Microsoft made available as a free download a new driver called the .Net Framework Data Provider for Oracle. The driver is based on a similar technology that allows Windows developers to tie their applications to data stored on Microsoft's SQL Server database software.
"It gives developers access to an Oracle database in much the same way they have access to SQL Server," said John Montgomery, group product manager for Microsoft's developer division.
Microsoft has developed a general database access architecture for its .net development platform called ActiveX Data Objects .Net (ADO.Net), which allows developers to programme applications that can pull data from a variety of database software, such as IBM DB2 and products from Oracle.
However, ADO.Net does not give developers the same advanced features available for building applications that access SQL Server databases, Montgomery said.
"ADO.Net generally assumes that the database is pretty stupid and databases are actually really smart," he said. "If you build a driver that takes advantage of the smarts, you can do a whole lot more."
Microsoft has made a habit of offering a variety of tools and technologies that allow its users to access third-party software applications, said Mike Gilpin, a research fellow with Giga Information Group. The newly released driver for Oracle is the latest example of that, he said.
"It will certainly improve the ability of developers to use the Visual Studio .Net tools to build applications that use Oracle," Gilpin said.
Microsoft will also take part in an announcement today regarding a deal with software maker Covalent Technologies, which makes software based on the open-source Apache Web server, according to a Covalent spokeswoman.
The San Francisco-based software maker is expected to detail new support in Visual Studio .Net that will allow Windows developers to build Web applications that can be deployed on an Apache Web server, rather than Microsoft's competing Internet Information Server.
Version 2.0 of the Apache Web server, which was released in April, came with enhanced support for Windows.
Without commenting on the expected Covalent announcement, Montgomery said that Microsoft was always working to make its operating system platform friendly to software products that compete with its product line. "We realise that our customers do actually have other products than Microsoft," he said.
The enhanced developer support for Oracle's database software and the Apache Web server "opens up the Windows environment to a wider range of alternative technology choices, which is certainly desirable from the standpoint of Microsoft customers," Gilpin said.