Oracle Bolstering XML In Its Database

Oracle will enhance its flagship 9i database with the ability to store, manage and query XML documents within the same database as relational data.

Oracle Corp. will enhance its flagship 9i database with the ability to store, manage and query XML documents within the same database as relational data.

The companys initiative to support XML in 9i, called Oracle XML DB, will be a standard part of Release 2 of 9i, which is due for release this spring.

While officials wouldnt pinpoint a date, they said it would be out before June 1. Oracles Vice President of Server Technologies, Chuck Rozwat, first previewed what then was called Project XDB during Oracle OpenWorld 2001 in December.

Oracle, of Redwood Shores, Calif., will use SQLx as the underlying querying language to support XML in Release 2. The proposed standard combines the familiarity of SQL with support for querying XML documents, said Robert Shimp, vice president of Oracle 9i database marketing. XML DB also will add support for the XML Schema Definition, a World Wide Web Consortium standard for defining data types in XML documents.

Along with supporting those standards, Shimp said, Oracle XML DB will allow users to store XML documents along with relational data without transforming it into columns and rows. That will occur by turning the XML data into components to be stored as objects within 9i. Oracle since its Oracle 8 database has support objects along with relational data, Shimp said.

"Only one vendor can store XML and relational data in a single database in a unified fashion and make it accessible with a single query," Shimp said.

But Oracles top database competitors are moving headlong into XML support. In fact IBM and Microsoft Corp. both say that theyve been quicker to adopt XML support than Oracle. IBM released its XML Extender as a free add-on for its DB2 Universal Database in late 1999. The extender allows XML documents to be transformed into relational data as well as for relational data to be expressed as XML. But IBM, of Armonk, N.Y., is working on adding further support for another proposed querying language, XQuery, to make it easier to search XML documents without having to rework them into the tables and rows supported by SQL.

Microsoft in its SQL Server 2000 database has been releasing a range of Web updates to add XML support, including the ability to turn database functions into Web services. SQL Server also has the ability to map XML into relational data so that customers can take advantage of SQL features. The company is working on better ways of combining XML and relational data into a single database, said Tom Rizzo, group product manager for SQL Server, in Redmond, Wash.

Oracle has been developing XML DB for two years and considers it one of the biggest shifts to occur in the next release of 9i. It also marks Oracle move into the XML database fray.

"Theres a very important battle brewing," Shimp said.

Oracle officials also said they plan to support XQuery and in the next few weeks will release a prototype for using the standard within its database to its developers network, the Oracle Technology Network (OTN). XQuery wont be included in the XML DB feature within 9i Release 2 because the proposed standard remains too immature, Shimp said. But, he said, Oracle will add support when and if it becomes a standard.