ORACLE LOOKS TO CAPITALIZE ON DATABASE LEAD

October 6, 2000

COMMERCIAL NEWS

San Diego, CALIF. — Oracle is hoping to capitalize on the e-commerce buzz to put some distance between itself and rivals such as IBM and Microsoft.

The software giant is expected to announce plans for its next-generation Oracle 9i database and e-commerce software at its annual Oracle OpenWorld conference this week in San Francisco. Oracle chief executive Larry Ellison will headline the event with a keynote speech tomorrow.

The new version of Oracle’s database – software that collects and stores corporate and Web information – will be the company’s first major update to its flagship product since it released Oracle 8i 18 months ago. The company also is shipping a new version of its application server, or software that runs e-commerce transactions, company executives say.

Oracle’s theme for the conference is that its forthcoming next-generation products are faster, better performing, more secure and easier to manage than ever before, said International Data Corp. analyst Carl Olofson.

Oracle still holds a commanding lead in the database market. Of the $11.1 billion spent on databases in 1999, Oracle captured 42.4 percent of sales, followed by IBM with 20.4 percent and Microsoft with 7.8 percent, according to IDC. Informix ranks fourth with 5.9 percent, followed by Sybase with 3.9 percent.

The company also competes against IBM, Microsoft, the Sun-Netscape Alliance, BEA Systems and others in the exploding market for e-commerce software and tools.

Oracle announced its new Oracle 9i application server with new Web caching technology that will speed up the delivery of Web site information to Web surfers. An application server is software that runs Web transactions by managing traffic between Web browsers and back-end databases.

Instead of having one huge farm of application servers to run a Web site, the new caching technology will allow companies to cut down to one Oracle application server, said Bob Shimp, Oracle’s senior director of Internet platform marketing.

Caching software replicates Web site information stored in databases and helps deliver information to Web surfers faster because sites don’t have to retrieve database information each time a request comes in. Previous Oracle caching technology handled “static” Web pages, or Web content that doesn’t change. The new technology can handle Web content that changes repeatedly, such as stock quotes and bids on online auction items, Shimp said.

Oracle is also announcing a new version of its software management product, called Oracle Enterprise Manager, that can monitor the health of the application server and database from a single computer.

On Wednesday, Oracle will join high-end storage equipment maker EMC and networking powerhouse Cisco Systems in a plan to make it easier for companies to build complex networks. In a keynote address, EMC chief executive Mike Ruettgers is expected to announce the three companies will cooperate to make sure their equipment works well together.

The announcement will build on last year’s partnership between Oracle and EMC to jointly develop, test and promote their products.

Although center stage at OpenWorld will likely be devoted to the introduction of 9i, some analysts say the company will also spend time promoting its momentum in other lucrative software sectors such as customer relationship management (CRM), Net marketplaces, and application hosting, or the renting of software over the Web.

Oracle, like close competitors SAP and PeopleSoft, has been moving aggressively in the CRM market – a field widely viewed as the next big land grab and so far dominated by rival Siebel Systems.

Shortly after the release of CRM 11i, which incorporates the company’s CRM suite with a Web version of Oracle’s flagship enterprise resource planning (ERP) software, Oracle said applications software soared 61 percent to $447 million, fueled by 161 percent growth in CRM sales.

ERP software automates a company’s back office – financials, human resources and manufacturing operations – while CRM software automates the front office, or sales, marketing and customer service functions.

Oracle “is going to be touting 11i at OpenWorld as the next e-business Internet platform,” said David Boulanger, an analyst at Boston-based AMR Research. He added that much attention will fall on its Web-based CRM suite.

While Oracle sales representatives have proved their ability to sell the software, the question Oracle still needs to answer is whether businesses have successfully implemented it, he added.

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