Informix builds new Internet Foundations for itself

Speed wins, users need to get Web sites “up and running yesterday” and Informix Corp. is promising to help.

“Our mission is very simple: to help our customers win in the i.Economy, and in the i.Economy, the ‘i’ stands for Internet but the ‘i’ also stands for individual,” said new Informix president and CEO Jean-Yves Dexmier. “We need speed to market, we need to tame humongous amounts of data, and we need prepackaged, fast, customizable solutions. We will not succeed, you will not succeed, nobody will succeed in the i.Economy if it takes two years and thousands of consultants to build our solutions. We need Web sites up and running yesterday.”

Arming itself and its customers to deal with the demands of the i.Economy, Informix released Internet Foundation.2000, which the company is describing as “a complete software platform for traditional transaction processing, Internet applications and managing complex data types,” but which is a renamed and rejigged OLTP server with object/relational capabilities.

Informix Internet Foundation.2000 is a blending and unifying of two key Informix products and three separate code streams: Informix Dynamic Server (7.x) and Informix Dynamic Server with the Universal Server Option (9.x), which itself incorporated the purchased Illustra code. Specifically, the 7.3.0 and the 9.1.4 versions form the basis of the new product.

“With 7.3.0 we had a reliable system,” Informix executive director Jeff Menz explained. “What we have done then is leverage its scalability, its high performance, its flexibility with the object relational technology [the Universal Server Option]. What this means is that with the DataBlade development kit and its UDRs and UDTs, you can house applications written in Java or legacy or COM or ActiveX applications within the database. At the same time you can build EJB, CORBA and XML DataBlades and have a fully integrated environment where you have taken your existing data and extended it to complex data and complex processes.

“With the fusion of 7.3.0 and 9.1.4 we are extending the parallel-everything architecture to include any data on any platform.”

In addition to the fusion of the two product lines (which has been performed under the project code name Centaur), Internet Foundation.2000 includes a COM Adapter which runs COM business logic in the server; the Web DataBlade Module 4.0; the Excalibur Text DataBlade Module for full text searches of documents from within the database engine; Office Connect, which simplifies the use of assorted data types within Microsoft Excel and Informix J/Foundation; and an embedded but changeable JVM — a feature which is important to Menz.

“If you change your JDK it means you have to change your virtual machine, and because Java is such a nascent language, we can expect the JDK to change at least once or twice a year.

“Our competitors have JVMs in their databases but they have only one. What we have done is build a framework that allows you to select a JVM based on the JDK you are working with, so if you choose not to work with the Sun JVM that Internet Foundation.2000 ships with (JRE 1.1.7), you can pull it out and replace it with your own. We’re the only database company to offer that. We built it this way because that is the nature of building applications.”

Carolyn DiCenzo, an analyst at Dataquest, dismissed Menz’s grand build-up of the removable JVM as “a religious war” of little consequence as long as JDK consistency is maintained across all applications, but she does appreciate the Informix marketing approach of treating Internet Foundation.2000 as a packaged solution.

“Informix is at a point in its company lifecycle where it has to focus on growing. It is trying to convince us it is taking care of business and trying to more clearly define who the company is and what its market is.

“There is a world of opportunity out there where you don’t have to care about the brand-name of the database. People will be looking for other applications, and as long as they are open and can communicate what do you care what kind of database it will be? The database will become a black box solution.”

Menz also played-up performance during his speech. “We were able to eke out some substantial performance gains. In a typical 7.3 environment, an upgrade to Internet Foundation.2000 yields a 12 to 20 per cent performance improvement by virtue of memory bandwidth reduction in addition to improvements that have been made in I/O.”

Shawn Dagg, an Ottawa-based senior consultant with MIC Inc. and the first non-American president of the International Informix Users’ Group, said that Menz’s performance claims seem valid.

“The 9.1 version was supposed to be a full merger of Illustra with Dynamic Server, but the focus was on getting the Illustra functionality in and the standard OLTP performance that is usually expected was not there. It was not as robust and reliable as the 7.3 engine, and the base Illustra engine, but this time everybody I’ve talked to said they’ve done it right.”

Mark Christmas, senior database consultant with CrossKeys Systems Corp. in Kanata, Ont., also has good impressions of Internet Foundation.2000’s capabilities. “It can do all the traditional Informix strengths such as data partitioning, only it can do it with object/relational data types. That is new and powerful.”

However, Christmas said not all of Informix’s claims about the new product capabilities, such as the ability for Internet Foundation.2000 to act as an application server, carry the same weight. “That’s just the Web name for TP monitoring.”

Although Menz did not have exact pricing available, he said that Internet Foundation.2000 should be “not much more than 7.3.1” and “slightly more expensive than Oracle with more functionality.” Internet Foundation.2000, however, ships without Informix’ e-commerce offerings i.Sell and i.Reach or Visionary, all components which Dexmier discussed in terms of the packaged solution paradigm.