AILING United States computer maker Digital Equipment last week off-loaded its Rbd database and repository businesses to Oracle Corp for US$108 million in cash, as part of ongoing efforts to re-focus on core activities. Pending the approval of US regulators, the agreement will see the transfer of 250 Digital engineers, management and support employees responsible for the Rdb database to the Oracle payroll. The company said no layoffs would directly result from the sale, which follows similar down-sizing efforts that include the recent sale of Digital's disk-drive business to Quantum Corp and the off-loading of its 8.5 per cent stake in Italian computer vendor Olivetti. Digital Asia executives last week played down the significance of the spin-off as a cost-cutting exercise, preferring to characterise the move as a strengthening of the firm's strategic relationship with database powerhouse Oracle. Under the terms of the sale, Oracle agreed to create a dedicated Rbd development team - to be located in New England in the American northeast - and has committed to the continued development of the Rdb product. Digital vice-president and Asia region sales director Graham Long said the company would continue to be responsible for all existing maintenance contracts for 15 months or until they expire, after which maintenance would be handled by Oracle. The Rdb database has been a strong seller for Digital in Asia over the years, with more than 800 sites in the region that will be affected by last week's sale. Mr Long said ''about 15'' Digital staff in Asia involved in sales and support of Rdb would be transferred to the Oracle payroll as a result of the move. Access to Digital customers in the region should give Oracle a far larger user base to sell into, Mr Long said. Oracle agreed to port its Oracle 7 relational database, its Oracle Co-operative Development Environment (OCDE) and Oracle Co-operative Applications (OCA) to Digital's Windows NT for Alpha AXP platform. And in a move aimed at giving Digital greater access to information superhighway-related projects, the two companies agreed to collaborate in bringing the Oracle Media Server technology to its under-achieving Alpha AXP. The Oracle Media Server is a recently-announced multimedia library product that stores and manages digital information in any form - including video, still images, audio and text - and is designed to serve as a platform for services such as video on demand or home shopping. Mr Long said the companies expected to collaborate more often in presenting joint-bids on superhighway-related projects. The closer relationship between the firms included a new agreement under which the two would sell each other's software products on a non-exclusive basis, Mr Long said. ''If we are not bidding together more then we have missed something along the way,'' he said. ''We should be bidding together a lot more often and a lot more aggressively.'' Though the Rdb sale still has to be approved by US federal regulators, preparatory work to allow for greater collaboration between the two companies was well advanced, even at the country level. Management meetings between the offices of both companies in every Asian country had already been held, as well as meetings between Digital Asia boss Bobby Choonavala and Oracle's Asia-Pacific management. ''The sale of Rdb is really only a small part of this. What you are seeing is two companies coming together to sell and market databases,'' Mr Long said. ''You are looking at the biggest direct sales for in the world for computer databases.'' Meanwhile, Mr Long said, the flood of bad press concerning Digital's disastrous overall performance last year - including announcements that a further 20,000 jobs would be shed from the corporate books this year - had tended to overshadow the firm's continued growth in Asia. At a time when Digital's corporate offices was announcing massive losses, Digital Asia had one of its most successful years. ''We are now over a $500 million operation in Asia. We grew our total sales by 28 per cent,'' he said. ''Our PC business grew 250 per cent in Asia. We went from a $30 million business to over a $100 million business last year.'' In the past year Digital's PC business has grown from ''nowhere'' to become the sixth largest supplier in Asia and the 10th largest worldwide. ''This year we have more aggressive growth targets than we had before,'' Mr Long said. ''The reason we are able to do that is we believe that by focusing - for example, on workstation servers and software - and by putting that additional focus on that business rather than having our sales people trying to sell everything, we are going to grow that business rapidly.'' After a slow initial acceptance of the company's 64-bit Alpha platform, sales of the RISC-based platform had started to show significant signs of ''ramp-up'' in Asia in the last quarter, Mr Long said.