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Comdex coverage by CNN and

Users wary of Oracle lightweight OS idea

November 19, 1998
Web posted at: 6:35 PM ET

by Kristi Essick


(IDG) -- LAS VEGAS - Oracle would like to see some databases run on servers with a miniature operating system thus eliminating the need for Microsoft's Windows NT, but enterprise users at Comdex/Fall '98 this week remained wary of the concept.

A project dubbed Raw Iron, detailed by Oracle Chairman and CEO Larry Ellison this week at Comdex, would let Oracle's 8i database run on a microkernel composed of different elements from several operating systems. The database will virtually run on top of Intel's microprocessors, allowing users to steer entirely clear of a full-blown server operating system, such as Windows NT.

"We're sticking with NT," said Shel Cooper, technical services director at Nypro, a plastics molding company in Clinton, Mass. "Ellison has been trying to get at Microsoft for many years," he said. The rivalry between the two companies doesn't interest Nypro because it wants to have a database and operating system solution that works, he said.
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"A whole bunch of people jumped on the NC concept and it didn't work," Cooper said. Before deciding whether Raw Iron servers would be worthwhile for Nypro, Cooper said he would wait and see what happens in the market. For now, with a network of 1,000 PCs and NT on the back end, the company isn't considering changing course.

Another Windows NT user said he was interested in Oracle's position, but he hadn't heard enough about the project to judge whether it would be worthwhile or not to purchase the Raw Iron Oracle 8i servers.

"I'm not sure about Oracle's strategy (with Raw Iron)," said Gerald Glove, campus support manager for UPS in N.J. "We are wired-in forever with Microsoft."

UPS already has made a huge investment in Microsoft operating systems, applications and databases, he said. With the infrastructure UPS already has in place, it wouldn't make sense to switch to Oracle databases in a non-NT environment, he said.

However, another user was more keen on the idea of an NT-free server environment running an Oracle database.

"I am interested in Ellison's Raw Iron," said Matthew Meyer, an NT administrator at MDS Harris, a pharmaceutical research firm in Lincoln, Neb. "I'm always interested in options."

MDS has an Oracle database running on the OpenVMS platform, but the company has considered moving to a more Windows-based database environment because most of its applications and desktops are Windows-based. However, if the new Oracle 8i database would run on a non-NT machine that allowed users to connect to the database using the proprietary interface they are used to, it would be very interesting to MDS, he said. A Microsoft database would mean learning a whole new system for employees.

"Not having to teach people to use the Windows layer would be worthwhile to us," he said.

Microsoft saw the Raw Iron announcement as an attempt by Oracle to offer another competitive database to Microsoft's SQL Server. For years, Microsoft and Oracle have gone head-to-head in the database market, said Tom Pilla, a spokesman for Microsoft. Pilla dubbed Raw Iron "NC 2.0," saying it was just Oracle taking another stab at trying to offer a non-Windows-based networked server model.

Commenting on the fact that Raw Iron servers would eliminate the need for a full-blown operating system, Pilla said that the offering was simply another option for users. If users want to use Raw Iron database servers in place of SQL Server on NT, it isn't much different than using Unix or Linux underneath, he said.

Microsoft is aware that some companies might not choose to use a Windows-based model, but that is part of competing for customers, he added.

"We can't just sit there and worry about what other people are doing," Pilla said.

Kristi Essick is Senior European Correspondent for the IDG News Service.

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