IBM VP: the "sole alternative to Oracle"

Olivier Rafal of Le Monde Informatique magazine spoke to Marc Dupaquier, vice president worldwide of IBM Corp. Software Group, Data Management Sales, about the company's announcement that it plans to acquire Informix Corp.

LMI: What are IBM's reasons for buying Informix?

Marc Dupaquier: We wanted to be seen as the sole alternative to Oracle in the distributed database market for Unix and NT. We took the decision to invest in this market in 1997, increasing our sales staff from 300 to 1200, and succeeded in obtaining a 12-percent market share (in license revenue, according to the latest figures from International Data Corp. (IDC). But reaching the same size as Oracle by these means alone remained impossible.

LMI: What does Informix get out of this transaction?

MD: Informix began a series of acquisitions of companies and products, but failed to integrate them. It promised convergence towards a single database, the Arrowhead project, integrating all the technologies, but it didn't have enough money to finish the job. IBM, which makes US$2.5 billion from data management, has the means to complete this project.

LMI: Why did you choose Informix and not, for example, Sybase?

MD: We were migrating a lot of databases from Sybase systems to our DB2 database, especially in banks, so we stood to gain nothing from buying the company. The installed base of Informix users, on the other hand, is quite faithful. The customers -- traditionally in telecommunication, distribution and government, were worried about the future of the company, but were satisfied with its products. When Informix separated its activities, grouping together decision management tools in Ascential, we began to study the possibility of an acquisition. The reactions of the big clients that we met, in the U.S. and Europe, were very positive: they didn't want to migrate to Oracle, and they were afraid that a company might buy Informix and kill off its products.

LMI: All the same, won't Informix's databases disappear in favor of DB2?

MD: Yes, but it will be a soft transition. The Informix brand will disappear, but we will maintain all the products at least until the end of 2003. Several new versions, of RedBrick or Dynamic Server, are planned. In fact, we are replacing the Arrowhead project with Blue Arrowhead: Informix technologies will be partially integrated into DB2 v8 (due by the end of 2002) and the fusion will be complete in version 9, by the end of 2003.

LMI: What about pricing?

MD: DB2 is priced according to the number of processors, whereas Informix has several licensing models. This is one of the biggest things we have to work out. In the short term, we won't change anything, but our common clients will win anyway thanks to volume discounts. As for joint offerings, we'll have to wait for final approval of the acquisition this summer.

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