Before I dive into my feature roundups, allow me to reflect for a moment on the PL/SQL language and its future in the Oracle environment. Why would I feel the need to do this? I can answer with one word -- Java.
Contrary to popular belief, I do not hate or fear Java. I hold no animosity for a language that has at least the potential to unseat PL/SQL as the dominant (used to be only) programming language inside the Oracle database. I have begun to study Java and have found that it's very different from PL/SQL and much more powerful.
There is no doubt that we will all need to be proficient enough with both languages to be able to:
Decide which language is best used to solve a particular problem
Call Java stored procedures from PL/SQL, and vice versa
So yes, Oracle supports interoperability between these two languages, and we need to be ambidextrous when it comes to "left brain" PL/SQL and "right brain" Java.
The big question or rumor that has floated around the Oracle world lately, though, is a more troubling one: will Oracle simply abandon PL/SQL for Java? Not only would that put me out of business, it would also cause tremendous upheaval in the Oracle customer world. It is simply not going to happen, and the best way to demonstrate that fact is to see the forward motion in the PL/SQL language.
When object technology was first introduced in the Oracle database and in PL/SQL (in Oracle 8.0), a debate raged within Oracle headquarters: should PL/SQL become a full-fledged object-oriented language? Should it remain focused on what it does best? Now with the incorporation of Java into the Oracle database, this debate has been resolved. PL/SQL is the premier database programming language (specific to Oracle but superior to the others, such as Informix's 4GL and Sybase/Microsoft's Transact-SQL), as demonstrated by the adoption of many PL/SQL features and syntax into the ANSI standards. Oracle will focus its energies on maintaining that position.
What we see in Oracle 8.1 and what we will continue to see in future releases is a permanent revolution in the PL/SQL language, with the goals of making it ever easier to use, more efficient, and more functional. Hey, they are even exploring the possibility of compiling PL/SQL programs! Now that would be a turbo-charged PL/SQL. Of course, the proof is in the programming. What have they done for us lately? What can we do with PL/SQL in 8.1 that we couldn't do before? Join me on a journey into the depths of Oracle8i Release 8.1 to answer these questions.
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