Perna Points DB2 Toward the Future

IBM executive aims to keep data management technology up to speed with the increasing pace of business.

Janet Perna has seen IBMs data management business evolve from being a relatively small unit heavily weighted toward a DB2 relational database for the mainframe to being a billion-dollar software business with database, content management and integration products for mainframe and distributed computing environments. With an eye on perennial database competitor Oracle Corp. and the growing presence of Microsoft Corp. in the data management world, Perna, general manager of data management in IBMs software group, clearly isnt dwelling on the past. In an exclusive interview at her Somers, N.Y., office, Perna talked with eWEEK Department Editor John S. McCright and Senior Writer Brian Fonseca about IBMs On Demand computing initiative, the next version of the DB2 database (code-named Stinger), and her vision for the real-time information infrastructure.

What are your big goals for IBM data management in 2004?

Our overall macrogoal is to continue to grow and continue to gain market share. We have now topped Oracle in database market share, we are the market-share leader in enterprise content management again, according to Gartner [Inc.] and analyst reports. The objectives that I give my team—its really about being the best at providing customer value, which says best technology, the best solutions—either integrated solutions through IBM or through our partners—its the best customer support and service and best overall time-to-value for our customers. We believe if we can do all of those things, then we will continue to grow and we will continue to invest in the areas that are important to our customers.

We talk to C-level executives. Things that are on their minds are things like, "How do we improve operational efficiency of our business, how do we get better return on assets, how do we grow our top-line revenue?" Over the last few years, companies were focused on reducing cost, everybody was kind of bolted down and [in] cost containment. But now the economy is reported to be looking a little bit better and companies are again focused on, "How do we grow and acquire customers?"

How will you take advantage of the improving economy?

We really think as a company were uniquely positioned to be able to offer them an integrated set of capabilities that span from business consulting services to servers to storage to a middleware infrastructure for helping them build the next generation of applications. This next generation of applications will be built using service-oriented architectures, using integratable components and allowing them to move much more quickly than they have in the past.

The other thing that businesses are starting to think about is how their businesses and applications have evolved, theyve pretty much been stovepiped. Theyve been working on gaining operational efficiency within a particular stovepipe of activity, like manufacturing for example, [and] the thing that is new here and the area that theyre working on is the integration of these business processes across the enterprise. Thats about the integration of the CRM [customer relationship management] systems to [enterprise resource planning] systems to supply chain management systems to now really be able to provide operational efficiency and better return on assets.

So, you look at On Demand and what is that really about? Its about enabling companies and enterprises to respond dynamically to changes in their environments or the economy or industry, through this autonomic business model, which is this horizontal integration of capabilities. Thats IBMs overall strategy and what we are delivering for our clients.

How does DB2 and IBM data management fit into that?

You come underneath that, and information is a big part of anything. Without information there is no transactions, there is no IT, theres nothing to look at. As you look at these stovepipes out there today and whats been built the last 35 or 40 years, the information is really bolted today to whatever the business process was. Some of it is in relational databases, some of it is in file systems, some is in e-mail systems, some of it in imaging systems. There is very little organization of that information within a stovepipe, and then if you start thinking about across stovepipes, the integrated business view of the problem becomes even more challenging for our customers.

If they want an integrated view of their clients, we have a stovepipe business that was mortgage, and another was credit cards, another one was checking. Each one of those stovepipes of business units has its own information about the same clients. What [companies] want to be able to do as an enterprise is put together this information about clients, for example, and get a consolidated view of the clients. Why they want to do that is it enables them to better service the clients for sure but also do things like cross-sell across their client base.

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