Janet Perna, general manager for data management solutions in IBMs software group, can take much of the credit for her companys surpassing of Oracle Corp. in the relational database race recently. A 29-year IBM veteran, Perna initiated the key to the surge more than a decade ago: a cross-platform strategy for DB2. eWEEK Editor in Chief Eric Lundquist, Executive Editor Stan Gibson and Senior Writer Darryl Taft recently sat down with Perna at her Somers, N.Y., office to discuss the secrets to her strategy.
According to some measures, youve passed Oracle. How did you do that?
We grew and they shrank [laughter]. If you look at it over the past five years, weve been growing steadily in DB2 and the distributed [database] business. Why were companies making the DB2 decision on Unix and Windows?
There were four reasons customers were choosing DB2 over Oracle. First was the cost of ownership. It began when Oracle went to a pricing model around power units. A lot of their customers were bent out of shape over that. We had a much better value proposition.
Did you make a conscious decision to keep DB2 prices low?
We were competing with SQL Server at the entry level and with Oracle at midrange or higher. So we shipped DB2 Express and DB2 Workgroup Edition before that—it was priced and packaged to compete with SQL Server at the low end of the market.
We came in with a lower price point in midrange Unix servers—Oracles sweet spot. And weve maintained that difference over the years.
The second thing was IBMs ISV strategy. When Oracle made its first blow around applications, Siebel and PeopleSoft became enemies. These companies that were driving a lot of the Oracle database revenue in client/server became Oracles enemies and IBMs partners.
Third, we continue to innovate on the technology. If we dont have the technology with the right function on the right platform, the rest of it doesnt matter. There were a number of things that happened within that five-year period.
Fourth, if you look at whats driving the applications, the new e-business applications, writing these to J2EE around WebSphere is helping us. Also, were strong in data warehousing—thats helping us.
How does the database fit into IBMs “e-Business On-Demand” vision?
Ten years ago there were lots of database companies, but now there are platform companies. IBMs software strategy is about providing the middleware platform for the next generation of applications, which will support an integrated business environment. That is what e-business on demand is about.
The role we play is to provide the capability to manage all forms of information: not just record-oriented information, but documents, images, Web content and digital media.
Theres a focus on integrating people and business processes through Websphere Portal Server. Also, we acquired Crossworlds and Holosofx for business process integration. Were building out that capability with the DB2 Information Integrator, which is built on IBMs federated database capability.
How important is Linux in IBMs database business?
Linux is a big deal for us. Im seeing much more interest in Linux as a database platform this year. Customers have selected Linux on Intel for large-scale data warehousing. Last year I saw very little database on Linux.
Were also seeing now Linux on Intel with user-built “portlets” on the WebSphere portal server.
How many customers are upgrading from open-source databases, like MySQL and PostgreSQL?
Theres some, but its not really what Im seeing. On the SourceForge.net Web site, they ran MySQL; it ran out of gas and they replaced it with DB2.
What is your take on Oracle, PeopleSoft and J.D. Edwards?
I started off saying there arent any more database companies. Oracle was very successful in the midrange Unix database market. They havent been as successful with other parts of the software infrastructure.
Some of their tactics and remarks are very strange. If you want to embrace a set of customers, thats not the way to go about it. We have a strong relationship with PeopleSoft and J.D. Edwards.
How does Informix factor into it?
The reason we acquired Informix was to expand our customer base. There was very little overlap with IBMs customer base. Informix had a lot of midmarket customers and a very strong presence on non-IBM Unix platforms.
Informix was building “Arrowhead,” the code name for its next-generation database that would support analytical applications, transactional applications [and] include management of rich content and support of Web-based applications. There was a one-to-one mapping between our own Universal Database [UDB] strategy and Arrowhead—we had the same technical vision. So we said well take the Informix customers to the next-generation database and it will be built on UDB. We also got 2,500 skilled database people.
Whats coming in the next six months?
The macro areas were working on are the ease of administering and managing the data—autonomic computing. UDB [Universal Database] Version 8 shipped late last year with significant autonomic computing capabilities, including the Health Center and the Configuration Advisor. Well enhance DB2 UDB and the Content Manager. Were working on the DB2 Content Manager Express. We just shipped the DB2 Information Integrator in June.
Are you making Content Manager Express more modular?
Itll be easier to install and configure. We are working on skinnying it down to have a Content Manager “Light,” if you will, but that wont be the focus of Express.