Oracle unveils Universal Server product

Oracle Corp. last week introduced and began shipping a new version of its Oracle7 relational database management software, which forms the kernel of its Universal Server platform.

Like the Informix Software Inc. database platform of the same name, Oracle's Universal Server allows users to manage multiple kinds of data—including messaging, multimedia, text and Internet-based data—by plugging modules into the core relational database management software (RDBMS).

Informix's Universal Server will be available later this year. Informix is in the process of integrating its RDBMS with technology developed by Illustra Information Technologies Inc., which Informix acquired in December.

Oracle7 has supported add-on options supporting different data types before. But the latest version, Oracle 7.3, "is architected so you can plug in those options seamlessly and get a less problematic connection with all the other data types," said Mike Stievater, marketing manager for Oracle Government Systems, Bethesda, Md.

Oracle expects to see immediate interest in the new release as a number of federal customers already use the company's optional modules for different data types. "I think there will be a flurry of activity to refresh the bids we are on and the contracts out there today," he said.

Universal Server is now available on Unix and Microsoft Corp. Windows NT platforms. Oracle offers five option modules: Oracle Video; Oracle ConText, for text management; Oracle Spatial Data; Oracle Messaging; and Oracle OLAP, for on-line analytic processing.

Oracle 7.3 comes bundled with capabilities for managing data on the World Wide Web. The product includes Oracle's HTTP Listener, a hypertext transfer protocol server and Oracle Web Agent, an interface between a Web page and its supporting database. Together these products will allow users to make queries against a database on the Web. This is a necessary capability to support electronic commerce and other emerging Internet-based programs, Stievater said.

Compared with the Informix server, the Oracle Universal Server strategy has an edge for more business-oriented users because it supports messaging and workflow, said Dan Kusnetzky, research director for Unix and server operating environments at International Data Corp., Framingham, Mass.

However, "the approach for [different] data types appears to be much less flexible than [those] offered by Informix and Illustra," Kusnetzky said. Informix plans to support "27 different data types and will offer tools to allow developers to add their own," he said.

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