Oracle's Project Columbus To Take On Database Development Complexity

"For database developers, we've lacked a tool that focuses more on the complete life cycle of building, managing and updating the database," said Chuck Rozwat, Oracle executive vice president of development for server technologies. The tool will be previewed publicly later Wednesday at Oracle OpenWorld in San Francisco.

"The goal is to build a tool for the bulk of our installed base which is database developerswho've been neglected," Rozwat said. "We're bringing together the function so they can use SQL or PL/SQL to program but have a graphical and easy to use tool," he said.

He acknowledged that in this quest, Oracle is responding to Microsoft which has long championed graphical and easy-to-use tools for even complex programming tasks.

Oracle is also working to make it easier for developers using Microsoft's popular Visual Studio toolset to build applications back-ended by Oracle databases. "We just signed an agreement with Microsoft so those developers can access Oracle software via Visual Studio," he noted. That should put Oracle databases on more equal footing with Microsoft SQL Server, he noted.

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Microsoft is definitely building in more interdependencies between its next-generation Visual Studio 2005 and SQL Server 2005. Indeed those development efforts appear to be in near lockstep.

With the upcoming Oracle 10g database, due to beta next month, and to ship in the first half of 2005, developers will also be able to call out to Microsoft's Common Language Runtime (CLR) engine, Mendelsohn said on Tuesday.

Rozwat expanded on that. "Microsoft SQL Server lets you write an application in C-sharp running on the CLR. That's parallel to what we did with Java in Oracle 8 where you could write stored procedures in Java," he noted.

CLR support means developers can write an application in Visual Studio and get visibility into the Oracle database, you can model and build databases using PL/SQL or simple SQL," Rozwat said.

Also at the show, Oracle previewed new enterprise search capabilities, also to surface in the first half of the year. The technology not only searches all types of documents and files in a company, but can provide a useful summary of returned hits in a new "Gist" feature. It was not clear however, how that technology will hit the streets. Asked if it were a component of the upcoming Oracle Collaboration Suite, due around March, Rozwat said packaging and pricing have not been determined.

A great deal of effort is going into the tool's graphical user interface to make it more user friendly, Andy Mendelsohn, senior vice president of server technologies told reporters on Tuesday.

Rozwat, in response to a question, also left the door open to potential pricing policy changes when multi-core CPUs gain prominence. Neither Oracle nor IBM have changed their database pricing plans to accommodate a new generation of multi-core CPUs and will charge per "core." Microsoft, on the other hand, has said it will charge per processor, regardless the number of cores.

Most pundits expect these dual- and then multi-core processors to start taking off in the server market next year. Rozwat said that, thus far, Oracle has reiterated its current pricing and licensing policies. "Microsoft has no enterprise-class business. Very few data centers run on SQL Server. They can try to get in this way. For IBM and us, we're evaluating [the issue.]" he said.