Oracle release aims at 'real world'

With the release of its Oracle9i Database last week, Oracle Corp. is making it far easier for agencies to run off-the-shelf enterprise software on cost-effective clusters of smaller computers, industry analysts say.

That feature alone will make Oracle9i an attractive option for federal agencies, said Tracy Corbo, a senior analyst for online computing infrastructure with Cahners In-Stat Group. Oracle has also added a more favorable pricing structure to replace a controversial licensing plan put in place last year.

By using Oracle's new Real Application Clusters software, which is an optional module for the Oracle9i database, agencies can run commercial software packages from vendors such as PeopleSoft Inc. and SAP AG on server clusters without making changes to the software, according to Oracle officials.

"The reason we called the product "Real' Application Clusters is because you can run real-world software that's widely available on it," said Tim Hoechst, senior vice president of technology for Oracle Service Industries, the division that addresses the federal market. Oracle already offered a form of clustering technology called Parallel Server, but it could be used "only for custom-written applications developed for it," Hoechst said.

Clustering provides the ability to increase application performance by adding new servers as transaction volumes grow. It also improves overall application reliability by letting other computers in the cluster take over if one node in the cluster fails.

Oracle will charge customers a per-processor fee for the new database licenses. The core enterprise edition of the Oracle9i software costs $40,000 per processor, not including optional modules such as clustering, and the standard edition will cost $15,000 per processor.

The previous pricing plan that drew fire from customers and analysts used a measurement called Universal Power Unit to determine the license price. With UPU, the price was related to the number and speed of the processors in the server that ran the Oracle database.

Mike Schiff, a vice president with the market research firm Current Analysis, said he has not yet performed a formal comparison to determine an exact figure, but the new pricing scheme will lower the price that many agencies will pay for the new Oracle software.

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