Oracle Preps Online Storage

Online file storage service has users skeptical about security; company targets vertical markets.

It was more than a year ago when Oracle Corp. unveiled plans for an online file storage service. Last week—14 months later—the Redwood Shores, Calif., software company finally gave product details of the service. But regarding pricing and availability, other than to say that basic levels of the service may be free, officials said only that such information will be announced later this year.

Even after all the months of planning, some users have concerns over the plans security or lack thereof.

"The more that we focus our business on the value of the metadata that we collect rather than the value of the search service that we offer, the less likely we are to want someone else to be the shepherd of that data," said Erik Anthony Harté, senior engineering manager at Inc., a Seattle-based multimedia search site owned by Thomson Multimedia S.A.

Harté said hed also worry about how his software would integrate with hosted data, how scalable Oracles service would be and how it would affect his Oracle licensing—the data must be cataloged, not just stored, he said.

To deal with those issues, Oracle said last week that it will offer a version that enterprises can install on the network of their choice. Its unclear whether Oracle will run the service from its own data centers or from an outsourced hosting provider.

Oracle announced it will also target vertical-market segments by letting telecommunications providers and other companies resell the service, officials said.

"The success of Internet-based file services depends on sleek integration," said Mike Zuckerman, former vice president of business development at Driveway Corp., the San Francisco online storage company that folded its public service this year.

"The issue is, will they be able to create a software application that facilitates elegant storage and doesnt crash?" Zuckerman asked. "Certainly, theyre trying to expand their market. At some point, Internet file storage will be pervasive, but I dont think the markets ready for it."

At the Online Computer Library Center, in Dublin, Ohio, Chief Operating Officer Don Muccino said his service uses software written in-house, for functions such as cataloging, interlibrary lending and user services. Muccino is currently replacing those systems with 9i but draws the line at outsourcing where that data resides.

"Our database is our largest asset," he said. "Im not sure that I would feel comfortable handing off that fiduciary responsibility. Handing that off to anybody would be a difficult thing. Its the largest asset we own."

Oracle also announced that the next version of its Oracle9i database, as yet unnamed but due early next year, will include enhanced tools for searching and categorizing advanced data types. The main tool will be "Windows Explorer-like" and will work with 9is content management tags, which are a proprietary design but can be enabled for Extensible Markup Language through Java programming interfaces.

Many of the content management tools are similar to what Microsoft offers in its recently launched Sharepoint server, said Geoffrey Bock, an analyst with Patricia Seybolds Group Inc., in Boston.