Informix announces sweeping new tools strategy

Informix Software has sought to bring its tools offerings - widely perceived as its weakest link in the battle with rivals such as Oracle - up to scratch with an array of announcements for developers. These include upgrades for its NewEra and Informix 4GL application development software,and the new Data Director, which is designed to link applications created with a variety of development tools to the Universal Server.

Informix Software has sought to bring its tools offerings - widely perceived as its weakest link in the battle with rivals such as Oracle - up to scratch with an array of announcements for developers.

Looking to make it easier for programmers to work with its Universal Server database and fourth-generation language software, Informix has announced upgrades for its NewEra and Informix 4GL application development software, as well as the new Data Director, designed to link applications created with a variety of development tools to the Universal Server.

The Informix Data Director is a key element in the announcements, which the company dubbed its Universal Tools strategy. The Data Director is designed to provide users of application development software programs with an easy-to-use graphical tool to connect their applications to the variety of data types - video, audio, time-series, images - that can be contained in the Universal Server, according to Informix officials.

"Informix has implemented a lot of SQL 3 [in Universal Server] but a lot of tools don't support SQL 3," says Judy Davis of Database Associates. "The significance of this announcement is that Informix is offering support for users of these tools to get at all the new data types in Universal Server ... that go beyond text."

The Data Director works with application development software including Microsoft Visual Basic, Visual C++ and Visual J++, Symantec Visual Café Pro, Powersoft PowerBuilder, and Forte Software Inc.'s namesake development tool.

"The Data Director plug-in gives [developers] a visual model-based environment to work in, eliminating the need to write low-level code," says Charles Dickerson, director of tools product marketing at Informix.

The Data Director gives a Visual Basic developer, for example, a graphical model of data contained in a Universal Server database, and lets the developer use a point and click method of linking a Visual Basic application to specific data types contained in the Universal Server. Data Director will then generate the appropriate SQL (Structured Query Language) code that allows the Visual Basic application to call up data from the Universal Server.

In addition, the Data Director for Java allows developers to create intelligent database-aware Java applets for Web-enabled client/server applications using Universal Server.

The Data Director lets programmers of the supported tools to link to various third-party DataBlades built for the Universal Server, Informix officials say.

Another key element of Informix's Universal Tools strategy is an upgrade to its NewEra tool, NewEra version 3.0, which provides native access to Universal Server. NewEra 3.1, slated to ship in the third quarter, will offer a variety of enhancements and new features including:

--Application Builder, designed to manage NewEra development projects at all levels, from libraries to program executables;

--Window Painter, which has been rewritten to utilise the new Microsoft interface and is integrated with Informix's new Language Editor component;

--Partition Wizard, which provides a streamlined method of distributing applications across a network. NewEra application servers now support any OLE automation-enabled client, according to the company;

--Reporting tools that include Seagate Software's Crystal Reports 5.0, which allows NewEra users to create and run various reports within NewEra;

--Repository/RSAT; A storage facility for NewEra class, project and library definitions, allowing NewEra to be used as team development environment.

In addition, Informix 4GL now allows developers who have previously developed applications on Unix to run them on Windows NT. Informix has also worked with a number of tools providers to allow popular application development programs to be used to build graphical front ends to Informix 4GL applications running on NT.

The Data Director is priced at US$200 per user, or $6,000 per CPU in an Internet environment, which includes support for all development tools. The Data Director for the Informix Workgroup Server is $50 per user, or $1,500 per CPU in an Internet environment. The Data Director includes a runtime license for NewEra applications.

Data Director for Java will be available at the end of the first quarter, and Data Director for Visual Basic is scheduled to be available in the second quarter. NewEra 3.0 is available now. NewEra 3.1 is scheduled to be available in the third quarter.

Informix, based in Menlo Park, California, can be reached on the World Wide Web at http://www.Informix.com/ and http://www.illustra.com/.

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