Oracle developers get .NET boost

Lost in the hoopla of the .NET lovefest in Redmond last week was the unveiling a technology that Microsoft officials promise can provide IT developers the ability to more easily integrate applications built on the .NET framework with Oracle databases.

The .NET Framework Data Provider for Oracle gives developers who use ADO.NET, a core piece of Microsoft's .NET Framework that has served as a workhorse interface for company databases in the Windows world, high-performance access to Oracle data.

Until now, Microsoft has been content to support generic .NET interfaces for databases from other vendors that could best be termed ''acceptable.'' For instance, the original .NET Framework included only a native ADO.NET driver for SQL Server. To use a database such as Oracle, developers had to go through an OLE DB interoperability layer, a method that offers only about ''half the performance'' of using a direct .NET connection, said Greg DeMichillie, an analyst at Kirkland, Wash., consulting firm Directions on Microsoft.

''You can still use OLE DB with ADO.NET, but it's much more efficient to have a native driver written specifically for ADO.NET,'' noted David Chappell, a principal at Chapell & Associates, a San Francisco consulting firm focused on enterprise software technologies.

Microsoft picked a good time to offer this type of performance increase. ''What we're seeing lately is that Microsoft environments in general are demonstrating the need for greater scalability,'' said Wayne Kernochan, managing vice president of databases, development environments and software infrastructure for Aberdeen Group, a consulting firm in Boston.

The new integration technology fits within the broader ''open and inclusive'' message that Microsoft has been cultivating within its .NET initiative. At the same time, the technology ''puts Oracle on a level playing field with SQL Server in terms of accessibility from .NET applications,'' said DeMichillie.

On the other hand, noted Kernochan, ''If Oracle weren't closely allied to Sun, this will give them a stronger impetus to provide this kind of Web services capability in conjunction with the Sun.One [development platform].''

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