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IBM retools Informix database

The company unveils the first update to Informix's flagship database software since Big Blue acquired the struggling software maker for $1 billion in April.

IBM is giving recently acquired Informix a new shine.

IBM executives on Monday will unveil the first update to Informix's flagship database software since Big Blue acquired the struggling software maker for $1 billion in April.

IBM, the No. 2 database player, bought Informix to boost its efforts against market leaders Oracle and Microsoft in the $8.8 billion market for database software--technology used by businesses and Web sites to store, manage and retrieve data.

IBM has closed the gap in recent years, but Oracle still leads with 33.8 percent market share in 2000, followed by IBM with 30.1 percent and Microsoft with 14.9 percent, according to researcher Gartner. The remaining players--Sybase and Informix--had about 3 percent market share.

Since IBM's purchase of Informix, Oracle has attempted to lure Informix customers to switch to Oracle's 8i and 9i databases. But IBM is attempting to stave off Oracle by continuing to update and support Informix products. IBM executives also plan to jazz up the company's existing DB2 database product with new features acquired from Informix.

IBM on Monday will release Informix Dynamic Server 9.3, which makes the database easier to manage and more reliable, and offers customers better tools to analyze and use the data, said Jim Kelly, IBM's vice president of data management marketing.

New features include the ability to manage the database through the Web and new tools to analyze data based on geographic region, Kelly said. The geographic tool, for example, can let health care administrators compare the number of health clinics and the number of patients in certain areas to decide whether new clinics need to be opened to meet demand, Kelly said.

Another new feature is improved replication of information in databases. The feature allows a company to copy information in databases in offices throughout the world to improve reliability and make it faster for people to access information, Kelly said.

Gartner analyst Betsy Burton says IBM's new release of Informix's flagship database software will do little to reassure Informix customers.

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IBM also will ship later this year new software, called DB2 Relational Connect, that will allow Informix customers to connect the new Informix database with other databases, such as IBM's DB2, Oracle's 9i and Microsoft's SQL Server.

Kelly said IBM is working to update the remaining family of Informix products, including database tools aimed at financial institutions, as well as the Informix Internet Foundation, tools that will allow businesses to run and build Web-based applications.

"This is demonstrating our commitment to Informix customers and partners that we will continue to enhance and support the Informix portfolio," Kelly said.