IBM bets on 'info servers'

Are information servers the next big thing in infrastructure software? IBM says it has the first one.

IBM on Monday said that next month it will release a multipurpose "information server" that executives said represents a new product category that competitors will seek to replicate.

Big Blue is hosting an Information On Demand conference in Anaheim, Calif., this week where company executives detailed the IBM Information Server.

The server is meant to be a departure from traditional databases or file servers that typically store information for a single application. Instead, the information server acts more like a gateway to multiple information sources and can reformat data for specific purposes, company executives said.

For example, the server can query a sales application and merge that with inventory data from different sources.

Earlier this year, IBM singled out information management as an area of growth for its software and services business. It has acquired several companies to fill out its offering, including content management server company FileNet--a transaction that closed on Friday.

With the release of the IBM Information Server, the company is tying together several components into a single product, said Tom Inman, vice president of products and solutions for Information on Demand at IBM.

Specifically, he said that the server includes tools for "cleansing" data into a desired format and managing "metadata," which describes data in other sources. The server is based on data integration software IBM gained through its purchase of Ascential and other companies, IBM executives said.

"There are niche players that do these sorts of things, but nobody has the breadth and depth of IBM to put it together in one offering," Inman said.

Much like the application server emerged in the 1990s and became a multibillion-dollar market, information servers with a broad set of capabilities will also emerge "as a whole new category and something where competitors will follow suit," Inman said.

The starting price for the server, which includes a copy of IBM's DB2 database and WebSphere application server, is $125,000.

IBM's strategy is to create specific applications that work with the underlying information server, Inman said.

He said that IBM has developed fraud- and threat-detection applications aimed at law enforcement agencies and others.

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