April 15, 1998 7:00 PM PDT

Ellison: NC about network, not device

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REDWOOD SHORES, California--If at first you don't succeed, try and try again. That seems to be the strategy at Oracle.

The database and applications software stalwart continues to polish its architectural message for a corporate computing model that relies on heavy-duty servers to send and receive data and process information from applications, even those being used at far-flung desktops.

Oracle rolled out a comprehensive scheme to incorporate the Java programming language for industry press at its headquarters today, highlighting its cross-platform benefits and potential as a server-side programming tool that can be incorporated into the company's Network Computing Architecture (NCA) vision.

Though the Java thrust has long been expected, company executives seemed to downplay the potential for "thin-client" devices and other models for programming it has previously espoused. CEO Larry Ellison, once a staunch proponent of network computer (NC) machines, said his message has always been network-centric, not device-specific.

"The NC is a computer that runs a browser. That's it--that's the definition," Ellison said. "The Internet is network computing. What we're really promoting is the architecture, not the NC."

"Your personal computer is currently in the process of mutating to a network computer," he added.

Oracle will hone its Java message with new tools, as previously reported, as well as the introduction of Java support within an upgrade to its flagship database software product by the end of the year. The company's Application Server will also incorporate Enterprise JavaBeans, a server-side version of Java.

Company executives also disclosed a forthcoming server-side Java engine dubbed Project Aurora that will focus on adding database, networking, and fault-tolerant capabilities to the basic server-side Enterprise JavaBeans tools.

The company has even named its strategy "300 percent pure Java" to highlight where it sees Java playing: on the client, within applications, and in conjunction with back-end data servers. "What Oracle is trying to do with 300 percent Java is finish the Java development environment," Ellison said.

Oracle was once thought to be the leading proponent of a move toward NC-style devices. Ellison, along with cohorts from Sun Microsystems, IBM, and Netscape Communications, has been pounded lecterns and insisting that a thin-client model would loosen the grip of Microsoft and Intel on the desktop.

Although the loosely organized forces remain firm in their commitment to an alternative to Microsoft's Windows-based computing model based on Java and Web technologies, it seems that market realities have torpedoed the high-pitched rhetoric for the time being.

One Oracle executive, echoing an increasing sentiment from the pro-Java camp, even called for an end to the "religious" infighting regarding Java in comments clearly directed at Sun's stewardship of the language.

"The religion has to stop," said Mark Jarvis, vice president of systems products for Oracle. "Being religious is not going to help Java succeed. It's time to take Java out of the church and to the bank."

Those sentiments were also expressed by executives at Novell, another Microsoft foe, during the software firm's recent user conference.

The new Java strategy helps Oracle retrench its floundering NCA strategy, the company's grand scheme for thin-client and multitier software development, according to analysts.

"Oracle has clearly stumbled on its way to its utopian Network Computing Architecture," said Martin Marshall, an analyst with Zona Research. "It is scrambling and is giving indications that it will soon quietly scrap its CORBA-centric approach to NCA in favor of a Javacentric approach."

Despite introducing NCA two years ago "with all the hoopla that Oracle could muster," added Marshall, the scheme has failed to take off. The analyst noted the failure can be traced to the demise of Oracle's object-oriented Sedona toolkits for NCA, as well as its "inability to entice third-party developers to encapsulate their software into NCA 'cartridges' and the failure of the CORBA/IIOP basis for NCA module communication to emerge as a significant player in the industry."

Indeed, CORBA, an object model for programming, largely was an afterthought during the event. Sedona was referred to by Ellison as a "stupid project" that he subsequently halted.

Separately, Oracle also plans to debut a new tool next week for modeling business applications through its Developer/2000 and AppBuilder for Java tools. Oracle Business Object Modeler will allow developers to graphically model an application's logic on screen and then generate the appropriate code, according to the company.

 

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