June 30, 1998 1:20 PM PDT

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Oracle has already tackled support for universal data types in its Oracle 8 database. Now the company is shooting for universal application support with a new update now in development.

Oracle plans to start beta testing Oracle 8.1, code-named Emerald, in August. Oracle is attempting to cash in on the trend toward application server software by melding new features into the database for hosting applications.

While the sales pitch is new, some of the items on the technology list are not. In fact, Oracle originally promised that Oracle 8.1 and Emerald's Java features would ship late last year.

Oracle already sells a separate application server package. But the company is adding additional features to its database to make it a better platform for hosting Internet and other applications.

Application servers provide messaging, object brokering, and connectivity to databases and other applications, among other functions. Oracle is headed down the technological path to combine some of those features with its existing database server software.

That could make for a potent competitor to separate application server and database server offerings from companies like Microsoft, IBM, Inprise, and Sybase, for instance.

Application server software is becoming one of the hottest new areas for server software companies. The software is used to link client applications with data and applications on host systems. Analysts claim the software is particularly valuable for e-commerce applications, which typically link into existing databases and need an intermediary layer of software to translate information and manage client access to legacy systems.

International Data Corporation pegs the current application server market as a $400 million-per-year business. By 2001, total application server sales are expected to reach more than $1 billion.

Microsoft is slowly moving in a similar direction, with its SQL Server database and COM+ application services, which are expected to bolt a messaging and transaction services layer onto Windows NT. COM+ isn't expected until the debut of Windows NT 5.0, which is currently in flux and not anticipated until the first half of next year at the earliest. At present, Microsoft sells a handful of separate products that provide similar features to COM+.

The Emerald update from Oracle also adds messaging technology, a Java virtual machine, additional Common Object Request Broker Architecture (CORBA) interfaces, better support for parallel hardware architectures, and overall better reliability, according to the company.

Emerald is slated to ship by the end of the year. No pricing has been announced.

 

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