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Informix mixes, matches databases

The company is taking an a la carte approach to database technology in detailing its future software releases.

Informix Software is taking an a la carte approach to database technology.

The company is this week detailing its future database software releases that will be offered as a set of core database engines and add-on technologies for supporting data warehousing and online transaction processing applications, according to David Appelbaum, a vice president of product marketing at Informix.

Informix is hoping that the new technology will set it apart from such competitors as Oracle, IBM, and Microsoft. Appelbaum said those companies have focused more on adding additional features to a single, monolithic database server, while Informix is splitting its flagship Universal Server into a set of products specialized for particular applications.

Starting later this year, Informix will begin offering two database products code-named Centaur and Yellowstone.

Centaur, expected to ship mid-year, will be positioned as a database server for online transaction processing, including application and e-commerce systems. Informix is also trying to span the database warehouse and application server markets by including some application server-like technology in Centaur. For instance, the new server will support development for both Java and Component Object Model technology and will offer bridges to enterprise resource planning and other databases.

Centaur will also support multiple Java virtual machines, which can be added as components to the database server, Appelbaum said. Informix will support JVMs from Sun Microsystems, Symantec, and Microsoft.

Access to data will also be supported through Microsoft's OLE DB interface, Appelbaum said.

Yellowstone, also expected mid-year, is targeted at data warehouse and decision support applications. The server will support large numbers of users and large amounts of data, mostly through the incorporation of technology from Red Brick Systems, which Informix acquired last year.

In 2000, the company will ship new versions of both Centaur and Yellowstone called, respectively, Pegasus and Independence.

Pegasus will include support for Common Object Request Broker Architecture (CORBA) applications. Independence will include additional performance enhancements for very large amounts of data.

Informix also announced Visionary, a client data access tool The tool lets users "see data the way [they] want to see it, not the way the database wants them to see it," said Michael Stonebreaker, Informix's chief technology officer.

Stonebreaker said the tool is intended for building corporate "dashboards" and enterprise portals to let business users access corporate database. Visionary doesn't use a spreadsheet table metaphor, as many data analysis and presentations tools do.

Instead, it presents a two-dimensional scene where the user can pan around, and drill down to see more information on a given object. For instance, a user can examine customer records, then drill down you can get more information on a particular customer.

The tool is linked to Informix's Universal Server database and is meant to give users a basic tool for manipulating the various data types that can be stored in the company's database.

Stonebreaker said Visionary applications can be built more like PowerPoint presentations than typical business applications that require development tools and skilled programmers.

The tool can also access databases from other makers, such as Microsoft SQL Server, Stonebreaker said. The tool can also be configured and deployed as an ActiveX control, so it can be integrated into other Windows-based applications and Web browsers.

Visionary is now shipping. A starter pack which includes 10 Universal Server licenses, 10 Visionary licenses, and training costs $37,000. Additional client licenses are priced at $500.