SAN FRANCISCO — Early adopters of Oracle Corp.‘s 9i database product will appreciate scalability through clustering technology, but the company may be hampered by pricing models and the encroachment of competitors, according to one analyst.

Oracle introduced the first converts to its flagship database technology on Monday, the first day of the Oracle Open World conference in San Francisco. They spoke almost universally of its scalability and availability made possible by clustering technology called RAC (Real Application Clusters).

Enterprise software vendor Acxion Corp., for example, moved from Oracle’s 8i release to 9i, since it plans to double its total disk storage from 50 terabytes to 100 next year. Vector SCM — the company that automates General Motor’s supply chain — expects to save more than US$1.5 million in hardware costs by moving to 9i early next year, according to emerging technologies architect David Brown.

Most users, however, won’t require that kind of scalability and may be content to maintain their current platforms for the foreseeable future, said Carl Olofson, a database analyst with IDC.

“Certain factions of the user community are going to stick with what they’ve got,” he said, adding, “those interested will probably wait for a point release.”

The president of one Oracle user group was hard-pressed to name any 9i adopters. “I don’t know of any users currently,” said Joel Rosingana, who’s also a computer systems consultant based in Danville, Calif. The North California Oracle Users Group met on Nov. 15 in San Francisco, and not one member of the 200-strong crowd said they had moved to the new release, according to Rosingana.

It may take a while for the market to catch up to Oracle’s gameplan, said the company’s vice-president of server technologies Ken Jacobs. “It takes some time for people to deploy these applications. They’re not going to all deploy day one, they’re going to wait for their (next) business cycle,” he said. Jacobs said he anticipates wider adoption in the next two or three months.

But it could be that Oracle is actually too far ahead of the curve on clustering technology. “RAC is an unknown in the minds of many users,” explained Olofson. “It solves a problem that not everyone has.”

On top of that, Oracle should look over its shoulder. Microsoft and IBM have made gains in the database market through aggressive marketing and pricing campaigns, said Olofson. Oracle has priced itself out of some markets by offering the enterprise edition of 9i as one large bundle of a reported 500 features. “It may be that this packaging is too rigid for the market,” he said. IBM, for example, takes a different tack by offering a lower price for its DB2 database, then charging extra for requested add-ons.

A developer for Markham, Ont.-based DataMirror Corp. agrees with Olfson’s summation that adoption will be slow at first. “There’s very few people on 9i yet,” said Ken Giffen. “It’s a slow transformation. For a lot of them, there’s no compelling reason to upgrade.

“They’re waiting for 9i release two, just like any other hunk of software. They’re being prudent.”

DataMirror builds data replication tools for Oracle and other database platforms. Early next year the company will make a tool called iReflect. The product is designed for the 9i platform and will take advantage of some of its unique properties, said Giffen. He said 9i is “stable and works well” and expects to see some migration to the database in the first half of 2002.

“(Customers) are looking for a big benefit for them to move up to it,” said DataMirror’s product manager Brian Butler. But some users may be forced to upgrade before long, he said, since Oracle is notorious for removing support for older products quite quickly.

On Monday, Oracle announced support for 9i on the Itanium platform, and an extension of its agreement with Compaq Corp. for pre-configured 9i solutions on AlphaServer. (The RISC-based AlphaServer will be phased out in favour of Itanium technology by 2004, though Compaq representatives maintain the company will continue to support the Alpha until 2010.)

Open World continues until Friday.

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