Traditionally regarded as an enterprise-level contender, Oracle has thrown its hat into the entry-level database ring with its new Oracle Database 10gExpress Edition (Oracle Database XE). Like Microsoft SQL Server 2005 Express Edition and MySQL 5.0, Oracle Database XE is free for you to download, develop, and deploy. And like the competing products, it s quick to install and easy to administer and use. Built from the same code base as Oracle Database 10gRelease 2, Oracle Database XE is limited to 4GB of user data (not including Oracle system data) and 1GB of RAM. It can utilize only one CPU, even on a multi-CPU system. Unlike SQL Server Express, Oracle Database XE is a multiplatform product. There are 32-bit Windows and 32-bit Linux versions.

I downloaded Oracle Database XE from the Oracle Web site at http://www.oracle.com/technology/software/products/database/xe/index.html. The download is a 150MB executable file. Running the oraclexe .exe program launches the installation wizard. The installation process is simple, with the wizard asking for only a destination directory and passwords for the built-in administrative SYS and SYSTEM accounts. By default, the wizard installs the product in the C:\oraclexe directory. The database name is XE. When the installation is complete, the Oracle Database XE home page displays and prompts you to log on to the system. A handy Getting Started button on the Oracle Database XE logon screen provides help with logging on using the SYSTEM account, enabling user accounts, and building your first starter application.

I ran my tests on a 1.8 GHz white-box system with 768MB of RAM running Windows Server 2003 Enterprise Edition. I found its performance to be very good.

You manage Oracle Database XE with a Web interface. You can perform essentially all the important database management activities, including creating schema, adding users, submitting queries, and creating databases. However, like the full version of Oracle, you need to understand the relationships between databases, schema, and users to create new databases.

Oracle Database XE includes basic tools that let you create database applications and even build data entry forms. Even nondevelopers can use these tools to build applications that are rudimentary but serviceable. One nice feature is the ability to save both the application data as well as query results to .csv export files.

Developers can use different types of middleware to build applications. For example, .NET developers can use Oracle Data Provider for .NET (ODP.NET) or Microsoft s .NET Framework Data Provider for Oracle. Java developers can use Oracle JDeveloper. PHP developers can use Zend Technologies Zend Core for Oracle.. Plus, Oracle provides its own HTML DB, a Web-based application development environment.

Oracle Database XE is a good lightweight database. Its built-in management and application-building tools set it apart from the other lightweight databases, such as SQL Server Express and MySQL. However, the requirement for more knowledge about the product s architecture and database implementation make Oracle Database XE more complex to use than SQL Express or MySQL.

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Oracle Database 10g Express Edition
PROS: Includes management and basic application-building tools
CONS: Limited to 4GB of user data; more complex to use than some competing products
RATING: 4.5 out of 5
PRICE: Free
RECOMMENDATION: A very capable, lightweight database that is well suited for developing simple applications
CONTACT: Oracle * 650-506-7000 or 800-672-2531 * http:://www.oracle.com