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IBM builds analysis tools into DB2

The race is on between IBM, Oracle and Microsoft to fuse database software with analysis tools designed to help companies make business decisions.

The race is on to fuse database software with analysis tools designed to help companies make business decisions.

IBM said Thursday that it will soon release a new version of its DB2 database management software that includes built-in analysis features that let companies examine business information and seek out patterns and trends, such as online buyers' preferences.

Database makers have traditionally sold analysis software separately. But they've been working to integrate the software into their databases to make it simpler and faster for companies to analyze their information and to make the software more attractive to buyers. Database software collects and stores Web and corporate data--and having everything in one piece will make it simpler for companies to use the technology, database executives say.

Rival Microsoft last year built some of its analysis tools into its SQL Server 2000 database, and Oracle plans to incorporate its two high-end analysis tools into its forthcoming Oracle 9i database. The three competitors are all building in "data mining" features that not only examine information and seek out patterns and trends, but could also help make forecasts.

IBM executives are boasting that they will beat Oracle, the No. 1 database software maker, in building the analysis software into their databases. IBM will ship its new DB2 database by month's end, while Oracle plans to release its integrated 9i database before June.

Now it's turned into a war of words on who's coming out with a database first with built-in analysis software.

"Oracle has been touting this for the last year, and we're delivering it," said Janet Perna, general manager of IBM's data management operation.

Oracle executives scoff at that claim.

"We're going to blow right by them with Oracle 9i," said Jagdish Mirani, senior director of product marketing for Oracle's data warehousing group. "They're taking their first step, while we have a much more comprehensive business offering."

To be fair, Oracle's 9i will have the company's two high-end data analysis tools built in: Darwin, which seeks out patterns and trends, and Oracle Express, which can make predictions.

Perna said IBM's DB2 offering by month's end will feature one piece of its analysis tool called DB2 Intelligent Miner. The company plans to build other features of Intelligent Miner into its database in future releases, she said.

The data-mining capability that IBM is building in first is called a "scoring service." The technology will allow an e-commerce Web site to immediately analyze what a Web surfer is purchasing, predict other items that the buyer may be interested in, and offer those other items to that buyer, she said. The software will be made available as an add-on for current Oracle database customers, she added.

Meanwhile, Microsoft executives say everyone is following their lead.

"It's indicative of the trend that we've been setting in putting more value into the database offering," said Steve Murchie, group product manager for Microsoft's SQL Server product. "It's a direction we're driving."