Informix is attempting to refocus its object-relational database strategy to reap more short term rewards in the wake of its recent financial crises.
Admitting that most users will not move from the existing Online relational database to Universal Server in the short term, Informix will target its new technology into middleware tools and multimedia front ends in the mean time, claiming these will have more immediate value for the user base.
It will also seek to extend Universal Server to support a wider range of third party tools and to add new front end and Olap technologies to flesh out the business capabilities on offer, all in an attempt to boost revenues as quickly as possible.
The troubled database company admitted when it hit massive losses earlier this year that it had been premature in putting all its eggs into the basket of its new object-relational database, Universal Server, at the expense of its existing Online product. But analysts fear that, if takeup of the new database is slower than originally planned, Informix will add a lengthy period of product transition to its other woes - something that could alienate both users and its all-important channel.
Therefore an interim product strategy for Universal Server is badly needed, some observers say, to coexist with continuing support for Online. "This strategy could persuade some users to take object-relational quicker than they would have done otherwise, and that will boost uptake of Universal Server," said one Informix insider.
One aim is to use Datablades, the object oriented technology at the heart of Universal Server, for business logic and functions. Tasks such as updating a payroll could then be done in the database rather than on a separate application server, argued chief technology officer Michael Stonebraker. And client applications will be able to make calls to the Universal Server via object models, such as the Corba standard or Microsoft's Dcom.
The first product in this category is likely to be a new version of Informix' Metacube online analytical processing (Olap) tool, incorporating Datablade technology. This has been rumoured for some time but Stonebraker confirmed it is now definitely on the product roadmap and should be ready next year.
Informix is also working on putting its object technology into a multimedia database front end, which would replace traditional forms and would operate more like a spreadsheet. The project is codenamed Visionary but no timescale was given.
Other research projects outlined by Stonebraker, in a clear attempt to restore user confidence by stressing the quantity of business-oriented products in the pipeline, included a wide area database technology for configuring distributed data warehouses; upgrades to the Informix fourth generation language and New Era development toolset; and plans to open up the databases for use with a wider range of third party tools.
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