Informix users voice fears of abandonment

Some of Informix's customers are starting to say the same things as its competitors - that it is over-emphasising the the multimedia aspects of its new Universal Server object-relational database and saying little about its existing ODS relational database. The Informix Worldwide Users Conference has left some sceptics wondering about the company's commitment to this older technology.

Informix may be planning enhancements to its Online Dynamic Server (ODS) relational database, but mixed messages from company officials have left some wondering about the company's commitment to this older technology.

Scepticism was evident at the Informix Worldwide Users Conference in San Francisco last week.

Informix officials committed to fitting the next release of ODS - Version 7.3, due within one year - with online transaction processing boosters such as memory-resident data tables. Extended Parallel Server (XPS), meanwhile, will receive data-warehousing-related improvements such as bit-map indexing by 1998, officials said.

"They're incredibly overemphasising Universal Server. It's all they're talking about," said Anthony W. Southworth, a software engineer at CARS Information Systems, in Cincinnati.

Informix is focusing too much on the multimedia aspects of its new Universal Server object-relational database, according to Ram Panda, president of Planmatics, an Informix VAR in Westmount, Quebec.

"Most people don't even have the capability of going to multimedia," Panda said.

Another ODS user questioned whether he would have to upgrade to Universal Server or to Informix's XPS to get new functionality.

Executives at the users' meeting gave different indications of how long ODS and XPS products would remain independent, because the company plans to converge its database product line with the fledgling Universal Server offering.

The company is "fully committed" to ODS and has not announced plans to stop development, said Erin Kinikin, Informix's director of product management for database servers.

But Brett Bachman, Informix's vice president and general manager of enterprise products, was more cautious. ODS will be enhanced for current customers and will continue on its own for a while, he said.

Meanwhile, Informix Chief Technology Officer Michael Stonebraker said that he expects the company "almost certainly will continue to sell relational engines. They will just be Universal Server with the objects turned off."

Enhancements planned for ODS 7.3 include additional memory-resident table support; an optimising directives function, which lets administrators specify which index to use for optimal query results; and "n" row optimisation, which lets queries be limited to specific sets of data rows rather than an entire set.

Improved in-place altering and attach/detach fragment functions in ODS 7.3 will make it easier to modify the database while it is still in operation. A re-startable recovery feature, for re-starting a database during an operation, will reduce unplanned outage time.

Parallel backup and restore are also planned.

In the next release of XPS, Informix will offer bit-map indexing, as well as data-join indexing and functional indexing, for pre-calculating aggregate data queries.

-- Informix, as part of its Windows NT/Intel initiative, plans to work with Dell to optimize its database for Dell systems.

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