Informix is still looking to boost its datawarehousing product portfolio through acquisitions, even though it bought Red Brick Systems last December with that specific aim in mind. We are looking for both horizontal and vertical analytical applications. It is Informix’s stated aim to become the high-end open systems datawarehousing vendor, says Leonard Palomino, general manager of Informix’s datawarehousing division.
The reasons for the Red Brick acquisition were customers, people and technology in that order, according to Palomino. If Informix uses the same acquisition criteria for future purchases, likely analytical applications suspects could include UK business intelligence software company, Gentia and its US equivalent, CorVu. Consolidation in the OLAP market, which has been primarily driven by Microsoft’s entrance into this space, is making it harder for smaller vendors to compete, and both Gentia and CorVu are finding it particularly tough to win business in such a fierce market environment. The prospect of being bought would therefore seem to be the best exit strategy.
Gentia has all the signs of a classic acquisition target. Rather like Red Brick before it was purchased by Informix, Gentia’s market capitalization has been on a downward spiral for almost a year. Its market cap has now fallen to $28.5m largely because of a collapse in its share price from $8 to just below $3 in the last 10 months, following the release of a series of profit warnings. Like Red Brick, Gentia would also boost Informix’s client base adding some 480 customers including big name clients such as Sun, Motorola, McDonnell Douglas, Volvo and Reckitt and Colman. Gentia and Informix are also partners and co-developed integration software to link Gentia’s visual development environment with Informix MetaCube Software.
CorVu’s primary attraction would be its large installed base. The company has over 1500 customers that would immediately increase Informix’s market share in datawarehousing. The company also has a well-regarded decision support suite, Integrated Business Intelligence Suite that combines CorVu’s Executive Alerts, Forecasting, and Impact Analysis software with online analytical processing (OLAP) query and reporting tools. The latest release, version 4.0, also includes a Performance Management System, that enables organizations to measure, analyze, and manage financial and operational performance at all organizational levels, something Informix has hitherto been unable to offer.
Furthermore, there is some suggestion that Informix could acquire both companies relatively cheaply as was the case with Red Brick, which was acquired for a mere $35m in Informix stock because it had fallen on hard times and was eager to find a buyer.
Informix’s datawarehousing acquisition strategy is also being driven by a technology shift in the market. Analysts suggest that platforms are where datawarehousing vendors will compete in the future. Vendors will move from selling tools to selling platforms on which this new breed of analytic applications will be built. The platform will include just about every tool within the datawarehousing market space: extraction transformation and loading (ETL) capabilities; an OLAP server; cube creation; an OLAP query tool and reporting tool; an over-riding meta data movement infrastructure; and data mining. While Informix may point to its partnerships that cover many of these areas, it can hardly claim to have a platform.
Informix has positioned the Red Brick datawarehouse as a data mart product and Decision Frontier for larger datawarehouse implementations. Currently, Decision Frontier comprises Dynamic Server database, the Red Brick datawarehouse, ETL tools (Formation, and DataStage through an OEM agreement with Ardent), MetaCube ROLAP tools, some meta data management technology licensed from Hyperion Solutions and reporting and scheduling software from Seagate Software. The Red Brick feature enhancements, due for the second half of this year, are still on schedule, while Formation still requires some development attention, according to Palomino. Informix’s long term strategy is to develop Formation into a high-end tool.
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