The announcement goes a long way toward giving credence to Microsoft's commitment to industry cooperation and openness.

On July 23, Microsoft announced and released the long-awaited Microsoft .NET Framework Data Provider for Oracle, which enables easy integration of .NET applications and Oracle databases. Because inability to access Oracle data through .NET applications has been a barrier to adoption of .NET, this release is a major one for Microsoft and its .NET initiative.

For many companies, .NET adoption has been tough because it requires significant capital investment in new hardware and software. Many companies have enormous investments in their Oracle database platforms and vertical applications. Those companies can't easily sacrifice this investment to adopt .NET. Creating a native Oracle data provider for .NET will give Microsoft a great .NET adoption and integration success. The announcement of the .NET Framework Data Provider for Oracle (along with Microsoft's work with Web services standards bodies) goes a long way toward giving credence to Microsoft's publicly stated commitment to industry cooperation and openness.

"The managed provider is intended to help customers with existing Oracle systems build great applications with Visual Studio .NET," said Sheryl Tullis, product manager for Microsoft SQL Server. "Of course, performance with SQL Server will always be better since it is tightly integrated with Visual Studio .NET, but we want customers to be able to build .NET applications and connect them to information in legacy Oracle databases."

The features of the new .NET Framework Data Provider for Oracle are impressive. The new product delivers a native .NET interface to Oracle, resulting in dramatically improved performance. According to Microsoft, the new data provider improves performance by as much as 200 percent compared with using an OLE DB driver for Oracle.

The new Oracle provider gives developers full access to data that resides in Oracle databases by offering a complete set of Oracle9i data types and full support for reference cursors and result sets returned by Oracle-stored procedures. The provider is compatible with the Oracle8i release 3 (8.1.7) client or later.

A particularly interesting element in this story is that Oracle released a .NET data provider a few months back. And Microsoft has publicly stated that it "actively encourage\[s\] this." The Oracle Data Provider for .NET (ODP.NET) is currently in beta. You can get the beta version at the URL below.
http://otn.oracle.com/tech/windows/odpnet/content.html

A few months ago, Oracle provided its own ODBC and OLE DB providers that work with Visual Studio (VS) and ADO. These releases might indicate that Oracle has decided to develop its products to directly support the .NET Framework and .NET development. If so, developers and IT professionals eventually will be able to compare the Microsoft and Oracle providers and decide for themselves which one to use. At the end of the day, both providers work with ADO.NET and the .NET Framework, so choosing between them will be a simple matter of comparing features and performance.

A Microsoft white paper ("Using .NET Framework Data Provider for Oracle to Improve .NET Application Performance") by Greg Leake summarizes the performance gains of the native Oracle provider for .NET over the OLE DB provider for Oracle. You can find the white paper at the first URL below. You can download the data provider and its associated documentation at the second URL below.
http://msdn.microsoft.com/library/en-us/dndotnet/html/manprooracperf.asp
http://msdn.microsoft.com/downloads/sample.asp?url=/msdn-files/027/001/940/msdncompositedoc.xml