Morten Lundal, chief executive officer of Nextra and Telenor Business Solutions, said: "The trend for selling Web-based software has long been expected but now it is truly happening. Despite the ongoing pessimism in our industries, this will be an important market for Europe and it will be the most effective way to access software and services online."
Nextra is responsible for the hardware and high-speed network connections needed for the service. It has already begun hosting Oracle's software from "nuclear bomb-proof hosting facilities", called "superhubs", Lundal said.
The superhubs are located in Norway, Germany, the UK and Switzerland, and more will "be rolling out across Europe based on the success of these first [ones]", Lundal said, though he gave no timelines for expansion.
"In terms of what Oracle software is available, there are 120 possible models in our business suite which are all ready to go," said Sergio Giacoletto, Oracle's executive vice-president for Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
In February, Oracle launched a free, online customer care service, Support.Oracle.com. It had previously introduced a similar service for sales staff, Sales.Oracle.com in August 2000. Though basic services are initially offered free, customers are charged a small monthly fee for what Oracle termed "more advanced functionality".
The new venture with Nextra will add that functionality as well as other products and 24-hour a day service for a monthly fee, Giacoletto said. The service will be aimed mainly at medium-to-large European companies.
"Oracle already has 125 paying customers for similar services in the. We do have some software services that are free, but it's not going to be free forever, don't worry about that. We have been testing the model in various ways," Giacoletto said.
Oracle already serves 3,600 customers in Europe, to whom it has been providing localised versions of its E-Business Suite and Oracle9i Application Server and database products.
Oracle and Nextra are also offering a "complete incubator environment to aid European independent software vendors in developing and deploying software applications, as an online service built on the Oracle platform, Giacoletto said. "Providing software as a service will open up a lot of new opportunities to businesses."