IBM Goes On Offensive

IBM recently announced it was going to start getting serious about letting companies know DB/2 is more than just a database that comes with IBM equipment. IBM marketing is going to start watching the comments from Oracle, Informix, Sybase and our buddies at Microsoft and start letting us and potential prospects know if there is a claim made about performance or capabilities that ignores DB/2 it will go on the offensive.

Traditionally, IBM has been very passive about bad mouthing competitors and attacking their claims. Apparently, that is now changing. IBM has decided it is better to take a queue from the political campaigns—bad mouthing is OK if you can prove it and get enough coverage. Oracle has been claiming for a long time it beats anything out there without mentioning DB/2. Oracle for the most part ignores DB/2 as a database option.

Because of great marketing, most of my customers and prospects have been buying what Oracle says hook, line and sinker. I cannot tell you how many calls I have been on where the prospect sees that we are not pushing Oracle, and all of a sudden things get quiet. They continue to claim that they are looking for software first, then the platform that supports the application. The reality is Oracle has done a very good job of marketing (sound like IBM of the past). Very few prospects think of DB/2 as a product. It is a name IBM gave the database it provides with its equipment. Is anyone really running DB/2 on a non-IBM piece of hardware? Yet we all think of it as one of the best, if not the best database architecture to use for real, heavy-duty, applications. Maybe it is not as simple to use as Access, but it is much more powerful and scalable.

So what has changed? IBM has delivered DB/2 on more platforms than any other vendor, yet none of us really think about this. We watch the TV commercials about Oracle systems scheduling airplane trips and hear about Informix being the only database to power the Web activity.

In a recent press release, IBM announced that DB/2 is the first database to be certified on Windows 2000. Yes, I said the first, even before SQL Server (Microsoft's version of Sybase SQL Server). Wait… IBM beat Microsoft's own product to certification? Well, that's what marketing says!

What is even more astonishing is that IBM is actually mentioning Oracle in its promotions. This is just something they did not do in the past. Oh, how things change, first the blue suits, now aggressive marketing, what next—real market share?

From my point of view, it is about time. DB/2 is a powerful database that can run on more platforms than any I know of. IBM has kept it up to date with changes in SQL, XML support, and convinced just about every vendor that has a product, to build it in DB/2. I hope this continues, but suspect Oracle will soon go on the defensive.

Other tools are slowly coming out, too. There is a new forms tool - DB/2 Forms - that is attempting to go after the build-it-quick-and-simple marketplace. Oracle has a powerful tool in Developer 2000. DB/2 has relied on the back end high-level languages for development. You know, RPG, Cobol, etc. Even though IBM does have most of the tools, they are not marketed as a unit around DB/2. IBM did try to provide a tool set with its SAA (remember that!) push 12 years ago. Obviously, it did not work very well, or at least did not take hold in the market place.

If it is going to pull this off, IBM has to integrate the marketing of DB/2 with a set of tools that can be used on any platform. It also has to make the tools easier to use. For some reason, when you use Oracle Developer 2000, you get the feeling that it is a relatively easy tool to use. When you use almost any tool from IBM, they have a big, complicated feel about them. To be sure, they do a lot, and are robust and stable, but they feel heavy and hard to use. The learning curve is much higher, or at least seems that way. Simple is not a description of any tool that I have ever seen come out of IBM.

It will be difficult, but unless IBM can convince us that we can buy an HP server and put DB/2 on it as the database engine, it will be difficult to overthrow Oracle as the leading cross-platform DBMS. When you think of Oracle, you never really think hardware at all. When you think of DB/2 you instantly think mainframe, and that translates to IBM hardware. One thing is for sure. As IBM extends its marketing muscle, the others will respond, and in general, that will be good for all of us. It will force the developers to continue developing and maybe, help push some standards that are really standard.

For some time now, we have heard from Oracle, Microsoft, Informix, and others making claims about performance and scalability. Then they talk about how you can link to your “mainframe” database. Now IBM is taking DB/2 and marketing it very aggressively, actually mentioning competitors in ads and showing results from it’s own “independent” tests. Of course it does not hurt to have almost every major database running on mainframes using your database.

Related Editorial:

  • A New DB2 Coming to a PC Near You
  • i2 Taps DB2 as Preferred Development Platform

    Related Information:

  • IBM DB/2 Page (new window)