This article is written in English and Portuguese
Este artigo está escrito em Inglês e Português

English version

On July 2, 2001, IBM announced the completion of Informix acquisition. So, 10 years have passed since the deal that changed many people lives. A lot was written at the time and since then about the deal, about Informix future, about competitors reactions etc. This historical milestone made me take a look back and think about what's been going on. There are several perspectives about this: The professional, personal, the technical and the marketing ones (and probably more that don't come to mind at this moment). Personally, the acquisition happened three years after I joined Informix Portugal. At the time I was already deeply involved with a Portuguese customer (large Telco) and I believe I gained precious experience since then. Being at IBM I had the opportunity to have some experience with other products (from areas that touch the database area), although the focus was and still is Informix. Informix allowed me to interact with many large (from a small country perspective) companies. So, it was a very positive transition. Of course not everything is perfect. Needless to say that the environment in a small company branch (around 20 people at the time) is by no means similar to the environment of a larger corporation like IBM. The processes inside big corporations are more complex. This is a fact and there's nothing we can do against it.

From a technical perspective, the Informix evolution was incredible. For those of you who know Informix, just think about the releases that came out inside IBM: 9.3 (little to no influence from IBM because it was launched in 2001), 9.4 (2003), 10 (2005), 11.10 (2007), 11.50 (2008) and 11.7 (2010). By the way, from these, only 9.3 has no support at all and 9.4 and 10 are on limited support. There's value for money here, and investment protection. You can compare this to our main competitor for example. They launched 9i R1, 9i R2, 10g R1, 10 R2, 11g R1 and 11g R2. To the best of my knowledge only latest two are fully supported, so more or less the same number of releases and more supported versions for us. Not bad for a database which had no future ten years ago, I'd say.
If I try to recall all the new features I'll end up with another very large article. But some of them must be mentioned:
  • 9.3
    ER in the ORDBMS product line (9.x)
  • 9.4
    Larger chunks
    ER and HDR at the same time
    PAM authentication
    B-Tree scanners (as opposed to older B-Tree cleaner)
  • 10
    Multiple page sizes
    Online index build
    Column encryption
    External directives
    Table level restore
  • 11.10
    MACH 11 (multiple secondary nodes)
    Non blocking checkpoints
    Open Admin Tool
    SQL admin API
    Database scheduler
    Last Committed Read
  • 11.50
    Updatable secondaries
    Compression
    Connection Manager
    Start of XPS to IDS feature porting
  • 11.70
    Storage provisioning
    Non OS users (mapped users)
    No limit for the number of extents
    On line table reorg
    Several XPS features (multi-index path, star join...)
    Informix warehous accelerator


And then we get to the marketing perspective... This is the fun part. It's a never ending discussion, and I thought it would be interesting to make some comparisons, like for example quotes versus reality. Announcements versus reality. Declarations of intentions versus reality. I browsed the Internet trying to find what people said and thought at the time and since then.

Let's start a few years before:

"I think Informix is doing a great job of marketing. They now get the Sybase marketing award. It's something we have never done a very good job of. Talk to somebody at Sybase or Microsoft and ask them what they think of DataBlades. Everyone thinks it's crazy. It's not that it's a bad idea -- it's madness. And they did not -- they did not -- integrate those two products. They did not, they cannot, they will not, it's impossible.", Larry Ellison, at InfoWorld interview, February 1997

Actually, we now "activate" ("register" in Informix jargon) datablades automatically if the user calls a function that belong to one of them. And we ship several of them for free. One of them (TimeSeries) is used to beat competition on "smart metering". Other (BTS) is used to incorporate open source text indexing technology into Informix.
On the same article, Larry Ellison mentions that Informix had 4 products. Although he apparently only names 3 (and 2 seem to be the same), this was in part true. There was the "OLTP" engine, the "DW" (XPS) and the Universal Server (IUS). These days are gone. XPS does still exists, although some of it's functionality is in IDS. There is no distinction between OLTP and "object" or universal servers.

By the time of the acquisition:

"We've found in the past is that when you're acquiring other products, the integration problem is greater than the value you gain from acquiring the product. This will be an integration nightmare.", Paul Marriott, business development manager for 9I at Oracle, in ARNnet site, on April 2001

Was this opinion taken into account when Oracle bought JD Edwards, Peoplesoft, Siebel, Hyperion, Innobase, BEA, Sun....? I believe not. Maybe they just don't learn from their "mistakes", or this quote was just another FUD statement...

"Surely Oracle is going to pick up a few customers from you though -especially the Informix customers?

JK; I don't think you can make that general a statement. Oracle is trying to give the impression that we are going to tell the Informix customers that they've now got to move to DB2. But obviously we aren't doing that. We acquired the Informix assets because we value them. We aren't going to force a migration on customers and partners that isn't right for them - that makes no business sense at all. We've spoken to the Informix customers and partners and have told them that Informix will be supported and developed for the foreseeable future - and the Informix customers are very happy with this. They appear to like the whole proposition so we certainly don't anticipate losing them to Oracle." , Jim Kelly, IBM's Vice President, Marketing Data Management Solutions Division, in an interview to an analyst from Bloor Research, on July 2001

AFAIK, no customer was forced to move to DB2. Some customers were forced to move, because their application suppliers (SAP for example) discontinued Informix in their latest versions. These customers had the chance to choose the new database platform. Some choose DB2, others Oracle, others SQL Server (or other databases like SAPdb)... Similar statements were produced by diff...

Author: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it (Fernando Nunes)


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