Informix Software has launched its Universal Server at DB/Expo in New York and if company head Phil White is right, next year the industry will look back and say that it was the day Informix reinvented itself.
Marshalling support from a broad array of third-party developers, Informix is staking an early claim in the new, but growing market for object-relational databases that can handle the multimedia data types needed to feed content to the World Wide Web. (See IBM fires first shot)
"Very seldom do you see a company reinvent itself," White said on launching the Universal Server to an audience of users, journalists and Wall Street investment analysts. White is portraying Informix as a company catching the first big wave of users moving to the multimedia, object-relational technology.
"Content is king and new content for the World Wide Web will drive this market," says White. "We are going to reinvent the company ... with the first massively parallel object-relational database."
In the Universal Server, Informix has merged its relational database, OnLine Dynamic Server Version 7.2, with the object-relational Illustra Server database that was acquired when Informix purchased Illustra Information Technologies. That deal was completed last February.
The Universal Server, which has a retail pricing of US$2500 per user excluding discounts, will be released at the end of December worldwide for Sun and Silicon Graphics Unix-based computers. In the first quarter next year, Informix will release versions for Windows NT as wells as Hewlett-Packard Unix-based machines.
Informix will continue to support OnLine Dynamic Server 7.2 and will release one more point upgrade of that product, says Jeff Hudson, vice-president of business development and product marketing at Informix.
The Universal Server will run applications built for the relational OnLine Dynamic Server, while allowing users to define new multimedia data types -- including audio, time-series, spatial-coordinate, video and image data -- to be contained in the database. In addition, the database will run applications built on Illustra, and will run DataBlade technology.
Informix's content strategy relies heavily on third-party developers to create DataBlade plug-in modules, officials say. DataBlades are modules that can share processing space with the Universal Server core engine, now in beta test, Informix officials say. Users can define their own multimedia data types or use third-party developed DataBlades to incorporate different types of data, such as images, text, and video.
Much of the expo launch was given over to showing off support from DataBlade developers and beta testers. In addition to bringing out five beta testers and five representative DataBlade developers on stage at different times, Informix announced that 29 DataBlades will be released by the end of the month. Officials have also announced an additional 51 third-party DataBlades, to be released next year. The Universal Server itself will be bundled with an Informix-developed Web DataBlade, which allows users to run a Web site within the Universal Server, and a choice of several text DataBlades.
Informix is claiming the higher ground against such competitors as Oracle, which has said it will release its own object-relational database software package in mid-1997, and IBM, also with a major expo announcement, of a beta release of its Universal Database.