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Universal data coming to Web

Both Informix and IBM are announcing new versions of their databases that aim to handle the full range of data that comprise intranet applications, including audio, video, and text.

The database technology heavyweights are gathered in New York City to carve up the data universe.

Informix Software (IFMX) and IBM (IBM) are announcing new versions of their databases--dubbed Universal Server and Universal Database, respectively--that aim to handle the full range of data that comprise intranet applications, including audio, video, and text.

IBM made its announcement today at the DB/Expo '96 conference in New York; Informix's is scheduled for tomorrow.

The two companies are playing catch-up with the database market leader Oracle, which has already begun delivering similar technology in a new version of its database called, confusingly enough, Universal Server.

All three companies are attempting to cash in on what they hope will be a rush by big corporations, which already have large database management systems in place for financial and human resources applications, to add Web faces to existing systems.

IBM's Universal Database is a new version of the company's DB2 database on Unix, OS/2, and Microsoft Windows NT operating systems. IBM began adding additional data type support earlier this year, but the new version adds new management tools and built-in data replication support.

Universal Database also merges the company's existing core technology called Common Server with DB2 Parallel Edition, a parallel processing database currently available only on IBM's Unix-based RS/6000 servers.

Universal Database is slated to ship by mid-1997.

Informix's Universal Server combines the company's relational database technology with multimedia data support obtained through the acquisition of Illustra Technology last year. Universal Server is already shipping on Unix operating systems, and a Windows NT version will debut in the first quarter of next year.

Microsoft won't be trumpeting anything universal this week, but the company is developing technology intended to deliver universal data support comparable to its competitors.

Instead of building a single monolithic database that stores everything, Microsoft intends to link separate databases that store relational, object, and multimedia data. Instead of one single entity like Informix, IBM, and Oracle offer, Microsoft will this way create a virtual multimedia database. Instead of database queries, client PCs will access it using OLE DB data access technology.

Microsoft has already delivered pieces of the technology and will continue to roll out additional components in the next year. One such component, Advanced Data Connector, is now in beta testing. It functions as data access middleware to open access to data stored in diverse information sources, according to the company. Microsoft has not determined how the ADC will be packaged or sold, said sources.

One side effect of all the entry of large database makers into the intranet back-end market will be increased competition between them for the attention of third-party Web developers.

For example, Oracle is trying to encourage third parties to make Data Cartridges that plug into Oracle's database server. Informix wants developers to make Data Blades for its Universal Server. Both Data Cartridges and Data Blades allow IS developers and value-added resellers to add additional data support, custom functions such as Java support, or a custom electronic commerce application to a database.

Sources close to Oracle said the company will announce a program to help third-party software makers build Data Cartridges this week, and it will likely recruit many of the companies already building Data Blades for Informix.