Oracle users jury-rig own thin clients

Oracle's thin-client applications are too late for many users who had to take matters into their own hands because the vendor's Windows-based client software was too slow. The desktop software's speed limits, coupled with a four-month delay in delivering the thin-client technology, prompted companies that use Oracle on wide-area networks to cobble together setups that off-load processing from PCs to application servers, according to users and analysts at the Oracle Applications User Group (OAUG) conference.

Oracle’s thin-client applications are too late for many users who had to take matters into their own hands because the vendor’s Windows-based client software was too slow.

The desktop software’s speed limits, coupled with a four-month delay in delivering the thin-client technology, prompted companies that use Oracle on wide-area networks to cobble together setups that off-load processing from PCs to application servers, according to users and analysts at the Oracle Applications User Group (OAUG) conference here.

Users still are rolling out the jerry-built installations, even though the Redwood Shores, California, company now is shipping applications based on its Network Computing Architecture (NCA). And for some, a shift to the NCA software isn’t likely any time soon.

“We’re getting hit by year 2000 issues now, and we basically want to stabilize this thing,” said Tom Pellow, Oracle implementation manager at Transport Canada in Ottawa. The government agency may not switch to NCA for two to three years, he added.

Transport Canada, which sets national regulations for air and water transportation, went live in April with a 700-user installation of Oracle’s financial applications. But it put the fat-client software on Windows NT servers, and users run the applications through Citrix Systems, Inc.’s WinFrame PC emulator.

The server-based setup boosts performance on the agency’s WAN and makes it easier to add bug-fix patches to the Oracle applications, Pellow said. “Oracle promised NCA last summer, and we certainly would have taken a look at it,” he said. “But they didn’t deliver in time.”

In January, a large consumer products maker turned on a similar Citrix-based Oracle installation that will be used by more than 3,000 workers. Oracle’s fat-client software “was simply too slow” to run on remote PCs, said the company’s Oracle project manager, who asked not to be identified.

That user also doesn’t expect to move quickly to the NCA software. “We spent three years trying to shake the bugs out of what we got from Oracle,” he said. “We don’t want to switch to another platform now.”

Oracle finally shipped an NCA version of its Release 10.7 applications in January. Last week it formally announced Release 11, which runs only in NCA mode.

“People did Citrix, and that was fine with us. We supported them,” said Ron Wohl, senior vice president of applications development at Oracle. “But we think NCA is three to five times more efficient on network performance.” But users who couldn’t wait for NCA still are putting Citrix’s technology into production, said Carolyn Waygood, an OAUG board member and head of Sapient Corp.’s Oracle consulting unit in Dallas.

Rockford Corp., a stereo equipment maker in Tempe, Arizona, took another thin-client approach last year by installing Oracle’s human resources software on a NetWare server instead of end-user PCs. The company said it plans to switch to NCA by year’s end.

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