You Want Fries With That?

Partners have more choices, as database vendors deliver expanded product menus.

Business is booming for database vendors, but they are not sitting pretty. Theyre rolling into areas ranging from application servers and mobile/wireless to new verticals, creating opportunities for partners along the way.

While database-centric vendors Informix, Oracle and Sybase are just now diversifying into new markets, Microsoft and IBM already are diversified.

Industry leader Oracle, for instance, is making a big push into at least three emerging markets: application servers, application software and mobile databases.

However, Oracle has no plans at this point to move beyond established verticals, like financial services, health care and manufacturing, says Bob Shimp, Oracles senior director of database marketing.

Also, Oracles shift into application servers is a key market driver for Oracle 9i, Shimp adds.

While Sybase currently sells direct to verticals in telecommunications, finance, government and health care, it also is "experimenting" with tackling other verticals, such as retail, with specialized solutions providers, says Sybase president and CEO John Chen.

Although sales of its enterprise database are slower than Oracles, Sybase has outmaneuvered Oracle for the lead spot in the mobile/wireless arena. And Chen hopes to issue IPOs for two Sybase businesses.

IPO plans are already concrete at Informix, which was split in two in a recent restructuring. The first, Ascential Software, a company to be spun off by the end of the year, will sell "database-neutral" products, says Richard Wozniak, executive director of product management at Informix.

That could spell expanded database connectivity for a couple of existing products such as Media 360, a content-management system for broadcast video, and Data Stage, a data-mining product garnered through the acquisition of Ardent.

The new Informix Software entity, on the other hand, will focus on database products and closely related tools.

Although only 25 percent of Informix sales are generated through partners, the new company is shooting for a 50-50 mix, says Wozniak. Informix previously produced Cloudscape, a mobile database product. The new entity intends to move forward in that direction, too.

As they seek new opportunities, database vendors know they cant go into new frontiers without their partners.