Oracle9i Takes On Exchange

Oracle is using its new Oracle9i Database product, including its clustering capabilities, to not only attack traditional database rivals like IBM but also to muscle into Microsoft's e-mail business.

LAS VEGAS—Oracle Corp. is using its new Oracle9i Database product, including its clustering capabilities, to not only attack traditional database rivals like IBM but also to muscle into Microsoft Corp.s e-mail business.

The Redwood Shores, Calif., company on Monday announced a program in which businesses can migrate their Microsoft Outlook e-mail programs away from Microsofts Exchange server and onto Oracles 9i database.

Doing so would give companies a more robust, reliable and secure platform for their e-mail at a much lower cost, Oracle Chairman and CEO Larry Ellison said during a keynote address here at Comdex.

"It is easily, easily crippled by viruses, it breaks all the time, and its expensive," Ellison said of the Exchange server. "Users would see no change at all [in their Outlook programs], except they will wonder why their e-mail is up all the time."

In a talk before a packed house, Ellison noted Exchange servers can handle between 250 and 500 Outlook users each, forcing larger companies to buy dozens of servers to handle all their users. He also said that if a server goes down, e-mail on that server can be slowed or lost.

Conversely, one Oracle9i Database can handle 10,000 users, and because of its clustering ability—using several low-cost servers to run each database—if one server goes down, there are others to keep the Outlook system up.

And because each database can handle so many more users, fewer people are needed to manage Outlook, resulting in lower overall costs. Ellison said some companies that are making the transition have found that one 9i database can replace 45 to 50 Exchange servers.

Other advantages, Ellison said, is that as a database, 9i can be easily searched for viruses, which can then be deleted. With Exchange servers, viruses have to be found on each one, with the hope that no users have opened an e-mail tainted by a virus.

"If security is important, if reliability is important, we do all that better than Microsoft," Ellison said during a press conference before the keynote.

The key to this is Microsofts decision to base Outlook on the IMAP4 standard, which means that Outlook can be supported by any IMAP4 server, including those from Oracle, Dell Computer Corp., Compaq Computer Corp. and Hewlett-Packard Co.

Throughout the talk, Ellison expounded on the virtues of 9i, pointing to its clustering, its backup features and security capabilities—14 international security certificates, compared with one for Microsoft and none for IBM—as key reasons why it is better than its rivals offerings.

"If your server fails, if your software fails, if your [Web] site fails, your application will keep on running," he said.

High-tech issues

During the wide-ranging press conference before the keynote speech, Ellison touched upon a number of issues within the high-tech industry.

Answering a question about the recent agreement reached between Microsoft and the federal government to end the historic antitrust lawsuit, Ellison said he applauded Microsoft for coming out on top.

"A complete victory for Microsoft, a complete defeat for the government. Fantastic," he said. "Its kind of like being a bank robber and being caught on videotape and the government says, Aw, what the hell ... I give Microsoft credit for keeping a straight face."

Ellison also said that, in large part due to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, he didnt expect this quarter to be as strong financially as the last one, when Oracle posted records in profits and profit margins. He said he expects earnings to come in around 9 cents to 10 cents, lower than analyst estimates of about 11 cents.

"We had a pretty good quarter compared with everyone else, but its a very, very difficult climate," he said.

Still, he said he expects sales to start improving later next year, in large part because customers with large projects who have delayed buying new Oracle products soon will no longer be able to delay.

On other topics, Ellison said Java 2 Enterprise Edition is a much more mature technology than Microsofts .Net and will continue to be the platform of choice for developers and that economy makes it easier, not more difficult, to keep and motivate employees.

"Theyre just thrilled to have a job in Silicon Valley," he said, adding that the dot-com economy gave people a false sense of security regarding startups and the chances of getting rich quickly. "People are really starting to float down back to earth, and its actually a very nice place."

Finally, Ellison said that despite what some industry observers believe, he never said he supported the idea of a national identification card. What he supports is a national standard all government-issued ID cards—from state driver licenses to federal visas and passports—that would make them difficult to copy, including making them out of plastic and incorporating a digital strip, similar to credit cards.