Mixed blessings for Informix users

Some good news, some bad

Comment There is both good news and bad news for Informix users. The good news is that Informix Dynamic Server (IDS) 10, which represents a major new release of the database, is now available. The bad news is that future versions of SAP (with NetWeaver) will no longer be available on the Informix platform, with this support to be phased out starting with the next SAP release.

Let me first discuss the bad news. IBM tells me that this is not its decision. I believe it. From SAP's perspective this is one less platform to support, which reduces its costs. From IBM's perspective, this means that some proportion of those users will migrate away from Informix, and only a percentage of those will move to DB2 while others will be lost to competitive vendors. So, this makes sense from SAP's point of view, though not from IBM's. Fortunately, my guess is that this only affects a minority of Informix users, though that is no comfort is you are one of that number.

As far as IDS 10 is concerned, there are two facets to IBM's latest announcement. The first is that the company will be introducing an Express Edition, for the mid-market, around the middle of this year. This must be good news for ISVs and others targeting small and medium-sized businesses.

The second facet to this announcement is represented by the features of IDS 10. These are primarily in five areas: performance, scalability, reliability, security and manageability. However, unless you are a real database enthusiast, most of the new functionality is worthy rather than exciting. For example, one of the new features is configurable page sizes. This has improved performance implications when large keys are used or if you have large rows. It also provides support for multiple buffer pools. Yes, this is important but it will mean nothing to you unless you are seriously involved with databases at a technical level.

That is not to say there are no headline features. On the performance side there are improvements to exploit the Linux 2.5 kernel, while the introduction of column-level encryption has important ramifications on the security side, since it will help businesses to meet regulatory compliance standards (Sarbanes-Oxley, HIPAA, Basel II). Another particularly useful feature is online index rebuild, which means that you won't have to take the system down to rebuild indexes. You can also create and drop indexes online in this release.

However, perhaps the most significant area (in marketing terms) is where extra features have been introduced in order to support the use of IDS as an embedded database. Again, most of the actual features are detail-level stuff such as installation improvements, back-up and recovery improvements (including, notably, the ability to restore a single table or a portion of a table from a back-up) and so on. The various new manageability enhancements will also support this embedded environment.


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