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Oracle's New Drive for Developers

SAN FRANCISCO -- Oracle is approaching its legions of developers with a new set of tools and incentives to invigorate its install base.

The Redwood Shores, Calif.-based software giant announced the start of Project Columbus, a platform for developers made by developers that is expected to launch in earnest next year. Oracle also announced Oracle JDeveloper 10g Release 2, which debuts the company's Application Development Framework (ADF) Faces, graphical components that are based on the JavaServer Faces (JSR-127) specification.

Chuck Rozwat, Oracle executive vice president, said the company realized it needed to revise its developer tools using graphical interfaces to match the success that Microsoft enjoys.

To that end, Rozwat said Project Columbus is being viewed as a start-up project to address the needs of database developers to engineer a complete life cycle of building, managing and updating a database.

"The goal is to build a tool for the bulk of our installed base which is database developers who've been neglected," Rozwat said during a press briefing at Oracle's OpenWorld conference here. "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."

To bridge that gap, the executive said Oracle inked a deal with Microsoft this week to let its developers access Oracle software via Visual Studio. The collaboration is expected to help Oracle databases collaborate better with Microsoft SQL Server.

Graphical interfaces in development tools are gaining value, according to analysts, as companies demand that applications have more meaningful conversations with those who build, manage and maintain those applications and services.

If Project Columbus helps Oracle's enterprise customers discover new, less-expensive and time-consuming routes to database-related development, similar benefits could be on the horizon, said Michael Dortch, a principal business analyst with IT infrastructure consultant Robert Francis Group.

"Companies such as BMC Software and Computer Associates have done well by making database administration easier and cheaper," Dortch told internetnews.com. "This is often done by putting a graphical interface in front of the task, making it less daunting to employees not deeply experienced in the field. Since these employees are often cheaper and more plentiful than experienced database administrators, those graphical interfaces often translate directly into lower TCO and other business benefits."

Oracle is also addressing its large install base of Java-centric developers with the release of its next-generation Oracle JDeveloper 10g.

The database software giant said Release 2 includes Oracle Application Development Framework (ADF) Faces, a rich set of GUI components that implement the JavaServer Faces standard and improve productivity for Java developers building Web interfaces.

The new JDeveloper 10g also features enhanced Java editing, compiling, and deployment, as well as XML coding features like an XML Editor, XML Schema Editor and XSLT Mapping tools. The developer platform also comes with improved code navigation, hierarchy browsing, code re-factoring and code templating features to help streamline the development process.

Oracle said Release 2 even includes major enhancements to support team development, including better cooperation with Concurrent Versions System (CVS) and Clearcase for source code management.

In separate news, Oracle announced the Oracle Space Sweepstakes where the winner can participate in a suborbital space flight to experience weightlessness and view the earth from 62 miles above the surface.