Computerworld

Informix scrambles to fix tools

In a bid to to revive its flagging development-tools business, database developer Informix has opted to acquire outside technology. Although its Universal Server archtitecture has found much favour recently, Informix's development-tools divisions have fallen behind. Now, Informix has announced an agreement to acquire CenterView Software, a small California-based developer of database-application design tools and middleware.

In a bid to to revive its flagging development-tools business, No. 2 database developer Informix has opted to acquire outside technology.

Although its Universal Server archtitecture has found much favour recently, Informix's development-tools divisions have fallen behind. Among the tasks facing those divisions are jump-starting sales of its flagship New Era object-oriented tools, bolstering its Web-development offerings, and facilitating the creation of DataBlade object modules for its Informix Universal Server.

Informix this week announced an agreement to acquire CenterView Software, a small California-based developer of database-application design tools and middleware. CenterView's mainstay, Data Director, is a Visual Basic add-on for developing multiuser SQL applications. The company's offerings include a component-based tools line for developing intranet applications.

Informix officials declined to comment on future tools plans. A detailed strategy announcement is slated for this quarter.

Informix New Era sales have lagged partly because the tools are sold en masse rather than as optional components, although the company has promised to begin selling them individually later this year. New Era also lacks flexible database access, observers said.

"New Era's OK if you're developing Informix-only applications," says Don DePalma, an analyst with Forrester Research. "But corporate development departments like Visual C++, Visual Basic, PowerBuilder - the more organic, application-specific tools. And they want optimised, low-level interfaces to a variety of databases. Until Informix has that, their tools strategy will be in a net-deficit situation."

At a gathering of Informix resellers this week, company officials revealed that revenues from development tools, including New Era, Informix 4GL, and others, were down in 1996, accounting for only 14% of total revenues, as opposed to 22% in 1995.

"Informix used to get half its revenues from the old Informix 4GL," DePalma says. "Now, less than 20% comes from their tools. Database vendors should easily sell their tools to at least half their installed base. [Unlike Informix], Oracle, Sybase, Microsoft, and IBM have hit this number."

Informix Software Inc., in Menlo Park, California, is at http://www.informix.com/.