Database maker Informix builds up service side of business

The company's called Informix Software but more than half of a recent multi-million dollar deal with Telecom New Zealand will be earned from services.

More than half of Informix’s multimillion-dollar deal with New Zealand Telecom will be “on the service side”, according to the company’s Asia-Pacific vice-president, Bill James. And that’s just the way he expected it to be.

Although most of the attention for Informix lately has been on its technology--and especially the DataBlades technology it gained when it bought Illustra in February--James predicted two years ago when he took up his position that within three or four years half of the company’s revenue would be in services.

“And everybody said ‘he’s not going to last, he’s smoking something!’ ” James grins. “But this year our revenue from services will be 24%--up from nothing. I’ve just been with a client where the servicing component was three times the licensing component.

“So I see services--which are design consultancy, implementation consultancy and tuning and configuring-type work, both pre- and post-sale--growing. Training is a huge opportunity, as is maintenance and support, 24 hours, seven days.”

Telecom has bought the Illustra “universal server”, which can be seamlessly extended to add support for many media types and access methods, as part of its drive to develop a “media engine” at the core of its Xtra service. Informix says the server’s Web DataBlade module also lets developers create rich Web applications without any recourse to CGI programming and the overhead that entails.

“I think what they’re doing is really innovative, and obviously if you’re providing the backbone of an application or new idea, you’re somewhat linked to the success of that application or idea,” says James. “Our business strategy is not to do applications but to try and work with the best of breed--SAP and Netscape for example--and what Telecom is doing is really important to us.”

The size of Informix’s business with Telecom will mean hiring new staff, according to James, in line with a general pattern of growth in the region: “So as we go forward, we are adding consultancy training and analytical skills. In Asia-Pacific a year ago we had 160 people--by later this month we’ll have 400. Everywhere I go, everyone wants more consultancy from us.

“Two years ago we were a very different company. We sold small and medium business solutions through channels--partners and distributors. We didn’t have an intimate relationship with end-users. Today it’s a completely different model. We want a very direct relationship with the top 100 or 200 organisations in every country--banking, finan-cial services, telecommunications and the manufacturing and space. On the other hand, we stay out of oil and gas, for example.

“The technology is important and we believe we’ve got great technologies and we focus on them, but the skills in implementing those technologies are a very important aspect.

“We don’t do applications or systems integration, so we’ve got to stay within the technology consultancy. But we are getting very close to applications--we’re consulting on applications design and how to use the information management tools that technology has.”

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