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Informix shopping for software firms

Informix is in the market for additional software companies to bolster its data warehousing and e-commerce lineups, according to chief executive Robert Finocchio.

Informix Software is in the market for additional software companies to bolster its data warehousing and e-commerce lineups, according to chief executive Robert Finocchio.

Informix, which last fall purchased data warehousing specialist Red Brick Systems, is shopping for smaller players to add data transformation, analytical tools, meta data management, and other specialized technology to its product lineup, Finocchio told CNET News.com.

We're looking at companies in the data warehousing space, and companies that can add functionality to the i.informix area," Finocchio said.

i.informix is the company's strategy for packaging its technology together with services to create ready-made e-commerce and information publishing systems.

Finocchio said the company will next month announce additional details of its e-commerce product code-named "Bazaar." As previously reported, Bazaar is a combination of Informix's Dynamic Server database, Java applications from Art Technology, and consulting services targeted at companies selling goods online.

Finocchio said Informix will use its expertise in data warehousing and Web site technology as a competitive advantage. For instance, "the ability to tightly couple a data warehouse to Web sites to do real-time profiling of customer's buying trends, is a huge opportunity" for Informix.

The continuing focus on data warehousing and custom-packaged applications should help the company to avoid head-to-head battles with market leader Oracle. But in the online transaction processing market, "Oracle is still our number one competitor," Finocchio said. "They're omnipresent. There isn't a transaction on earth where they are not competing for the business."

Finocchio said IBM remains the company's second most visible competitor, but he expects Microsoft to supplant Big Blue as it focuses more on high-end implementations.

In the Web area, to differentiate Informix from a huge crowd of competitors, Finocchio said the company will focus on the very high-end of the market. "Part of our message is bringing IT disciplines, industrial-strength solutions," to the Web development market.

The strategy is already beginning to pay off, he said. "We won a large order last week with an Internet start-up, a large, well-known company that needs our technology to scale." Finocchio would not identify the company.

Informix, which is beginning to climb back to fiscal stability after several rocky years, is in the midst of a complete product line revamp.

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

Centaur, expected to ship midyear, 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. Informix will support JVMs from Sun Microsystems, Symantec, and Microsoft.

Yellowstone, also expected midyear, 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.

The company's financial picture is looking much brighter these days, as well. In January, Informix, the No. 5 database-software maker, said its fourth-quarter profit more than tripled, beating estimates, boosted by a 12-percent increase in database software sales.

Shares of Informix have risen 35 percent this year on optimism that the company is repositioning its products in faster-growing areas such as data analysis.

While analysts generally applaud Finocchio for steering Informix to profitability, the former 3Com executive is hesitant to accept praise. "I won't declare that [we've turned the corner]. The work is not over. We're turning this into a different type of company," he said.