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Russom wrong on Informix analysis



Russom wrong on Informix analysis

In response to the May 3 Soapbox column by Philip Russom, "Elephant graveyard's new management":

Information technology has a reputation for employing reasonably intelligent, objective, dispassionate people. Russom's article displays a perverted--yeah--prejudicial opinion of Informix customers. I am a user of one of these castigated databases, and it works so well I would be inclined to migrate to Raining Data rather than lose out on the flexibility it offers over some of the more juggernaut-like models such as Oracle.

Mapping a conventional business onto a U2 database is straightforward and reflects the Post-Relational (PRDMBS) concepts put forward by Ted Codd in the mid-'90s. Oracle, on the other hand, is based on Codd's late-'70s model. The trouble with juggernauts is that they are so heavily laden with layer upon layer of superfluous gloss (integrated modeling, integrated 4GL...integrated everything) that it causes the transportation level to lie "too deep in the water" to be maneuverable.

Consequently, when the environment changes and they pass through a flotilla of highly maneuverable models (yes, like U2), they cannot compete or outmaneuver them, so they give a loud blast on the marketing horn and plow straight through.

The trouble is, one day they will fail to recognize that the blip on the radar screen is not the usual toothless vessel and a Titanic error will be committed. The thing is, you have to understand the products to be able to understand the benefits. As our businesses change, extending a data set by adding a handful of new attributes and creating a few new files and indexes takes minutes and does not warrant software rebuilding at all in most cases, where in a juggernaut environment this is a major upheaval. Of course, quick-and-dirty measures can always be taken, but this is a buy now, pay later approach that tends to introduce major inefficiencies and forces regular re-engineering and database tuning exercises.

U2 is more of a hovercraft by comparison: highly maneuverable, portable over hugely disparate terrain, and about as "open" as PRDBMSes get. There used to be many vendors of this product range, but Raining Data and IBM are the only serious players left.

IBM now has a dilemma. Whether it wanted U2 or not, it's got it. If it capitulates and declares a "shutdown," the users will migrate to Raining Data's D3. If it decides to exploit the technology, it will need to throw some much-needed R&D into the arena to compete with Raining Data's latest Objects Development products.

If it decides to exploit the user base, it will shoot itself in the foot, and this will be taken as capitulation; this will be even worse than Informix's approach because that company at least moved U2 forward to some extent--well, they had to because U2 is the underlying technology for DataStage.

This last fact seems to have eluded Russom.

Much of what he says is plausible. Ascential Software did indeed "cream off" the best products and left the pile of databases for someone else to sort out. But everyone fails to realize that Ascential took with it a copy of the U2 Blueprint that underpins DataStage. So if we're playing "spot the dinosaur," maybe I can remind the author that anyone can save time on research by employing liberal quantities of prejudice, as he has to expert effect.

Ray Jones
Former chairman, Ardent User Group (U.K.)
Caerphilly, Wales