Oracle9i consists of two large products focused on application deployment: the Oracle9i database and Oracle9i application server. This represents a considerable simplification, especially when compared to the 80 or so point products that Oracle Corporation has been offering for years. Consistent with this is the philosophy behind both Oracle8i and Oracle9i releases of a "few large servers," not dozens of small ones. In fact, an ongoing trend seen in Oracle9i is that Oracle Corporation has been moving many of its point products, and creating or acquiring new ones, such that they are now inherently part of the Oracle9i or iAS product packages.

The Upside of the Two-Product Approach

With two products to plug together, instead of several, Oracle9i promises to reduce time and cost of integration and configuration tasks that implementers must perform. Certified configurations (where purchasers acquire computer hardware from Compaq, Hewlett Packard or Sun Microsystems with Oracle9i already installed and configured) further reduce integration and configuration tasks. The tight integration of the Oracle9i database and iAS enables flexible configurations where application developers decide – on a per-deployment basis – whether application logic should run in the database or in the application server based on how tied the logic is to data or user-interface operations.

The Downside of the Two-Product Approach

Although Oracle9i simplifies pricing and licensing, it presents changes of price that are already confounding the Oracle customer base. For customers (especially value-added resellers) who, with past Oracle releases, bought the database and a couple of point products, the Oracle9i packaging probably represents a price increase since buyers will need iAS to get some of the point products. For example, to perform reporting against an Oracle9i database, you'll need iAS because that's where Oracle Reports now resides. On the other hand, for customers who have the database and many Oracle point products, upgrading to Oracle9i may actually mean a cut in price. For most Oracle9i products, Oracle Corporation offers both server-based capacity pricing and named-user pricing, so customers can find a license that best fits their particular deployment.

THE HURWITZ TAKE: Oracle Corporation's goal, clearly stated back in 1997, is to create a unified platform designed especially for Internet-based applications. Oracle8i set up the infrastructure by supporting Internet standards (especially Java, XML and Web-server interfaces) and by establishing products that can scale to the "few big servers" philosophy, which is consistent with the centralized computing model that many developers of Internet-based applications are adopting today. Oracle9i is a continuation and logical extension of product restructuring put in motion with Oracle8i.

As the series of releases known as Oracle8i unfolded, however, the realities of e-business pushed certain requirements to the forefront, namely high availability, extreme scalability and split-second performance. Oracle9i addresses these with real application clusters and its cache fusion technology. Managers of e-commerce Web sites are now struggling to apply real-time business intelligence functions to tasks such as recommending products to customers based on their profiles. Oracle9i addresses this need by embedding online analytic processing, data mining and recommendation engines in the database so they can run at top speed close to large data sets. As e- business pushes out the physical boundaries of the enterprise, many users need access to information and applications through wireless devices. Oracle9i satisfies this requirement in spades with iAS Wireless Edition, FastForward Enterprise Wireless Portal and OracleMobile Online Studio. The integration pains of e-business are leading many companies to implement portals that pull together information systems across the enterprise and selectively expose these with security and personalization to customers and partners beyond the enterprise. The Oracle9i database fulfills this need by embedding Oracle Portal's integration framework and portal authoring tool.

Hurwitz Group notes that applications are increasingly being hosted and deployed as services available to any user with a browser and a viable password – whether on intranet, extranet or the Internet. This can include business-to-business trade exchanges, business-to-consumer Web sites, portals, application service providers (ASPs) or IT departments with an operating model similar to that of an ASP. Oracle9i is specially designed to address the needs of these and other types of e-business applications.

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