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Informix takes aim at Oracle

The world's second-largest database software company, makes a wide-ranging announcement intended to present itself as a formidable challenger to market-leader Oracle.

Newly anointed as the world's second-largest database software company, Informix Software (IFMX) today made a wide-ranging announcement in Paris intended to present itself as a formidable challenger to market-leader Oracle.

Informix plans to strengthen its data replication, systems management, and Web deployment tools and has announced third-party agreements to provide key technology.

By year's end, the company plans to deliver distributed replication tools that bring it up to par with those already being shipped by Oracle and Sybase. Informix has previously been criticized for its replication technology, which has lagged behind other industry products.

The new tools, Informix-Workgroup Replication and Informix-Enterprise Replication, will be integrated into forthcoming database server updates at no additional charge. The tools allow for bidirectional replication between Informix databases running on any supported operating system.

To support replication between Informix databases and those from other vendors, the company has partnered with Praxis International to build a tool based on Praxis OmniReplicator. The tool, also expected to debut by year's end, will be priced at $595 per user.

To manage both native and heterogeneous replication, Informix plans to ship a management tool, called Replication Manager, as part of the next update to its database server.

The Informix-Enterprise Command Center, a new systems management tool, will allow database administrators to manage thousands of database servers from a central location. The first version, due by year's end, will integrate with systems management tools from Tivoli Systems, BMC Software, Hewlett-Packard, and other makers.

Command Center marks the company's debut in territory normally patrolled by the likes of BMC, a company that takes a database-centric approach to systems management. The tool allows administrators to manage database servers from a central console with a Microsoft Windows look and feel, all able to be seen through a Web browser.

The new tool also supports Simple Network Management Protocol, allowing it to interoperate with SNMP-based enterprise management platforms such as Hewlett-Packard's OpenView and Tivoli Systems' TME 10. That means that Informix databases can be managed in conjunction with routers, switches, and other devices.

Integration plans are also in the works with systems management partners BMC, Compuware, and Platinum Technology.

Command Center will be rolled out in two phases. The first will offer management of distributed databases from a single console and is due by the end of the year. The second version, slated for release in the second quarter of next year, will support Java and Netscape Communications' Internet Inter-ORB protocol, allowing the tool to interoperate with Web servers and to be customized with Java tools. The tool will also support CORBA-based object-oriented architectures. SNMP support is immediately available on all Informix databases.

Informix also has extended its existing agreement with Netscape to Web-enable all of the company's database servers. The two companies partnered in June to package the Informix-Online Workgroup Server and Online Workstation database with Netscape's Enterprise Server and Navigator browser.

The companies will now extend integration to Informix's Online Dynamic Server and Online Extended Parallel Server. Buyers of those databases will now have the option of purchasing the Netscape software directly through Informix sales representatives.