Oracle placates “server huggers”

Have you hugged your server today?

In an effort to keep its e-business customers happy, Oracle Corp. Tuesday announced it will allow them to manage their own servers while Oracle takes care of databases and applications remotely. Previously, Oracle customers would have to allow the company to manage both hardware and software remotely.

The new configuration is something customers have been asking for, said president Tim Chou, during a teleconference. “We continue to see ‘server huggers’ out there; people who continually feel the need to see their system,” he said.

“What it allows us to do, in essence, is give people the entire capability of us supporting and managing the software, the applications, etc., while the hardware is located anywhere in the world, anywhere in the network,” he said.

Redwood Shores, Calif.-based Oracle has reached agreements with Compaq Computer Corp. and Sun Microsystems Inc., which will provide pre-configured servers to Oracle customers. Hewlett-Packard Co. may be the next server manufacturer added to that list. HP is currently the largest supplier of Unix servers in Canada.

Tuesday’s announcement may be particularly salient for the Canadian market, said Nora Lynch, director of e-business applications for Mississauga, Ont.-based Oracle Corp. Canada, since there are no Oracle hosting facilities north of the border. All Canadian customers must rely on American Oracle hosting centres.

“There’s more of a sovereignty issue where they want to physically have the hardware here in Canada,” said Lynch. “I think for companies that have both U.S. and Canadian offices, it’s not nearly as big of an issue.”

The keenest interest in the hosting model Lynch has seen has come from the medium-sized business market. Smaller companies may not want to deal with hardware set-ups. The response has been mixed from the enterprise side. (Bank of Montreal, for example, has elected to have Oracle host both hardware and applications.)

But by keeping hardware in-house, companies will still be able to run Oracle applications while adhering to their own admnistrative policies, she continued. “I think a lot of companies feel more secure in having the ability to have the hardware on their site. It could be corporate policies or something they want to keep consistent.”

It is a matter of comfort level, agreed Mark Allen, chief technology officer of Tantalus Communications Inc., a Vancouver-based systems integrator. “There’s a sense of ownership with the hardware system, as opposed to this nebulous cloud where your applcations run. I’ve had several different customers, not necessarily with Oracle apps, wanting to be on their own gear, from purely the aspect of comfort,” he said.

It’s enough of a concern that Oracle is by no means the first hoster to attempt this model, he added. It may also save customers money in the long-run: rather than using Oracle’s top of the line on-site servers, customers can use their own cheaper servers which meet mininum level requirements.

Oracle also announced Tuesday a new suite of online services for the small business market and Oracle Online Partner Network, a new partnership model that will include online software vendors, content providers, distributors, aggregrators and implementers.

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