Oracle says the no-cost 11g Xpress Edition is still at least a year away

Users say Oracle's rollout plan shows the company doesn't really have an interest in driving adoption of the free database

It may be "a year or two" before Oracle releases a no-cost Express Edition (XE) of its 11g database, according to Andrew Mendelsohn, the company's senior vice president of database server technologies.

That's because Oracle is going to wait until after the first patch set ships for 11g Release 2, which was launched in July, Mendelsohn said in a brief interview following a speech at Oracle's OpenWorld conference in San Francisco on Monday.

[ At the OpenWorld conference, Oracle's Larry Ellison and Sun's Scott McNealy vowed that Sun's technologies will live on after Oracle's acquisition of Sun is complete. | Also at OpenWorld, Oracle played up its efforts to integrate its recently acquired technology. ]

Oracle took the same approach with the current 10g Express Edition, according to Mendelsohn, who oversees database development at the vendor.

Developers and ISVs (independent software vendors) prize XE because it includes many core features and allows them to prototype, deploy, and distribute applications without any licensing costs.

However, XE is limited to 4GB of user data, 1GB of memory, and a single CPU, and is available on only 32-bit Windows or Linux systems. Users with greater needs would need to upgrade to a paid database version such as Standard Edition.

Some Oracle database administrators believe there is a deliberate reason for the protracted rollout.

"It's an approach that ensures that adoption is nil," said Paul Vallée, founder of the Pythian Group, a database management outsourcing company in Ontario, Canada. "I don't think they're interested in adoption.... I think they have to have it out there just for maybe a check box, just to maybe say they have a free edition."

IBM and Microsoft also offer certain versions of databases at no cost.

Oracle simply isn't "gunning for market share in the free database segment," Vallée added. "If they were, the strategy would be to release this exactly the way it is and then sell support and commit to patch sets for it."

That is essentially the model Sun Microsystems has used for the open-source MySQL database. Oracle is attempting to buy Sun Microsystems for $7.4 billion, but the deal is on hold while European officials conduct an antitrust review.

Instead, Oracle wants lower-end customers to use a paid version of the database, such as Standard Edition One, said Pythian Group CTO Alexander Gorbachev. A Standard Edition One processor license costs $5,800, according to Oracle's latest price list.

It's unclear how the arrival of MySQL will affect XE, or any other aspect of Oracle's database strategy, Vallée said.

Oracle plans to increase investment in MySQL, CEO Larry Ellison said during a keynote Sunday.

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