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Oracle sides with Netscape

Taking sides between Microsoft and Netscape over object technology, Oracle will support Netscape's Open Network Environment in its Web server.

Oracle (ORCL) today announced that it will support the Netscape Open Network Environment (ONE) in future versions of its Web server, an endorsement that puts the company on Netscape Communications' side in an ongoing battle with Microsoft over object technology.

Within the next two weeks, Oracle also plans to announce "across the board" support for a central component of Netscape ONE, the Internet Inter-ORB Protocol (IIOP), in its development tool, database, and other product lines, according to Mark Jarvis, Oracle vice president of server marketing.

So far, Oracle has been hesitant to endorse IIOP, a standard, cross-platform protocol that allows developers to write distributed applications that run with a growing range of products and platforms. IIOP is based on an older technology standard, CORBA (Common Object Request Broker Architecture), that had broad support from Unix software developers but not Windows developers.

Netscape and partners such as Oracle are attempting to reinvigorate CORBA through IIOP, promoting it as an open alternative to Microsoft's component architecture, known as ActiveX.

"Our commitment as Oracle is to really make CORBA happen," said Jarvis. "Netscape recently announced Netscape ONE, which allows you to have CORBA on the browser. By the end of year, we will deliver CORBA on Oracle WebServer."

Last July, Microsoft tried to counter claims that ActiveX is a proprietary, Windows-only technology by announcing its intentions to hand control of the architecture over to a standards body.

But Oracle officials are not convinced that Microsoft will ever give total control of the architecture over to a standards organization, such as the Object Management Group or Internet Engineering Task Force.

"They need to put (ActiveX) into a standards body," Jarvis said. "They need to commit to supporting whatever the standards body produces. One of the concerns is that they will put it into the public domain and then go and do what they typically do, which is something else."

Microsoft has delayed a proposed meeting of vendors to discuss the fate of ActiveX but says an announcement on the ActiveX standards meeting is imminent. The result, according to Microsoft, will be a genuine transfer of ownership to an independent organization.

"Are we going to do this in a half-assed way? No," said Charles Fitzgerald, a product manager at Microsoft. "If we say we're going to turn this over to standards body, we are going to turn it over to a standards body."

Nonetheless, Jarvis said that Oracle WebServer 3.0, due by the end of the year, will support IIOP. That means that IIOP applications written for Netscape's future Galileo browser and Orion server will be able to operate with WebServer 3.0.

Previously, the company said that WebServer 3.0 would feature something called the Web Request Broker, an API (application programming interface) that allows developers to easily plug in database applications called "cartridges" to the server.