Oracle Unleashes Freebie Database

The free Oracle Database 10g Express Edition is designed for new application developers and students to become familiar with Oracle technology.

Oracle threw the final version of its Oracle Database 10g XE (Express Edition) into the freebie RDBMS ring on Feb. 28.

Oracle announced the beta for Oracle Database XE in early November. It is designed to give lower-end application developers and students a leg up into Oracle technology.

The database is free to develop, deploy and distribute. Anybody can download it, develop with it, deploy it within limitations, and distribute, embed or share it with colleagues.

The limitations are that XE can run on multiprocessor boxes, but only on one processor in a multiprocessor server. Also, it can store up to 4GB of physical user data, while memory usage is limited to only 1GB.

XE runs on Windows and on a variety of Linux distributions, including Debian, Mandriva Linux 2006 Power Pack+, Novells SuSE Linux Enterprise Server 9 and Suse Linux 10, Red Hat Enterprise Linux 4, Red Hat Fedora and Ubuntu.

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Monica Kumar, director of product marketing, said that Oracle has seen hundreds of thousands of downloads worldwide since the beta was announced.

Developers accessing XE are writing in a medley of languages: Java, PHP, .Net, or just Web applications in general, using XEs built-in developer environment, Application Express.

Kumar said that one "big reason" Oracle is seeing such success with XE is the fact that its based on the same code base as Oracle 10g R2.

"Its got a good upgrade path [for those who] start with it and later need to scale," she said. "You can upgrade to other editions of Oracle without rewriting applications."

Rajeeva Kaula, a Ph.D and professor of computer information systems at Missouri State University, is using XE for his database class.

Kaula teaches a course in which database application development is a part, with one course sequence covering the basics of database modeling and SQL. The second sequence course involves incorporating databases with business logic for Oracle applications.

Kaula said that using XE as part of the curriculum has made it much easier for students to break out of the universitys labs, with their limited number of Oracle clients.

"This is a product students can install on their home machines, and they can do all their coursework," he said. "It makes it easy—they can work from their home, and it pretty much covers everything.

The university has 10g installed on campus—a choice that Oracle made easy by being the first database vendor to come to the university and offer its database years ago, Kaula said.

But getting in to the labs to use 10g was tough for students, he said. "They have to go there and wait," he said.

While it was possible for students to install the clients at home, they ran into installation problems that Kaula could never figure out.

XE has gotten rid of that problem. "I dont personally find any problem installing [Oracle] products, but students, they had a huge amount of problems many times and would balk at installing it at home," he said. "[XE] kind of helps them in that way: They can install it, use it and they dont have any problems."

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Students are using the freebie database as they cover the basics of PL/SQL, Oracles procedural extension to standard SQL. PL/SQL can be used as a scripting language to write server pages, and thats also helping students to get a feel for working with Web applications, Kaula said.

"Its easy for students—they can use their own Web editors or compose Web pages as scripting languages so they get a feel for how Web applications work—how three-tier applications" are put together, he said.

Oracle set up a forum from which its been receiving feedback on the product. The Oracle Database XE forum is hosted by Oracle experts—mainly noted expert Tom Kyte, an Oracle vice president.

Oracle Database XE can be downloaded for free from the Oracle Technology Network.

Oracle Database XE is available for download, usage and distribution at no charge. For terms, conditions, and restrictions read Oracles FAQ.

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