Oracle Corp. customers will see the benefit of the company’s new Glue middleware immediately: Glue’s architecture is built to take advantage of the optimization features of the Oracle database server. But while Glue has a strong architecture, its success will depend on its acceptance and use by other software vendors.
PC Week Labs examined a beta version of Oracle’s middleware, a software layer that allows front-end software to talk to back-end databases. Glue takes middleware a step further by including E-mail and personal digital assistants (PDAs) as data sources that can be linked into the corporate data network.
Oracle’s short-term plan for Glue, which is set for release in March, is to use the product as an API (application programming interface) that is optimized for the Oracle database server and easily implemented from any front-end software.
In the long term, Oracle will pit Glue directly against Open Database Connectivity (ODBC), Microsoft Corp.’s middleware solution, and the Integrated Database API, middleware technology from a consortium of vendors that includes Borland International Inc., IBM and Novell Inc.
Oracle officials said they plan to release a driver for an ODBC connection in late 1993, which will give Glue users the ability to connect to popular databases such as Sybase Inc.’s Sybase and IBM’s DB2. In the interim, however, users will have to look to other middleware solutions to meet their database connection needs.
PC Week Labs found many of Glue’s Structured Query Language (SQL) commands easy to use and more compact than comparable commands used with Microsoft’s ODBC.
For example, ODBC required six lines of code to select records from an employee database and load them into a Visual Basic application, whereas Glue required only one line.
One reason Glue uses less code for tasks is its use of “containers,” memory areas into which Glue will put data selected from the database.
With ODBC, a memory area must be defined and then loaded with data, while a single Glue command automatically selects data and loads it into a memory area.
Oracle Glue’s API consists of 71 SQL commands grouped into a database, the Oracle SQL command set, and mail and PDA subsets.
PC Week Labs successfully loaded a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet with data from an Oracle database. Using only four Glue SQL commands embedded in an Excel macro, we were able to connect to the server, select a subset of data and disconnect from the server.
We were also able to use Microsoft’s Visual Basic application development environment to select and display data, both from an Oracle database and from a Sharp Electronics Corp. Wizard PDA.
The Glue PDA commands allowed us to use Glue to interact with the Sharp Wizard.
While the Wizard was in PC Link Mode and connected to our PC via a cable, we were able to read, record-by-record, from the Wizard and load this data into a Visual Basic form.
A middleware connection to various mail systems is not as important as providing connections to database servers, but it is nice to know that Oracle’s New Technology division is doing some advanced research in the area.
Glue currently works only with Oracle Mail, which is not surprising since Oracle Mail is built as a front end to the Oracle database.
In tests, the Labs was able to extract mail messages from Oracle Mail through a Visual Basic application with only a few Glue commands.
Oracle will have to devote a lot of development time to deliver connections to other mail systems, and the company will more than likely wait for a messaging API such as Vendor-Independent Messaging or Messaging Application Programming Interface (MAPI) to become mainstream.
Glue’s ability to connect Oracle Server to PDAs, or palmtops, is another area that might not have as much use today as it will in the future. Testing methodology
PC Week Labs tested Oracle Glue’s ability to connect Oracle Server with a variety of front ends, including Microsoft’s Excel. We also examined Glue’s E-mail capabilities as well as its ability to connect to PDAs.
We tested Oracle Glue on a 25MHz 386-based Compaq Computer Corp. 386/25 with 16M bytes of RAM and a 200M-byte hard-disk drive.
We ran version 6.0 of the Oracle database on a Sun Microsystems Inc. SPARCstation 1 running Unix.
Oracle Mail was run on a Sequent Computer Systems Inc. S81, a 486DX-based, 25MHz machine runing Sequent’s Dynix 3.11 operating system. The workstation was connected via Ethernet using TCP/IP as a protocol.