Informix Database at Heart of IBMs Server-Based Software Strategy

IBM executives say the 100 percent Java database, named Cloudscape, will ensure zero administration burden, a small footprint and portability that will enable it to run on PDAs and other client devices.

NEW YORK—At the heart of IBMs new middleware-based software model ticks an embedded database IBM picked up in its 2001 acquisition of Informix Software, the database side of Informix Corp.

According to IBM executives, the 100 percent Java database, named Cloudscape, will ensure zero administration burden, a small footprint of 2MB or less, and portability that will enable it to run on PDAs, smart phones and other client devices.

Thats a crucial part of IBMs new vision for server-managed and provisioned thin clients, which was announced Monday at a meeting for media and analysts.

/zimages/7/28571.gifClick here for the details on IBMs server-based software announcement.

Core to the platform is Version 2.0 of IBMs Workplace family of products, which reach across a variety of devices and platforms through a managed client model. That client management is provided by IBM Workplace Client, a server software IBM also announced at the event.

"Cloudscapes one of those happy things that was included in the Informix acquisition," said Mike Rhodin, vice president of development for Lotus Software in IBMs Software Group. "What happened when we started the Workplace client work was that we knew we needed a replicated data store on the client.

"Part of its value is that its a secure, encrypted data repository managed from the server and replicated by the server. When you create a document, its replicated to the server. If youve installed a larger content management system, it moves it from the server to the content management system."

IBM Workplace includes four technology groups: Lotus Notes and Domino, for collaboration; WebSphere Portal, for access to data, applications and business processes; Lotus Workplace, a group of integrated collaborative products; and WebSphere Everyplace, which extends access to and from access points and users.

Tony Baer, president of On Strategies Inc., a New York-based analyst firm, said IBM has finally found a problem to match the solution that Cloudscape and other Workplace components represent. That problem is software deployment and provisioning, which will happen automatically on the server end of Workplace.

For example, as users from J.K. Insurance Marketing Inc. demonstrated at the event, software updates happen automatically on the server end. A remote insurance claims inspector for the San Jose, Calif., company demonstrated an alert on his PDA that informed him that his claims application software had been updated, and all he had to do was click to confirm that he had received notice.

"Software deployment has been a headache for as long as weve had independent clients," Baer said.

This type of hands-off updating will be a boon to enterprises, for whom labor costs are skyrocketing much faster than the cost of software, said Steve Mills, IBMs senior vice president and group executive of the software group.

/zimages/7/28571.gifIBM recently upgraded its Java tools. Click here to read more.

Not that automatic software updating is something new. Rather, IBMs move of combining it with document creation and collaboration from its Lotus Notes messaging and collaboration software means that customers will have a nicely tied-together package from a vendor with whom theyre familiar, Baer noted.

"WebLogic had [IBM] beat out by three to four years," Baer said. "But IBM has such a ubiquitous presence in the data center that a lot of their customers are used to that delivery chain."

It was also a smart move for IBM to include plug-ins for Microsoft Corp.s Office applications, seeing as how a vast majority of users are firm adherents of Word or Excel, for example, and wouldnt ditch them to move to an IBM platform that eschewed these work tools, Baer said.

In Workplace, were seeing "sort of a hybrid," Baer said. "Weve seen many attempts in the past to manage clients. Also attempts to come up with thin workplaces to provide an alternative to Microsoft Office. You probably dont use 90 percent of what Office does.

"But Office has such a huge penetration, if youre not doing something in an Office document, you cant talk to the rest of the world."

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