Informix spin-off chases applications market

Informix spin-off Ascential Software has launched locally, creating a division "ruthlessly" focused on the content management and enterprise data integration markets, and allowing its parent to focus solely on high-end database application development.

While James Rae, Ascential's MD for Australia and New Zealand, said Informix was turning over $1 billion annually and a third of its 4300 worldwide employees were software engineers, the company had, over the last four years "lacked recognition" as an applications house.

"Yes, we were a database company and we acquired various applications from business intelligence alliances [with the likes of Business Objects], but we wanted to compete with 80 per cent of the world's market-leading database vendors like Oracle and SAP."

According to Rae, this void led to the formation of Ascential, a separate company aimed at developing an open framework of solutions for customer information and asset management - tools centred on data integration, business intelligence (BI), Web analytics and digital asset management.

Rae denied suggestions Ascential was formed as a result of Informix reportedly missing earnings estimates for two consecutive quarters last year, which saw the company shed 900 staff under a reorganisation in October 2000, and consolidate five business units into two independent companies.

Rae was confident Ascential would penetrate a wide range of markets here with its "e-framework" solutions, predicting strong take-up among the telecommunications, broadcasting and media, financial services and government sectors.

"Large companies from these industries say that the biggest problem with data warehousing is not where the data is stored, but moving it around the enterprise. Our packages allow organisations to implement their business rules into our technology for data warehousing or Web-based customer profiling, for instance. We air their data, store it and manage it."

Ascential's local customers include Vodafone, Qantas, Macquarie Bank, Westpac and the NSW Police.

For Rae, the main challenge in achieving market share in the BI and data integration software space here is in aggressive branding of the Ascential name (a combination of the words "ascent," and "essential"), and spreading the message that the spin-off is database-independent from Informix.

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