Oracle9i Database Ships for Windows After Lag

Oracle Corp. began shipping Oracle9i for Windows this month, about three-and-a-half months after the database became available for Unix and Linux platforms.

The Oracle9i release comes at a time when Oracle trails Microsoft for the first time in database revenues on the rapidly growing Windows server platform, according to estimates by Gartner's market research arm, Dataquest.

A senior Oracle official says the database giant views the Windows platform as important and will work aggressively to gain market share there.

George Demarest, Oracle's director of database marketing, acknowledges that Oracle has taken some flack for the lag time between the June 14 general Oracle9i release and the October release of the Windows version. Additionally, Oracle's schedule slipped slightly after it committed at the June Oracle9i launch to shipping for Windows within 90 days.

"It certainly doesn't reflect any lack of commitment to Windows. It's a commitment to make Windows as high-quality as all of the other platforms. Windows is, after all, really quite different from all the other OSes," Demarest says. Oracle does plan to ship Windows versions of future releases closer to the Unix/Linux release date, he says.

Although there is a widespread industry perception that Oracle is anti-Microsoft -- a perception fed by Larry Ellison's frequent public rants against Bill Gates, Windows and SQL Server -- Demarest characterizes Oracle's position as platform agnostic.

And Demarest says despite Oracle's policy of not promoting individual platforms, the company recognizes the importance of the Windows market.

Among all the platforms Oracle supports, including Solaris, Linux, AIX and HP-UX, Windows is the one most commonly downloaded from Oracle's developer site. (Linux is second).

Oracle's main competitor for leadership in the worldwide database management system market across all platforms is definitely IBM Corp. But in the rapid-growth Windows market, Microsoft beat Oracle for the top spot in revenues by a few tenths of a percentage point in 2000, according to Dataquest. IBM's DB2 also gained share on the platform.

Oracle is by no means ceding Windows to Microsoft and IBM. "We believe that it's very viable that we can take some back from [Microsoft] and from IBM in this space," Demarest says.

The company plans to emphasize features in Oracle9i -- some new to the database, others that were available in earlier versions -- that Microsoft doesn't offer on Windows.

They include the Real Application Clusters (RAC) that formed the core of Oracle's marketing message at the Oracle9i launch. That technology is supposed to allow for transparently scaling by adding database servers without recoding the underlying application. IBM and Microsoft both provide clustering technologies for Windows servers that require applications to be specially coded. Oracle has yet to bring forward a reference customer using its new technology on Windows or publish a benchmark showing RAC works.

Another technology Oracle brings to Windows is hot failover through graphical software that layers on top of a Microsoft cluster service environment to provide failover in less than 30 seconds, Demarest says.

Oracle will also try to build share through targeted marketing. Oracle's marketing messages still won't single out Windows, but the company will target the platform in subtle ways.

"I think what you're going to see in the next two quarters is we're going to market more aggressively to the Windows market," Demarest says. "It might not be transparent." Examples of Windows-targeted marketing will include Oracle messages to the small- and medium-business market and to sales channel partners.

That approach says something about where Oracle sees the maturity of Windows server-based database applications. As Microsoft, Unisys, Compaq and IBM publish large-scale TPC and SAP benchmarks on Windows and SQL Server or Windows and DB2 to demonstrate platform scalability, Oracle's position is that the platform isn't ready for big database applications.

Demarest calls the drive of Windows into data-center-class applications "a slow trend ... It's definitely been slower than [Microsoft] would like." But, he says, "If customers want to make that type of decision, then certainly Oracle's going to be the best choice there."

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.

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