Oracle enhances iFS

Oracle has enhanced its Internet File System (iFS) with the latest upgrade of the company's flagship database product.

Oracle has enhanced its Internet File System (iFS) with the latest upgrade of the company's flagship database product.

The latest release has many new features and continues to address important Internet standards. Oracle customers should view Oracle 9i as a continuation in building a foundation iFS infrastructure and not as a Web content management (WCM) product in its own right.

The upgrade does not initially place Oracle in direct competition with WCM vendors. Customers should be sceptical of how much functionality is delivered by Oracle 9i without the purchase of a WCM product.

Slowing growth in the database market and pressure to increase revenue has lead Oracle to focus on building extended capabilities into the 9i database. The extended capabilities are directed at content and file management. Oracle continues to enhance 9i, looking towards an enterprise-wide file repository.

The long-term execution of this strategy will place Oracle in direct competition with WCM application vendors and potentially with Microsoft file system infrastructure.

The key enhancements to iFS include:

1. Native support for Extensible Markup Language (XML) data types

2. Addition of metadata to files

3. Editing of documents stored in 9i through WebDav 1.1

4. The ability to store multiple media types in 9i

5. Search-capability for files both internal and external to 9i

These features will be very attractive to enterprises with homegrown WCM systems. The ability to build these systems on a robust
"Building a single file and database repository based on a single vendor is risky at this time"
Robert Markham
Oracle infrastructure through the Oracle 9iFS Developer's Kit will ease development and maintenance costs.

However, Giga believes companies should avoid building custom WCM applications, because commercial off-the-shelf products far surpass the capabilities of most homegrown systems at an overall lower cost.

Enterprises which store a large number of media types, such as medical, satellite imaging and publishing businesses, will also be attracted to this strategy.

Oracle 9i features present a double-edged sword to WCM vendors. Add-on functionality will be easier to deliver on the Oracle platform. WCM vendors will also recognise that this is part of a longer-term strategy to become a direct competitor. Microsoft has taken a much more direct approach with the purchase of Ncompass.

Building a single file and database repository based on a single vendor is risky at this time. In theory, the idea has been around for a long time, but due to processing limitations and bandwidth constraints, it has been adopted by very few enterprises.

Ingres was probably the first incarnation of extended data types. A much more widely-known implementation is binary large objects (BLOBs), implemented by Informix and called DataBlades in the mid 1990s.

The implementation of XML standards may finally bring more widespread adoption and usable implementations to this strategy. The purchase of Informix by IBM will accelerate the competition to provide customers with an ideal implementation.

It remains to be seen if Oracle 9i can be tuned for high performance when working with both standard relational database and file system functionality

Maintain a healthy scepticism when looking at the content management capabilities of the enhancements to Oracle 9i. Most importantly, be aware that these features are related to infrastructure and do not stand alone as a content management product.

Review requirements carefully and decide if a full-featured product is a more appropriate choice. The next generation of databases from Oracle and IBM should be watched closely for extended Internet and e-business functionality.

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