New Pricing With Oracle9i

Joins clustering features to further outdistance database rivals, Ellison says

With all the hype that has surrounded Oracle Corp.s 9i database over the past few months, last weeks actual launch of the database upgrade threatened to be somewhat anticlimactic.

But Oracle Chairman and CEO Larry Ellison came out aggressively during the event here, trumpeting the databases new features and a new pricing plan, all the while—not surprisingly—deriding rivals IBM and Microsoft Corp. as also-rans. "We think that IBM and Microsoft will simply cease to be important components of the marketplace," Ellison said at the official rollout of the product at his companys headquarters. "We think its five to 10 years to never" before those companies can equal Oracles technology, he said.

While Ellison said key enhancements in 9i include upgrades in speed, implementation costs and reliability, he focused on the new clustering features, called Real Application Clusters.

Clustering lets databases run over several smaller computers, rather than one big one. But unlike the clustering found in IBMs DB2 and Microsofts SQL Server, databases clustered with 9i will continue to run even if one part of the cluster crashes, Ellison said.

"Oracle is certainly playing from a position of strength," said Geoff Roach, an analyst with Aberdeen Group Inc., in Palo Alto, Calif., who attended the launch. "The thing that I think time will tell is how quickly users adopt this. Introducing a new technology like this is never as easy as users think it is."

"The single-computer strategy is flawed. We had to find another approach," Ellison said.

This isnt Oracles first crack at clustering. Ellison admitted that the companys clustering technology in 8i was "largely worthless," with less than 1 percent of customers using it, he said.

But Oracle said it is hoping to change that with 9i. Announcing support for the software last week was Houston-based Compaq Computer Corp., which said it is putting 9i Real Application Clusters Certified Configurations on its AlphaServer and ProLiant platforms.

Informatica Corp. is also supporting 9i clustering with its data integration software.

During the launch, Ellison also promised lower pricing for the database, a key concern among customers that are combating tightening budgets.

Oracle will move away from pricing based on the speed of the computer upon which the database runs and toward a strategy of price per processor. The company hopes this will slow IBMs and Microsofts recent erosion of Oracles database market share lead. The enterprise version of 9i will cost $40,000 per processor; the standard edition will cost $15,000.

Considering manpower and hardware issues, Oracle isnt as expensive as its reputation holds, Ellison said.

Karl Buttner, CEO of 170 Systems Inc., of Cambridge, Mass., has been beta testing 9i and said he found it to be faster and more reliable. "Its exactly what [our customers] are looking for," Buttner said. "Its a very sound technology."