IBM Tightens Grip on Data

SAN MATEO (03/17/2000) - IBM Corp. this week unveiled Content Manager, a platform for integrating, accessing, and managing disparate data types for applications that tap into multiple sources.

Supporting industry standard data types from XML to HTML, as well as various development language standards including JavaBeans and ActiveX Controls, IBM Content Manager combines several existing IBM products to centralize content management.

"Data management is not just about rows and columns anymore; companies need to manage all sorts of content," said Janet Perna, general manager of IBM's data management solutions group. "The companies best able to leverage all forms of information will be the winners in the new economy."

One of IBM's beta customers, Jeff Mitchell, lead analyst at AutoZone in Memphis, is using the content manager to access information from an image-object repository and file systems through a single point of entry, IBM Enterprise Information Portal. Mitchell said the platform has created significant efficiency gains in managing data for such business needs as payroll and accounts payable.

"With Content Manager we can key in a social security number and pull employee information from multiple sources without having to launch multiple front-ends, which is a very efficient way to go after data," Mitchell said. "We're talking very large objects, and they're really not manageable in a straight database environment."

Mitchell chose IBM over content management rivals Oracle and Vignette because those suppliers don't have the imaging capabilities his company needed.

Although some pieces of the Content Manager have their roots in earlier IBM products, the software at the heart of Content Manager is new, and the product will ship with DB2 as well as IBM's WebSphere application server. IBM's chief rival, Oracle, however, wondered why IBM would base such a critical solution on products other than its core database, DB2.

"The good news is IBM has figured out content management is important. What's interesting is there was very little mention of DB2," said Jeremy Burton, vice president of server marketing at Oracle. "They seem to have just dug around in the bowels of IBM and cobbled together some things to make this 'Frankenserver.' "Oracle believes all data should be stored and managed inside the database.

Architectural differences aside, the two vendors offer strikingly similar features, said Martin Marshal, an analyst at Zona Research, in Redwood City, Calif.

"The real dirty secret is that there's a great deal of functionality in common between the major databases at this stage, and the likelihood is you're going to go with IBM's overall solution, or you use Oracle as your one-stop shop," Marshal said.

IBM Corp., in Armonk, N.Y., is at www.ibm.com.

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