Interview: IBM's Perna sees more to data management

Janet Perna has been general manager of IBM Corp.'s data management division since 1996. At a press briefing on the company's content management software, Perna spoke with Computerworld about IBM's database business and its plan to use DB2 as an underlying technology for managing various forms of information stored in other databases or content repositories.

Content management involves documents, images and other nonrelational data. So what is DB2's role in your content management strategy? It plays an important role. If you look at the architecture, the database stores the metadata, and then there are resource managers that store the content. The database also provides management capabilities, such as security and access control.

Q: How do you expect database sales and sales of your content management and integration tools to compare?

If you look at the market opportunity this year, and even for the next two to three years, the relational database is still a larger overall opportunity. But it's projected to grow in single digits. Content management is projected to grow in the 20 percent-30 percent range. We're still in the early stages, but within the next couple of years, it will become almost as large as databases are.

Q: When IBM announced its Xperanto federated database technology in January, one analyst said you were the only large database vendor pushing that approach. Why do you think it's worth doing?

What's convinced me is the hundreds of discussions I've had with customers who want to be able to do this. You look at the situation today, and they have information that's stored in many different places. When they want to have a view of their customers, they don't want to move the information to a central place. It's expensive to do that. What they want to be able to do is aggregate the information and access it from where it is now.

Q: But that will let companies keep, say, their Oracle databases in place. Wouldn't you rather get them to switch to DB2?

Of course, but sometimes it's not in their best interests to do that. I want to be the one to help them leverage that information, no matter where it is. Is all the data going to be in DB2? I'd like that to happen, but I don't think it always makes sense.

Q: You raised the price of the enterprise edition of DB2 and cut the cost of the workgroup edition when Version 8 shipped in November. Has that affected sales, either to the good or bad?

In the fourth quarter of last year, sales continued to grow. However, that's a real small sample of just a month from which to draw any conclusions about the price changes. But the customers I talk to feel real good about the pricing and our total cost of ownership equation.

Q: IDC just released its database market-share report for last year. It says you were up in both revenue and market share, while Oracle was down. But Microsoft had a higher revenue growth rate. Does that make you think you could have done better?

I'm pleased with the year we had, given the economy. It was a tough, tough market. And if you break down our numbers, the growth on the Windows platform was actually pretty darned good. I don't have the specific numbers, but it was double digits. It wasn't too far off of what Microsoft's growth was.

Q: How much of your database sales are coming from hardware platforms other than the mainframe and the AS/400 (now called the iSeries)?

We're at about 30 percent that are off of the mainframe and the AS/400. We were at zero in 1995. Of course, we keep growing on the mainframe, too. IMS, our hierarchical database, grew 2 percent last year. DB2 on the mainframe grew 9 percent. It's not like they're stagnating.

Q: What about Linux?

Are many companies ready to put an enterprise database on a Linux server? Some are. A year ago, there were very few customers I spoke with who were ready for that. This year, there's a lot more who are comfortable with the stability of Linux and the fact that there's going to be [technical] support available for it.

Q: What has happened to sales of Informix databases since you bought that technology two years ago?

Prior to the acquisition, new Informix license sales were dropping like a rock. By the end of 2001, we had kind of stemmed the tide a little bit. By the end of 2002, the decline had stopped. And maintenance [revenue] is holding steady, so we're not losing customers.

Q: How long do you plan to keep that product line going? Is there any end in sight?

No. We've shipped about 20 upgrades of various Informix products since the acquisition, and we're just shipping Version 9.4 of Informix Dynamic Server [IDS]. We have more people working on IDS now than there were when it was owned by Informix.

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