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IBM To Unleash The Next Informix IDS ReleaseIBM To Unleash The Next Informix IDS Release

Code-named Cheetah, the new release is due to beta this spring and will feature record-level locking and federal security certifications, including Evaluation Assurance Levels 3 and 4.

Barbara Darrow

September 22, 2006

4 Min Read

True to its word, IBM continues to update the Informix IDS database, a cult favorite among some database VARs and customers.

The next release, code-named Cheetah, is due to beta this spring and will feature record-level locking, technology carried over from the latest release of IBM DB2, said Arvind Krishna, vice president of database servers for IBM Software's Information Management Group, Somers, N.Y.

IBM is also making sure the new release will win federal security certifications including the Evaulation Assurance Levels 3 and 4.

The current IDS Version 10 Release Change 5—IDS uses its own release terminology—offers row-level and column-level locking. IDS has long been known for its extensibility, its ability to run for long periods without human intervention, and its ability to handle non-relational objectlike data.

"IDS fits really well in that space where you don't need or can't have a million DBAs. It can go into a DBA-less environment, often hub-and-spoke environments used by branches and retail operations," Krishna told CRN.

One unnamed customer runs 4,000 physical locations and more than 10,000 instances of the current IDS release with just eight DBAs, he claimed. "If you can show me an Oracle installation [doing that], I'll buy you the bottle of wine of your choice," he said.

It is also able to pack a lot of database power into a relatively small footprint and is more suited for such situations than IBM DB2. DB2 is IBM's flagship database. Cheetah will also build on IDS' ability to handle image data, cartographics, using and storing 3-D geometry.

IBM is slated to talk more about Cheetah at its Information OnDemand Conference in Anaheim, Calif., next month. Beta is expected in March or April, in time for IBM's annual PartnerWorld, he said.

IBM bought Informix and several database offerings five years ago. At the time, there was concern that it made the acquisitions to buy the customer lists but kill off the products. That has not happened, despite a lot of "FUD spread by competitors," said Ron Flannery, president of One Point Solutions, a Novi, Mich.-based IBM database partner.

Flannery said the reason IDS has retained a loyal customer base is the technology's "rock-solid" performance and the fact that IBM has continued to invest in it. "It never goes down and it's really fast," said Flannery, who is also the author of a 1,400-page IDS handbook.

"IDS is very strong in reservation systems, retail and financial apps. It's a great point-of-sale system because it never goes down once it's installed and configured correctly," he noted. Its bulletproof status, in fact, can hurt partners, he acknowledged. "Once we sell a package, do a tune-up and check the configuration, we still monitor it but it requires very little work." Neil Truby, principal at Ardenta, a London-based IBM partner, concurs. "A lot of the online gaming companies here rely on IDS and see no reason to move away. IDS delivers very high throughput and availability," he noted.

The BBC and ITV television networks in the U.K. are also IDS users. "The attraction for them is also the high availability and throughput and also IDS' ability to help them deliver more and more content [and] image documents," he said.

When IBM bought Informix for $1.0 billion in the spring of 2001, Informix claimed 100,000 database customers, 35,000 of which were on IDS. Krishna said that number sounds about right now given that IBM is in active contact with 20,000 IDS customers.

Informix also fielded Red Brick for datamart applications and Cloudscape, a Java database that IBM subsequently embedded into some of its own products and open-sourced as Derby. IBM still offers Red Brick Warehouse as well.

Still, IDS gets nowhere near the ink or attention of IBM's DB2 database which, like IDS itself, runs on all the major operating systems. IBM maintains that the IDS customer base may not be huge, but it is deep, devoted and loyal, contentions both Truby and Flannery backed up.

Frank Cullen, principal at Blackstone & Cullen, an Atlanta-based database specialist who concentrates on Microsoft SQL Server work, says he rarely sees IDS in competitive bids.

"There used to be pockets of IDS out there but we haven't seen them in a few years," Cullen said. However, the SQL Server power base remains mostly in smaller businesses and in departments of large companies.

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