Eight months after delivering the 9i application server, Oracle Corp. has brought its database counterpart to market, and at a cut-rate price.

The 9i database announced Thursday will be priced 65 per cent below its fiercest database competition, IBM’s DB2 offering, and “price competitive” against Microsoft’s SQL server, said Rene Bonvanie, vice-president of 9i marketing during a teleconference.

Oracle’s previous databases were priced according to the horsepower of the computers they were running on, “so the price would differ on a 500 MHz machine versus a 700 MHz machine,” explained Bonvanie. Now the price of 9i will be “fixed per processor.”

Larry Ellison, chief of Redwood Shores, Calif.-based Oracle, introduced the 9i application server at Oracle Open World last October. He said at the time that the database would follow, at an optimistic guess, in March of this year and the tandem products would comprise “our complete Internet deployment platform.” He described it as a similar scenario to when Bill Gates united desktop software into one release and called it Microsoft Office.

Now that the 9i database is about to see the light of day, the database and application server will not be sold as one product, as industry observers were led to believe in October. However, they have been designed to “work seamlessly together,” according to Bonvanie. “With Oracle 9i as a platform, we have the vision that these products should complement each other.”

Oracle’s predicted database debut is about three months short but, said Bonvanie, “it took us a good time to develop, because our goal was to change the economics of computing.”

To match its reduced sticker price, 9i database will feature a cost-saving architecture called Real Application Clusters. Bonvanie described a 9i cluster as a group of “cheap computers combined into a single logical computer” that will scale with each additional hardware node. The technology was developed through the cooperation of hardware vendors such as Sun Microsystems and Compaq, he added.

The database is set up to run enterprise software standards like those of SAP, PeopleSoft and Siebel Systems, and has been tested with 100 other ISV (independent software vendor) applications, said Bonvanie.

“When we deployed SAP software on . . . Real Application Clusters, we scale at a percentage of over 80, which means that each additional CPU you add to a cluster, you add 80 per cent more horsepower to the system.

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