Lots of activity about Oracle XE over the past couple of days! I figure that I just wouldn't be "cool" if I didn't weigh in on the topic, so here goes: Brilliant!
Here's why: Pure simplicity. Take the situation which happened today: I download Oracle XE and go to install it on my laptop. Download took about 1 minutes, install another 4-5, and I'm was up & running, HTML DB and all.*
My officemate, at about the same time, decided to install Oracle Enterprise Edition and HTML DB on his laptop, just so he could learn HTML DB and perhaps close a piece of our production environment. Needless to say, the download of 10gR2 alone took longer than the install of XE. I was gleefully clicking away, while he sat there, counting the bits as they flew by.
This is one of the largest benefits of Oracle XE – small, compact size with most of the power of the Oracle Database. While Oracle software has always been available for anyone to download, what was the use if you know that legally you couldn't afford to use it for production. It was like test driving a Lamborghini - sure, it could be a lot of fun, but at the end of the day, your time is better spent researching cars that you can afford (appologies to anyone who can afford a Lamborghini) With that barrier removed, I think that many shops who went with other databases on purely a cost basis will take another look at Oracle.
But is it really ready for production? While some may argue that remains to be seen, I would think that aside from the initial glitches, yes, it is. It's not a new set of code – rather, it's the Oracle kernel stripped down and contained in a finite disk & memory space. It would be interesting to see something like asktom.oracle.com running on Oracle XE. It shouldn't be hard, as moving the HTML DB application is trivial – all that would have to be moved is the data, which isn't all that difficult, either.
Truth be told, Oracle XE is going to force many organizations to take another look at Oracle, based purely on cost. Many of these organizations will find that they like what they see, and for smaller projects, may need nothing more. A significant number of these organizations may even upgrade to SE One, SE or even EE, as their needs expand.
As a small business, I couldn't be happier! Hosting my own sites in HTML DB just got a heck of a lot cheaper for both me and my clients. And I feel 100% confident that should their needs outgrow XE, they can easily transition to one of the for-cost editions of the database.
As a final thought, I can't help but think of the poster hanging on the wall in the Parter Technology Center in Reston, VA: It's a picture of an F-16 with the Oracle logo, shooting down a bi-plane sporting the dBase or some other now-defunct database vendor's logo. The caption reads: "Oracle: The Last RDBMS" With the introduction of Oracle XE, we could be witnessing the beginning of a fresh round of the Database Wars, but this time, at the workgroup level.
*(Note: I did have an issue which some friends at Oracle helped to resolve. My username on my laptop (Scott Spendolini) has a space in it. There is a bug in the XE installation script which doesn't correctly add that user to the ora_dba group, and thus HTML DB doesn't work. A workaround is available on the XE Forums here. I'm told that this bug will be fixed before production. That's why it's labeled BETA!)