Raw Iron Database No OS Substitute

Oracle Corp. would like to see some databases run on servers with a miniature operating system -- thus eliminating the need for Microsoft Corp.'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 Chief Executive Officer 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 Corp.'s microprocessors, allowing users to steer entirely clear of a full-blown server operating system, such as Windows NT. [See: "COMDEX: Ellison Details 'Raw Iron' Project," Nov. 17.]"We're sticking with NT," said Shel Cooper, technical services director at Nypro Inc., a plastics molding company in Clinton, Massachusetts. "[Larry] Ellison has been trying to get at Microsoft for many years," he said. But the rivalry between the two companies doesn't interest Nypro; instead, the company wants to have a database and operating system solution that works, he said.

"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. But for now, with a network of 1,000 PCs and NT on the backend, 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 United Parcel Service Inc. in New Jersey. "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, Nebraska. "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.

But Microsoft discounted 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.

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