Last week, IBM announced a new version of the Informix database product that it garnered via a $1bn cash acquisition back in 2001.
Which begs the question: why after six years is the firm not only supporting, but actively investing in new versions of Informix, when it also has its DB2 database that appears to be rather similar?
An IBM spokesperson told us that the reason for continuing to develop both databases in parallel is that, "IBM follows a 'use the right tool for the job' approach rather than trying to have one database that does everything OK."
So under what circumstances would you choose Informix, and when would you choose DB2? "IDS [Informix Dynamic Server] supports pure relational OLTP [online transaction processing] data serving," said the spokesperson, "and is especially well-optimised for integrating within applications that require that capability because of its performance, reliability and hands-free administration."
"DB2 supports mixed workload (both OLTP and analytic) for both relational and XML data structures, such as large data warehouses and so on," the spokesperson said.
Informix and DB2 are not the only databases that IBM has in its portfolio. It also has the hierarchical (as opposed to relational) IMS; Red Brick for use in data warehousing and other business intelligence environments; and UniData and UniVerse for embedding into vertical applications.
It does seem that there are overlaps between Informix and DB2, and one wonders whether the best bits of both could not, technically at least, have been combined to save IBM development dollars.
But people do not like to migrate from one database to another unless they absolutely must, so IBM would not want to push Informix users to switch to DB2 unless they wanted to. At the time of the acquisition of the Informix database business, IBM said there were around 100 000 Informix users.
The Informix users remaining after all these years still represent a valuable maintenance stream, and besides, if they were pushed to migrate to another database there is always a chance that they could migrate to one that does not happen to be in IBM's portfolio.
The treatment of its Informix software acquisition may still be relevant, as it may give some clues as to what might happen to the roadmaps for Telelogic's modelling and enterprise architecture tools, which IBM announced its intention to acquire for $745m on 11 June.
As ComputerWire has reported, there are overlaps between Telelogic's Doors and IBM Rational's RequisitePro requirements management tools, and there are also overlaps between Telelogic's Synergy and Rational's ClearCase testing tools. In this case, it is likely that Telelogic's products will retain the lion's share of ongoing R&D, considered as they are somewhat more up-to-date than those in Rational's portfolio.
If their treatment of the Informix product is anything to go by though, Telelogic and Rational customers might take some solace from the fact that not only has IBM continued to support Informix, but even continued to enhance it, even though the lion's share of R&D; investment is undoubtedly aimed at DB2 rather than Informix these days.