Oracle: One-Stop App Server Shop

Caching, data integration and data analysis tools add value to Oracle9i Application Server 2.

Oracle Corp. takes an all-in-one approach with its Oracle9i Application Server Release 2, which provides lots of extra trimmings for more complex Web application development.

Organizations developing custom portals or building document management systems and those that want to deploy business intelligence tools using an intranet site will find that the completeness of Oracles offering will save time and money.

In particular, new Web site click stream analysis features, as well as back-end XML and packaged application data integration, are valuable pluses with this release.

Those developing more bread-and-butter Web applications have lots of choices in this mature market and can opt to go with any number of Java application servers based on their needs. IBMs WebSphere and BEA Systems Inc.s WebLogic are Oracle9i Application Servers most direct competitors.

Like these two products, Oracle9i Application Server, which is available now, cant run business logic in any language but Java, so C or C++ developers will find the multilingual Sybase Inc. Enterprise Application Server or Microsoft Corp. Windows 2000 Server more suitable options.

Oracle9i Application Server Release 2 (officially Version 9.0.2) provides a mostly J2EE (Java 2 Enterprise Edition) 1.3-compatible application server supporting Java 1.3-based application development. Not all the required EJB (Enterprise JavaBeans) 2.0 features are supported yet; a point update, Version 9.0.3, will be J2EE 1.3-compatible. It will be a drop-in replacement for 9.0.2, and Oracle said it expects to ship it in the next two months. (See "Changes Ahead for JSP Developers" for the upcoming JavaServer Pages 2.0 standard.)

The Standard Edition has a base price of $10,000 per CPU and includes the Java application server, The Apache Software Foundations Apache HTTP Server and the TopLink object-relational mapping tool (which Oracle acquired earlier this year from WebGain Inc.). The Standard Edition also offers a portal development kit and Oracles IFS (Internet File System), a database-based file system.

The Standard Edition supports clustering using a shared network directory but lacks centralized cluster administration, so doing cluster deployments will be painful.

The Enterprise Edition, which costs $20,000 per CPU, is where Oracle differentiates itself. It contains all Standard Edition features plus a long list of additions: Oracles Web cache server, Oracle9iAS Reports database reporting server, Oracle9iAS Discoverer online analytical processing server, Oracle9iAS Forms server and Oracles LDAP server. (BEA, IBM and Sun Microsystems Inc. all also include LDAP servers in their application servers.)

All parts of the application except IFS (which has its own user list) can use the LDAP server for single-sign-on capabilities.

The Enterprise Editions new click stream analysis server provides data such as the current number of Web site users, their Web browser types and operating systems, referring URLs, and so on. Release 2 also features a Universal Description, Discovery and Integration server and a data integration server, Oracle9iAS InterConnect.

InterConnect has an impressive reach, providing custom adapters for Oracle databases (currently, no other databases are supported), XML, IBMs MQSeries and Customer Information Control System servers, as well as enterprise resource planning applications from SAP AG, Siebel Systems Inc., PeopleSoft Inc. and J.D. Edwards & Co. BEA and IBM have data integration packages as well but at significant extra cost.