Oracle today [Thursday] unleashes 9i, the latest version of its flagship product, into a market where it has come under increasing pressure from IBM and Microsoft.
The firm has watched its share price steadily fall to $15.50 this year, down from a year high of over $46, thanks to the economic slowdown and a perception that it is losing its edge in the database market that up till now it has largely dominated.
Around 70 per cent of the firm's revenues come from database products.
While most commentators agree that Oracle remains out in front in terms of performance, the product's popularity has been hit by huge price hikes following changes to licence rules.
The changes have meant some customers facing bills of more than $1m in excess of the cost of rival products.
Analysts from both Gartner and Meta have advised their clients to examine closely whether the cheaper alternatives are good enough.
But Oracle is still the market leader, according to Gartner Dataquest figures, and is bullish over 9i's prospects. The firm says the product is more powerful, more reliable and will claw back any lost market share.
Originally scheduled for the spring, the late-launching 9i database includes real application clustering, based on cache fusion technology, which Oracle claims will allow limitless scalability with no drop in performance.
Other key features include DejaView, which allows data to be restored to its original state at any fixed time, and an application server cache function that stores web pages in memory.
It also boasts a flashback query function which allows error correction online if a mistake has been made in data entry (peviously, the database had to be taken offline) and a claimed 1300 per cent increase in traffic handling.
Oracle is hopeful that 70 per cent of 8i users will upgrade, but analysts have said that figure is way to high and that many customers will be looking for changes to be made to Oracle's pricing structure before they consider upgrading.
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