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IBM expands database software

New software could help Big Blue play catch-up with rivals Microsoft and Oracle in the $8.8 billion-a-year database market.

IBM will soon offer new database software with improved analysis tools that allow companies to examine business information and seek out patterns and trends.

IBM in early December will ship new DB2 database management software that analysts say will allow the company to play catch-up against rivals Microsoft and Oracle in the $8.8 billion-a-year database market.

IBM executives say the company for the first time will build two analysis tools into its database: "online analytical processing" (OLAP) technology that lets companies view simple reports such as how products are selling in a particular region or on a given date; and "data-mining tools," which build more complex reports by analyzing business data to discover patterns and trends.

Jeff Jones, strategy director for IBM's data management solutions, said the company previously sold a database package that offered one analysis tool or the other, but never the two combined.

"You can analyze data more quickly and find unusual results and conditions in the data much more quickly," Jones said. For example, an insurance company can use both tools to find fraud in insurance claims.

Analyst Keith Gile of Giga Information Group said IBM is following Microsoft and Oracle, which have offered similar features before.

"The tendency and trend over the last one-and-a-half years is to try to stuff as much functionality into the database," Gile said. "Oracle has pushed their OLAP server into the 9i database. Microsoft led the way by stuffing it into SQL Server."

Oracle executives called IBM's announcement "a minor release" and an attempt to steal some thunder from Oracle, which will hold its Oracle OpenWorld conference in San Francisco next week.

"They're Scotch-taping a data-mining solution," said Bob Shimp, vice president of Oracle database marketing.

Oracle Chief Marketing Officer Mark Jarvis said the company next week will announce an updated version of its 9i application server, technology that runs e-commerce and other Web site transactions. Oracle also will make available a new release of its Java software development tools and give details of a forthcoming update to the Oracle 9i database and more details of its strategy for Web services.

Oracle representatives said the company will announce which customers are using the 9i database's new clustering technology, called Real Application Clusters. The technology lets businesses harness multiple high-end computers to run large databases and to ensure reliability in the event of a failure.