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Commentary: Customers need a road map

IBM's new release of Informix's flagship database software will do little to reassure Informix customers--and even less to make Informix products more attractive.

    By Betsy Burton, Gartner Analyst

    IBM's new release of Informix's flagship database management system will do little to reassure Informix customers--and even less to make Informix products more attractive in an intensely competitive market.

    Gartner client inquiries show that

    See news story:
    IBM retools Informix database
    Informix customers are nervous about the future. A number of large businesses are already developing plans to migrate away from Informix, if necessary--many of them considering competitive products from Oracle and Microsoft. The latest release is little reassurance of Informix's continuing viability.

    The major problem is that IBM has not clearly articulated credible priorities and differentiation for its multiple DB2 code lines, such as OS/390, Unix, AS/400 and NT, and for its seven different Informix products such as Informix Dynamic Server, Extended Parallel Server, Foundation2000, Red Brick and Cloudscape.

    Like Informix before its acquisition, IBM has stated that it plans to maintain all of its database product lines until customers make it clear that they do not need one or more of them. Customers don't believe that IBM can really support all its different code lines to the same degree, so they have no idea whether further investments in Informix would be justified.

    Gartner believes that this approach will strain IBM's integration and support resources to the point where it impairs the company's ability to execute a competitive product and business strategy. This situation is especially perplexing, coming as it does from a company that has long-established expertise in helping enterprise customers manage large software migrations.

    Questions remain, also, about the portfolio of embedded DBMS products and tools, such as UniData and UniVerse (U2), that IBM acquired with the Informix portfolio. These offerings have little synergy with Informix's higher-profile products and sell exclusively through channel partners. IBM may have contractual problems with these partners and may well have to spin off that section of Informix's business as a separate entity.

    Businesses considering new Informix purchases should put their plans on hold until they see a credible road map for the Informix products. Gartner believes that IBM will continue to support the Informix XPS product over the next five years. Informix IDS, Foundation2000, Cloudscape, Redbrick and U2 customers will likely begin to experience a decline in support and should immediately begin to consider other DBMS options.

    IBM's failure to share solid, detailed information with Informix customers and prospects will increase the percentage of businesses considering a migration to other database software such as Microsoft's SQL Server and Oracle.

    (For a related commentary on the separation of Informix's database and solutions businesses, see Gartner.com.)

    Entire contents, Copyright © 2001 Gartner, Inc. All rights reserved. The information contained herein represents Gartner's initial commentary and analysis and has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable. Positions taken are subject to change as more information becomes available and further analysis is undertaken. Gartner disclaims all warranties as to the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of the information. Gartner shall have no liability for errors, omissions or inadequacies in the information contained herein or for interpretations thereof.