IBMs Cheetah Ready to Pounce

IBM's latest Informix Data Server, code-named Cheetah, could worry rivals with its Web services capabilities and performance.

IBM released on Tuesday the Informix Dynamic Server 11, a new data server company officials expect to give them a leg up in the global database market.

IDS 11, code-named "Cheetah," offers significant cost savings with support for cluster tools and, through a feature code-named "Mach 11," provides failover recovery from any node to ensure continuous business operations.

In addition, IDS 11 offers cell-, column- and row-level LBAC (label-based access control) in the name of security. LBAC allows users to define security hierarchies and classification levels and then apply these definitions to the information being managed. The new labeling capability provides new ways to control access to sensitive data stored within the database.

A new SQL-based administrator application programming interface monitors and performs tasks within and across applications, and a new data query scheduler monitors events and resources and collects statistics for automated reporting.

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IDS 11s biggest advantage is simplified administration, according to Jasmine Noel, an analyst with Ptak, Noel & Associates LLC.

"The other capabilities—especially Web services stuff—are great, but only if DBAs [database administrators] have enough hours in the day to work with business managers to turn them into competitive advantage," said Noel. "If your best DBAs are troubleshooting, configuring [and] installing technology all day, when will they have time to help their business develop new ways of leveraging the tons of info they have into new, value-producing capabilities? Only when the daily admin grind is simplified then DBAs can be Closer to the Business Than to the Disks, as IBM promises."

The unveiling of IDS 11, which will ship July 6, comes less than a year after unveiling the DB2 9 Viper data server. IBM officials said they expect the release to further expand the companys database business, which generated double-digit revenue growth in the first quarter of 2007 and gained share versus the competition.

"The biggest thing this release does is to demonstrate that IBM is committed to Informix, which will encourage any ISVs [independent software vendors] that might have thought about moving to stick with it," said Philip Howard, an analyst at Bloor Research, of the United Kingdom.

Calling this the first major Informix release since IBM acquired the product, Howard said IBM is now showing its prepared to walk the walk instead of just talking the talk when it comes to being behind IDS.

"The main market for Informix is with ISVs and VARs (value added resellers), and there is not a lot of churn in that market–yes, you want to compete for new business when its available, but primarily, once you have an established user base, you want to protect it," he said.

Howard said he doubts Oracle, the pre-eminent database vendor and key IBM competitor, will be threatened by the release.

Still, the combination of IDS Web services capabilities and performance may become something rivals need to take note of, Noel said. Since Web services have the potential to make access to all databases equally easy, performance and availability of the datasource could become the differentiator, she explained.

"Also, some of the bleeding-edge creators of information-based applications are not traditional application developers, they are business analysts with spreadsheets connected to a wide array of Web-services-enabled data sources," Noel said. "So if that mode of [application] development [and] usage becomes a norm and Cheetah can deliver blow-your-socks-off performance [and] availability to these business analysts…then Oracle has something to worry about."

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