Live From Las Vegas: New IBM Software

In Las Vegas, IBM executives are expected to talk about a version of the DB2 database optimized for SAP applications and the next iteration of IBM's WebSphere Information Integrator featuring enhanced search and records management talents. IBM Software, Somers, N.Y., also will likely talk about its upcoming "hybrid" database that will handle structured and unstructured data.

The next WebSphere Information Integrator, code-named Serrano, will help automate tracking relationships between data in different applications and repositories, said Nelson Mattos, vice president of Information Integration at IBM Software.

The update also promises to facilitate what Mattos called "actionable search." If a user is looking for information relevant to some kind of compliance or business process, that person will be able to modify or annotate the document and save it for future reference, Mattos told CRN last week. In this scenario, a doctor could look up patient records, make recommendations on treatments or drugs, and be able to maintain those suggestions along with the archived records.

The basis of WebSphere Information Integrator's search remains IBM's Omnifind technology, but this iteration will add the records management technology IBM acquired with its buyout of Tarian in late 2002, he said.

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Should the product succeed in discerning relationships between interrelated data in ERP, CRM, database and desktop applications, it could open up new applications, solution providers said.

"Automated relationship mapping of data would be hugely useful. It's a challenge now for customers trying to put together data warehousing," said Pat Hayes, data warehousing practice lead at IndigeTech, a Richmond, Va., solution provider.

IBM is also opening up its Unstructured Information Management Architecture so ISVs and solution providers can plug in their own vertical and specialized taxonomies to WebSphere Information Integrator, Mattos said.

Cognos, one of IBM's large ISV partners, is enthusiastic. "The addition of records management is a natural extension for Information Integrator and takes them more into an unstructured world," said Rupert Bonham-Carter, director of global strategic alliances at Ottawa-based Cognos. "Since Cognos' strength lies mostly in reporting from structured data, IBM opens up a vast amount of other data to us."

IBM recently rebranded Information Integrator, moving it to the WebSphere nomenclature from DB2. Mattos said in its 18 months of existence, Information Integrator has won 1,700 customers, 40 percent of which were not existing DB2 accounts.

IBM insiders said the SAP version of DB2 is more than just a benchmarking gig. IBM is enabling SAP-specific new features in this version of DB2 to provide easier configuration and management and better availability of SAP solutions, said an IBM insider who requested anonymity.

Walldorf, Germany-based SAP, the world's leader in ERP applications, is being wooed by the platform groups at both IBM and Microsoft.

Meanwhile, Oracle CEO Larry Ellison has been signaling the intent of his Redwood Shores, Calif.-based company—now armed with PeopleSoft applications—to take on SAP directly.

Microsoft, Redmond, Wash., is trying to straddle the line. It needs SAP to validate the use of SQL Server and Windows Server for high-end applications but is also fielding its own ERP applications in the midmarket, a segment that SAP is targeting more and more with its Business One.

Janet Perna, general manager of IBM Software's Information Management Group, told CRN in December about an anticipated hybrid database. The intention, she said, is to build one database that would house both structured and unstructured data in native form, let users mix and match that information, and query it in a uniform way.

"Imagine being able to write an XML statement to query native XML [information] interspersed with relational data," she said. In that situation, the management tools and security that apply to DB2 databases would also pertain to all of that data, she said.

Also on tap from IBM Software's Lotus group is Workplace Collaboration Services 2.5 Express, unveiled at Lotusphere in January and due to ship by the end of this quarter. Partners are still waiting to hear specifics on new per-CPU pricing. The current Workplace is priced per component used.

A new point release of WebSphere Portal Server, with additional platform support, is also due soon.

In addition, IBM Software will trot out a new marketing effort around a "Built On IBM Express Portfolio" emblem. Certified IBM resellers, ISVs and regional systems integrators can use the emblem to sell their services. Express is the brand IBM uses for offerings tailored for small and midsize businesses. Partners will also be able to take advantage of an "Express Foundation" framework to build midmarket applications atop the company's middleware, according to IBM Software.