Oracle to Expand App Server

9i Application Server adds services for development, deployment, Java; some see bar being too high.

The next version of Oracle Corp.s 9i Application Server will include features designed to increase performance while making it easier to manage.

The application server, which will be launched at the companys OpenWorld show next week in San Francisco, will include expanded services for application development, deployment, Java, messaging and file systems, said sources close to the Redwood Shores, Calif., software company.

Other news at the show will involve expanded XML capabilities for the 9i Database; new features for the JDeveloper tool software, which is in beta and will likely ship later this year, sources said; and Project U, Oracles recently launched "unbreakable" campaign touting reliability and security.

Observers are bullish on Oracles plans but worried that the focus of those plans are misplaced.

"Theyre definitely addressing the [major] needs," said Peter Kuletske, a noted Oracle advice author and technical architect, at Quovera Inc., in Redwood City, Calif.

However, Oracles "unbreakable" campaign could likely haunt the company if hackers target its products, analysts and sources said. The plan is merely a way for Oracle to push the application clustering features of its Oracle9i Database, said an analyst who requested anonymity. Oracle has seen a low adoption rate for application clustering, and many users still run Version 7 or 8 of the database, the analyst said.

Oracle could benefit more by touting its external details feature, which lets administrators view nondatabase information from inside the database, said Rich Niemiec, president of the International Oracle Users Group, in Chicago. Unlike clustering, external details is "the No. 1 feature that people say, Wow, I want to go to 9i for that," Niemiec said.

For Specialized Bicycle Components Inc., Oracles news and range of products is useful but too much to deal with at once, said CIO and E-Commerce President Ron Pollard, in Morgan Hill, Calif.

"My brain can only hold so many details," Pollard said.

Specialized Bicycle Components wants to hear more about business-to-business technology and warehouse management, he said. Things such as enterprise resource management have been lacking, and less expensive cluster management is available from other companies. But core database news isnt as important today, he said.

Meanwhile, Oracle officials did say the company will announce XML software to simplify data mapping in the 9i Database. This will be a primary feature of 9is next version, Oracle9i Database Release 2, which is due to ship early next year, said Jeremy Burton, senior vice president for product and service marketing, during an interview at Comdex in Las Vegas this month.