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Oracle enters the middleware battle with application server

Oracle is making its bid for middleware dominance, with the noisy arrival of its Internet Application Server 8i.

Oracle is making its bid for middleware dominance, with the noisy arrival of its Internet Application Server 8i (Oracle iAS).

The application server fills out Oracle’s offering of its software portfolio, which simply put, consists of a database to collect and store the information; an application server to run the e-commerce transactions and a string of development tools — the Internet Developer Suite — to sew all the components together.

“We basically have three pieces,” Ayman Abouseif, manager, marketing and technology solutions, Oracle Middle East, told ACN.

“We have moved pieces from 8i [database] into iAS. We have also synchronised the release times from now onwards between the application server and the database.

"There is also total synchronisation between the APIs, so if you want to move a piece of code, lets say an Enterprise Java Bean [EJB] from there to here, there are no issues whatsoever.”

Uphill Battle

However, Oracle’s upgrade to OAS v4, will face an uphill battle in an already crowded market place. Not only will iAS have to compete against IBM’s WebSphere, but also BEA Systems, Iona Technologies, iPlant E-commerce solutions and Microsoft.

According to Gartner Group’s Yefim Natis, iAS is likely to perform better than its predecessor, but the application server remains untested in the real world. “Oracle iAS has not been tested in production, its technical quality is unknown,” said the analyst.

“In addition, the other side of the coin of the tight integration with Oracle 8i [and iAS,] is a strong dependence on 8i.”
iAS, which is based on 8i infrastructure and was developed by 8i engineers, has been positioned by the database giant “as a kind of a remote agent of a DBMS,” said Natis.

But whether such a vision will sit comfortably with end users has yet to be seen. Natis claims that this is a vision “that does not have a broad market acceptance.”

The close integration between database and application server will also give iAS an ‘Oracle 8i only label,’ confining the server to a niche, albeit a large one.

“Although this is a large niche with a substantial market potential, enterprises should consider a commitment to Oracle iAS also to be — in cost cases — a commitment to Oracle’s DBMS and development tools,” explained Natis.

Large Installed Base

However, iAS’ Oracle only label is likely to work on their behalf, particularly in the Middle East, where the company will be able to leverage its large installed base of database and packaged and developed application end users.

“Oracle’s substantial installed base will likely give Oracle a notable market share in the market now dominated by BEA Systems, IBM, Sun Microsystems, Microsoft and other vendors of application server technologies. The ‘members-only’ vision, however, will remain a significant limitation to its growth,” said Natis.

However, users should be wary that Oracle’s iAS doesn’t become a “Trojan Horse,” that will likely tie enterprises to “greater Oracle product commitments over time,” warned Natis.

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