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Informix jumps into e-commerce

The database maker has suffered several rocky financial years, but believes e-commerce and data warehousing will help it regain its profitability.

Informix is hopping onto the e-commerce movement.

The database maker today is releasing e-commerce software for medium to large businesses to build online stores, part of its overall strategy to sell more databases, Informix executives said.

Menlo Park, California-based Informix has suffered several rocky financial years, but believes e-commerce and data warehousing will help it regain its profitability.

Embracing e-commerce is a smart strategy for Informix because database makers are best suited for the market, according to analyst Don DePalma of Common Sense Advisory.

"E-commerce is about the ability to manage large amounts of transactional data, inventories, collecting information and managing customer profiles," he said, describing the functions of a database.

Informix today is releasing a suite of four Java-based products called i.Sell to help businesses create e-commerce sites: i.Sell Application Server serves as a traffic cop between the Web browser and information in databases and legacy mainframes; while i.Sell Tools offers a set of tools, including an Informix database, to develop and maintain a Web store.

The other two pieces are Personalizer, software that profiles customers and allows businesses to target advertisement or content to their specific interests, and Merchandiser, which offers components needed for an online store, including a shopping cart and payment processing.

In July, Informix will release data warehousing software, which takes information from databases and give businesses detailed analysis and reports, said Wes Raffel, vice president and general manager for i.Informix division.

The company is working on other new features for its i.Sell software, including the ability to create auctions on Web sites, he said.

DePalma said Informix has a good chance to compete against other e-commerce vendors like the Netscape-Sun alliance, as well as startups such as Open Market. Informix needs to fill in holes to its product line, especially for the small business market, he said.

"Informix has ambitious goals, but they need to fill in more of the missing pieces," he said. "No one has a complete solution yet."

DePalma expects database giant Oracle to also dive into the e-commerce market. Oracle is in good position because of the recent release of its new Internet-centric database called 8i.

Informix's i.Sell software starts at $600,000. The company will help businesses build and integrate the software into their existing computer networks.