DB2 users want IBM to push harder on marketing, message

If IBM is the leader of the relational database market -- with a wide range of products aimed at a variety of corporate needs -- some of its customers wonder why the world doesn't seem to know that fact.

That was the message repeated by users at the International DB2 Users Group (IDUG) 2005 conference in Denver this week. While customers said they're generally pleased with IBM's overall technical direction with DB2, some feel the company could more aggressively promote it -- along with its Informix database -- against rivals such as Oracle and Microsoft. That's particularly true in the small to midsize market, they said.

User calls for more marketing from IBM came as Gartner released figures for the relational database market showing that IBM had 34.1 percent of the market last year -- just ahead of Oracle, with 33.7 percent, and Microsoft, which was a distant third with 20 percent. Those figures represent a difference in sales between IBM and Oracle of US$2.664 billion and $2.636 billion, respectively.

The more IBM can push its own success, said users, the easier it is for them to sell the technology in their own enterprises. "Personally, I want IBM to blow its own horn more aggressively and promote its message," said a program analyst at an insurance company that runs DB2 for z/OS Version 7. He noted that as part of a long-term strategy, his company is looking to move its stack to the Microsoft platform.

He suggested that IBM focus on education. "I think the lack of qualified people coming out of college is the biggest problem for IBM," he said.

"They could do better marketing to small businesses," said Philip Nelson, a consultant at ScotDB in Edinburgh and a database administrator at a U.K.-based insurance company he asked not to be named. With IBM's push to automate DB2 management routines, smaller companies can now install the product without needing a large administrative investment.

"We've seen over the last year or two a recognition [that] there's [an awareness gap] and I've seen IBM take steps starting to address that" by marketing itself more to the DB2 community and promoting educational awareness, said Robert Omerza, president of IDUG and a systems manager for IS at United Parcel Service. Speaking for the user group, Omerza noted that IBM -- like IDUG -- has tried to reach out to DB2 customers by offering support to both new and established regional user groups.

A couple of PeopleSoft World users who run DB2 on the iSeries but were not at this week's conference made similar points.

"We typically don't even think DB2 when we think of these other platforms [Linux and Unix]," said William Gabby, North American operations manager at Cargill's Global Financial Solutions business unit in Minnetonka, Minn. "They would have to invest a lot of marketing dollars to be recognized as a contender in this space."

For its part, IBM claims it is creating partnerships and investing resources to promote DB2. Paul Rivot, director of competitive technologies and strategy in IBM's information management division, cited a recent alliance with SAP under which IBM will optimize its database when running with SAP's business applications. In addition to working with IDUG and offering free versions of DB2 to colleges, IBM also launched a recent blitz that involved 2,000 sales reps calling on Oracle customers and proposing they consider IBM as an alternative.

DB2 is a solid product technically, said James Governor, an analyst at RedMonk, a consultancy. However, when IT users think of DB2, they see a high-end database rather than what it really is: a broad family of architectures, products and capabilities that meet a wide range of needs, he said.

"It's not really a question of whether or not IBM is blowing its own trumpet loudly enough. The problem for IBM is there are so many horns it needs to blow," Governor said.

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