broker Architecture (CORBA), backed by Oracle and Netscape Communications, as well as the Distributed Component Object Model (DCOM) from Microsoft.

The database will also be able to store and manage new components, called "business objects," that model business processes in software form. Support for object data and component applications has become more important since the advent of Web development, analysts say.

Oracle 8 is expected to ship in late June. No pricing has been announced.