When IBM acquired the database business of Informix Software for $1bn back in 2001, it made much of the fact that at that time Informix had over 100 000 users, giving IBM much-needed market share in its battle with Oracle. But fast forward six years to the present, and IBM can now only claim to have around 20 000 Informix customers, ComputerWire has learned.
At the time of the acquisition, IBM said that Informix had over 100 000 users. One Informix executive was even quoted saying that the firm had 120 000 customers prior to its acquisition. But an IBM spokesperson told us that today - six years after the acquisition - IBM has 'more than 20 000 users'.
Despite focusing more R&D; effort on its DB2 database, IBM has continued to support Informix database users and even gone on to enhance the product over the years, the latest version coming out just last week. But the loss of around 80% of Informix's users is surely not a good result for the firm, considering that it still argues that the Informix database is even better at handling intensive OLTP transactions than its DB2 data store.
While these figures seem rather drastic, it must be remembered that there is a possibility that some of the 80% of 'absent' Informix users may have migrated to IBM's DB2, so they at least remain IBM customers. On the other hand, it is also possible that many migrated to Oracle, Microsoft, or even Sybase.
After our initial questions about the current Informix database user community, IBM refused further comment. So we do not have their version of events as to why the Informix user community has dwindled to such an extent, nor how many Informix users are believed to have migrated to DB2.
At the time of the acquisition by IBM, Oracle was offering tools for Informix users to migrate to Oracle, and offering Informix customers a 50% credit on the cost of their Informix database software if they moved to Oracle. Oracle said around 500 Informix customers had already migrated to its own database in the two months prior to IBM buying Informix.
"I cannot imagine why anyone would leave Informix for DB2," Oracle CEO Larry Ellison said on the announcement that IBM was buying the firm.
The big question, and one which has ramifications for all of IBM's previous and ongoing software acquisitions (such as its current $745m bid for Telelogic), is whether IBM was successful in migrating acquired customers to its own DB2 platform. Because one thing seems clear: it certainly was not successful keeping Informix's customers on Informix Dynamic Server.
The Informix database management system was designed by Roger Sippl in the late 1970s, and Informix was founded in 1980. It went public in 1986, and for a while in the nineties it was the second most popular database after Oracle. There were a series of management shenanigans though, as evidenced by the firm announcing in 1997 that it would miss quarterly expectations by $100m. Some years later, the man who had been CEO in '97, Phillip White, was sentenced to two months in federal prison for securities fraud.
At the time involved in a bitter rivalry with Oracle for the database market, IBM bought the troubled Informix database business in 2001 to catapult it into the number two slot behind Ellison's Oracle. After Informix sold off its database business, the stub that remained changed its name to Ascential and focused its efforts on data migration and ETL. In an ironic twist, IBM bought Ascential in 2005 for $1,1bn.