If there's one thing computers are good at, it's storing and retrieving information. The first large-scale commercial computers were little more than list managers, allowing users to manage huge amounts of data such as subscription lists and financial records. Today's database products fall into two categories - the small, stand-alone package for personal use, and the enterprise-wide system which usually consists of a data manager and querying tools. This product focus examines a range of both types of database products, some data retrieval tools and a couple of contact managers for good measure High-end databasesIBM DB2 Universal DatabaseIBM has begun shipping the new DB2 Universal Database, a next-generation data management system that links corporate information - such as videos, sales forms, digital images, text and spreadsheets - to the Web, enabling companies to conduct e-business.
The Universal Database combines DB2 Common Server with DB2 Parallel Edition. The database will implement parallel processing, work with new data types and feature data-warehousing extensions. Janet Perna, IBM general manager of database management, said "the new database offers the processing power of parallel systems and works with data types such as multimedia, spatial data, image and text. Data warehousing features include dynamic bitmapped indexing, star scheme support for data analysis, and online analytical processing (OLAP) extensions."
Using the system, users can:
Access any amount of data without restraints on source and location;Perform tasks from decision support to business transactions;Work with text, image, audio and video data types;Start managing data "quickly and easily"; andRun the same software across desktop workgroups and enterprises.
Tom Kendra, vice president, Data Management Marketing, IBM Software Solutions Division, said that "DB2 Universal Database scales from the high end to the low end . . . and it allows us to enter an untapped market - support for mid-sized companies".
IBM also announced a toolkit and related services to convert Oracle databases and applications to IBM's DB2 data management family.
Perna added that advanced object- oriented functions in the Universal Database will have to wait until a sub-sequent release. She explained that object functions such as polymorphism - for the development of commands that disparate objects implement in a similar fashion - and object inheritance that allows for the reuse of definitions, will be available in the next release of DB2 Universal Database, due for beta testing late in 1998. Also planned is support for abstract data types, which would, for example, enable a person to be designated as an object.
By the end of the year, IBM plans to ship DB2 OLAP Server, which combines DB2 Universal Database with Arbor's Essbase data analytical functions.
The RRP for DB2 Universal Database starts at $1823 per server and $363 per end user. A single user desktop is available for $673. The solution is available for IBM AIX and OS/2 platforms, as well as Hewlett-Packard HP-UX, Microsoft Windows NT and Sun Solaris.
The solution is sold through a worldwide partnership of system and network integrators, VARs and consultants. IBM's sales force supports this partnership by providing qualified sales leads, customer contact and field sales support.
The SQL Conversion Workbench and related migration services are expected to be available some time in the fourth quarter of 1997, with pricing announced at that time.
For further details contact Anil Reddy, segment manager, Data Management at:
Tel 13 2426 Fax 9354 9098
Informix Universal Server
Informix was the first major relational database developer to market an object-relational database. The company aimed to position its Universal Server object-relational database architecture as a middleware tool for applications based on three-tier architectures.
The management system accepts third- party reusable software plug-ins which extend the capabilities of the core database server. The software plug-ins, called DataBlade modules, enable the user to tailor the server to suit the information processing requirements of their par- ticular business. For example, the DataBlades could be developed for business logic: a new employee can be added to the database, rather than having to do this using a separate application server. The user chooses the DataBlade modules to meet their information management needs and adds them to the open Universal Server architecture, thus creating a powerful, scaleable database management system which is customised for the user's business. Image, text and spatial DataBlade modules can be combined for an online sales information system. Statistical and financial analysis modules can be combined for more acute business performance analysis. The whole system can be created, managed and deployed on the Web.
Back on track
After recent damaging financial disclosures and management shake-ups, Informix is now trying to put the focus back on its database technology. The company is currently beta-testing an upgrade of its flagship OnLine Dynamic Server that is due for release early in 1998. The OnLine Dynamic Server 7.3 upgrade is expected to include features aimed at making it easier to learn for developers and database administrators who are familiar with Oracle's software.
By the end of the year or early next year, Informix is also expected to ship a version of its analysis-oriented OnLine Extended Parallel Server database, with new support for Windows NT. The product is being repackaged to help to reduce the distinctions between its different databases and simplifying purchases for users.
Informix is also working on "Visionary", a database interface project that would give users a multimedia or spreadsheet-like front-end to the database in place of traditional business forms.
Tel (02) 9928 1600 Fax (02) 9928 1666
Sybase Adaptive Server Enterprise DBMS
Released in September, this system offers new decision support capabilities and full backward compatibility with the product's predecessor, Sybase SQL Server 1.1.
The new product features support for data types such as spatial and time series data. Support for functions such as object inheritance (object functions can be reused in subsequent objects) is planned for 1998.
Adaptive Server Enterprise 11.5 is the first member of the company's Adaptive Server database product family. It supports major Unix operating systems including Digital Equipment's Unix, Hewlett-Packard's UX, IBM's AIX, Sun Microsystem's Solaris, as well as Microsoft's Windows NT.
New features of the database management system include the Logical Process Manager (LPM) for allocating CPU resources and the Logical Memory Manager (LMM), allowing database administrators to maximise database performance on an application-by-application basis.
The database also offers distributed query capabilities across Adaptive Server Enterprise 11.5 and previous versions of Sybase SQL Server and other Sybase database servers. It has a utility to integrate with non-Sybase database management systems.
The database can now store and manage multimedia images and geospatial data from Sybase partners Network Imaging Corp and Vision International.
The RRP of Adaptive Server Enterprise DBMS is from $1521 (base product on Windows NT). vOracle8Launched in Australasia in July and August of 1997, Oracle8 has been described by Oracle Corporation as "its next generation database for network computing that will dramatically reduce organisations' computing costs and empower a new era of low cost, personalised information access".
Oracle8 builds on the open, standards-based infrastructure of Network Computing Architecture. Its data cartridges provide "manageable, extensible functionality" on clients, application servers and database servers.
Data cartridges can enable ISV's, VARs and corporate application developers to extend the database server with user-defined datatypes like text, image, spatial geometry, and time series, for a "new generation" of Web-based applications.
The RRP of Oracle8 starts at $2500 for the Enterprise Version and $450 for the workgroup server.
In December, Oracle will ship parallel-processing versions of Oracle8, on both Windows NT and Unix platforms.
Oracle Parallel Server (OPS) for Oracle8 promises greater processing power and scalability by enabling the database to be distributed across multiple computers. Oracle8 as it is now, provides enhanced support for data warehousing, backup and objects.
OLE DB support is a burning issue between Oracle and Microsoft, but both companies are developing drivers to connect applications to Oracle databases via OLE DB. Oracle considers Microsoft's OLE DB APIs for data access an inferior access method, arguing they only support generic database functions.
Support will nevertheless be provided: the company has said in a prepared statement that "in the interest of being open, Oracle will provide tools-support for OLE DB and an OLE DB driver to the database."
The statement went on to say that "OLE DB does not support any advanced feature of the Oracle database and features such as advanced replication may not be accessible via OLE DB."
Oracle hasn't set a time line for OLE DB support, however Microsoft is planning an Oracle OLE DB driver, or "provider", set for release with the Visual Studio development toolkit in 1998.
Companies such as Sybase, IBM, Informix, and Computer Associates are planning to build OLE DB support into their products.
Tel (02) 9900 1000 Fax (02) 9900 1979
Lower end databases
Sybase SQL Anywhere
SQL Anywhere is positioned in the workplace environment. Rebecca Jackson, retail program manager at Sybase, says it is a fully relational database "with the power and performance of the big players, but it fits nicely on a desktop and is easy and simple to use".
There are two editions of SQL Anywhere: standard and professional. The only difference is that the professional edition comes with dynamic Internet and intranet enablement.
SQL Anywhere takes full advantage of Intel 486 and Pentium architectures and is also compatible with 386 processors. The product comes with support for multiple platforms on a single CD - including Windows 95 and Windows NT.
The architecture of SQL Anywhere simplifies scaling from single-user configuration to mass deployment in multi-platform, multi-user server environments. Database files can be copied and pasted between versions, allowing workgroups to expand as needed without massive database restructuring.
SQL Anywhere includes SQL Remote, a straightforward asynchronous replication facility that uses standard message-based APIs to synchronise mobile remote users with the corporate database. With NetImpact Dynamo, these same users remain synchronised with the corporate intranet.
SQL Remote is specially designed for installations in which a consolidated database, or corporate intranet, contains data relevant to many remote sites.
Additional support for Sybase Replication server offers the potential to replicate data to Sybase, Oracle, DB/2 and other popular back ends via SQL Anywhere Replication Agent, which is available separately.
SQL Anywhere facilitates application development with bi-directional, scrolling updateable cursors, and multimedia datatypes such as binary large objects. It also ensures a wide choice of front-end tools and fast performance through its ODBC drivers. Native dynamic SQL and "powerful" cursor capabilities enable development of high-performance applications.
The RRP of SQL Anywhere starts at $465 for the standard edition, and ranges to $695 for the professional edition.
Tel (02) 9936 8922 Fax (02) 9936 8822
Microsoft Access 97 for Windows 95
Microsoft Access 97 for the Windows 95 and Windows NT operating systems is a relational database which integrates data from spreadsheets and other databases.
New features of Access 97 include a database wizard, a simple query wizard, filter by selection, filter by form, a table analyser wizard, improved form and report wizards, publish to the Web, single-click hyperlinks, import/export wizard, database replication and single-click selection. In addition there is improved 32-bit performance, Microsoft Visual Basic for applications, performance analyser wizard, programmable toolbars and a removable source code.
There are easy links to other Microsoft Office applications and first-time users are equipped with tools to get the system running quickly. For example, the database wizard automatically builds any of more than 20 types of custom databases "in minutes". The table analyser wizard transforms flat file lists or spreadsheets into "powerful" relational databases. The simple query wizard finds the answers to questions regardless of how the data is structured.
"Publish to the Web" provides dynamic information on intranets or the Internet, and the import/export wizard walks through the conversion of their data from a variety of formats. Hyperlinks to different databases, documents, and internal or external Web sites increase the power and scope of the user's database.
Microsoft Access 97 offers enhanced 32-bit performance with smaller forms, more efficient compilation, and better data manipulation technology "for quicker queries and responses".
A helping hand
The performance analyser wizard automatically recommends the best way to speed up the database. The intuitive integrated development environment (IDE) of Microsoft Visual Basic for Applications with OLE simplifies the building of quick solutions and their integration with other Microsoft Office programs. The source code can be removed to make solutions run faster and to protect the user's "intellectual property".
System requirements are:
A personal or multimedia computer with a 486 or higher processor;Microsoft Windows 95 operating system or Microsoft Windows NT Workstation 3.51 Service Pack 5 or later;12Mb of memory for use on Windows 95; 16Mb for use on Windows NT Workstation; 16Mb recommended for Microsoft Personal Web Server;28Ð60Mb of available hard-disk space required; 40Mb required for typical installation, depending on configuration (use the Office upgrade Wizard during setup to maximise free disk space);CD-ROM drive (coupon enclosed for 3.5in high density disks; CD-ROM contains Microsoft Internet Explorer, additional drivers, .avi files, and sounds not available on 3.5in disks);VGA or higher-resolution video adapterSome additional items or services are required to use certain features:
9600 or higher-band modem;
Multimedia computer required to access sound and other multimedia effects; the publish to the web feature requires Microsoft Internet Information Server for Windows NT or Microsoft Personal Web Server for Windows 95; Microsoft Windows 95, Microsoft Windows NT Workstation 3.51 Service Pack 5, Microsoft Windows NT Serve 3.51 Service Pack 5, or Novell NetWare network.
Data formats supported:
Directly imports, exports, and links to: Microsoft Excel version 3.0 or later, Microsoft FoxPro version 2.x or later, Microsoft SQL Server, Borland dBase III Plus, Borland dBase IV, Borland dBase 5.0, Borland Paradox v3.0 to 5.0, ASCII text, and all OBBC; compliant databases;Directly imports and exports to: Microsoft Visual FoxPro v3.0 and Lotus 1-2-3.
The RRP of Microsoft Access is from $499.
Tel (02) 9417 9700 Fax (02) 9417 9797
Tel (02) 9381 6000 Fax 9381 6149
Borland dBase 7 for Windows 95 and NT
Borland International announced Visual dBase 7 for Windows 95 and Windows NT in mid-October. The product is scheduled to ship later this quarter and the 32-bit version features new two-way visual design tools and object-oriented component support for maximum developer productivity, as well as a high-performance compiler and enhanced connectivity for Microsoft FoxPro, Access and corporate database servers.
Visual dBase 7 Professional and Visual dBase 7 Client/Server are based on an easy-to-use programming language, Borland's visual development tools and 32-bit database technology.
Many new visual tools are included to enhance developer productivity and deliver sophisticated database applications. Other features include:
A new two-way Integrated Report Writer for building and delivering advanced database reports;New Project Explorer for visually managing application files in a hierarchical TreeView and custom views;New Visual SQL Builder for graphically creating database queries;New support for ActiveX Controls for reusing third-party and custom-made components built with Delphi, C++, or Visual Basic;New Data Modules and Object Con- tainers for managing and maintaining complex relationships between com ponents, database tables and objects;New Grid Control for visually displaying data and easy data interaction; new support for Microsoft FoxPro and Access data;New 32-bit Borland Database Engine that includes native high-performance enhancements for dBase, Paradox, Oracle, Sybase, Informix, DB2 Microsoft SQL Server, InterBase and ODBC data sources;Web Wizards and DeltaPoint Web tools for publishing dynamic data over the Internet;Enhanced 32-bit Integrated Compiler for seamless application deployment; InstallShield Express for automatically creating professional installation programs.
Visual dBase 7 Professional is scheduled to be available later this quarter from Borland and major software distribution channels. The ESP will be $$499. Visual dBase 7 Client/Server has an ESP of $1999.
Tel (02) 9248 0900 Fax (02) 9262 4242
Computer Associates - Visual Objects
CA-Visual Objects is a fully object-oriented, 32-bit developer system that runs under the Microsoft Windows 95 and Windows NT operating systems. Object-orientation and visual development tools are combined with a native-code compiler. Features include event-driven; GUI environments; visual design tools, repository, native-code compiler; and database connectivity for DBF and SQL data sources. The product also provides full access to the Win32 API.
The 32-bit, object-oriented development language provides for the creation of sophisticated applications for the Windows environment, and the product also includes class libraries for GUI programming, database management, and OLE. Programmers can also create their own classes and methods using object-oriented programming (OOP), including inheritance, polymorphism and encapsulation.
CA-Visual Objects is a single development tool which combines OOP technology, GUIs, visual design tools, automatic code generation, and traditional business languages. It uses a multitiered, repository-based development system which provides a framework for developing all kinds of applications and is specifically designed to support iterative development techniques.
CA-Visual Objects is shipped with several 32-bit ODBC database drivers, providing database access to a wide variety of enterprise data stored in relational databases. The product also employs replaceable database driver (RDD) technology, allowing applications to remain data-format independent. Using RDDs, the product can access different database file formats using a common language interface. Data formats which can be accessed include dBase and FoxPro.
The Repository Explorer, "patterned after the Microsoft Windows 95 Explorer", combines the use of a TreeView and a ListView and gives the user the capability to fast copy or move applications, modules or entities for quick application development.
The Report Editor is a publishing tool that has been integrated directly into the product, and the debugger provides advanced tools for tracking and correcting errors that occur at runtime.
The system requirements of CA-Visual Objects are:
Intel or compatible 486-based PC or higher;Microsoft Windows 95 or Windows NT 4.0;16Mb memory, (32Mb recommended);50Mb hard disk space (100Mb recommended); CD-ROM drive.
The RRP of CA-Visual Objects Standard is $195 and Visual Objects Professional is $495.
The product is distributed by MicroChannel.
For further details contact Sam Nizeti, product manager at:
Tel (02) 9906 3666 Fax (02) 9906 3665
Claris FileMaker Pro 4.0
FileMaker Pro 4.0 is a relational database which complements Microsoft Office because it allows the user to convert many versions of Microsoft Excel spreadsheets into FileMaker Pro databases. Reports and forms can be created with a variety of built-in graphics tools, including object rotation. Information can be shared seamlessly between the Windows and Mac OS versions of FileMaker Pro - even simultaneously over a network.
Publishing features include:
Instant Web publishing;
Custom Web publishing - using the built-in CGI capabilities, databases can be connected to Web pages to collect custom information and share data with visitors to the Web site; Integration with Claris Home Page 3.0 Software - custom web pages can be designed that interact with FileMaker Pro 4.0 databases via the FileMaker Connection Assistant in Claris Home Page 3.0;Integration of multimedia - Web pages can be enhanced by incorporat ing JPEG and GIF images, animated GIF images, AIFF sound files, QuickTime movies, and Java applets into HTML pages served by the product's Web Companion.
Features to assist the ease of start up of the product include:
Professional solutions - includes invoicing, mailing lists, contact management, project tracking inventory management, and school records;Microsoft Excel file conversion; Versatile data import - databases can be created using raw data from spread sheets, word processors and other databases; and Data handling flexibility - fields, layouts and calculations can be added, changed or removed at any time without rebuilding the database.
Tools for accessing and managing data include:
Relational database capabilities;
Versatile find function to retrieve needed information;Custom field formats;Automatic data entry;Built-in spelling checker; andMore than 100 calculation functions.
Design capabilities include drag-and-drop support; multimedia "container" fields; mail-merge support; and integrated text handling.
Cross-platform compatibility, instant peer-to-peer networking; password control; and automatic record locking facilitates and secures information sharing.
The systems requirements for Windows are:
8Mb of RAM;
Windows 95 or later, Windows NT 3.51 or later, Windows 3.1 or Windows for workgroups;CD-ROM drive; Hard disk drive;For sharing FileMaker Pro databases over a network the user requires Windows 95 and Windows NT, Microsoft IPX/SPX or TCP/IP networks, Windows 3.1, or Windows for Workgroups.
For Mac OS, the system requirements are:
Macintosh, Power Macintosh or other Mac OS-based computer; 8Mb of RAM with the web companion enabled and 4Mb of RAM without;Mac OS version 7.1 or later; CD-ROM drive; Hard disk drive;TCP/IP, IPX/SPX or AppleTalk network connection required for sharing FileMaker Pro 4.0 databases over a network;TCP/IP software required for enabling web companion.
FileMaker Pro ships on CD and is now available. The RRP is $299 with an upgrade/competitive trade-up price of $129.
Tel (02) 9452 8585
Fax (02) 9975 6083
Contact management: Symantec act! 3.0
ACT! 3.0 for Windows 95 and Windows NT is a fully customisable, feature-rich individual and team contact manager.
With synchronisation, customisation and Internet connect-ivity, users can manoeuvre in and out of applications and Web sites maintaining constant access and integration with critical contact and calendar information.
ACT! 3.0 is a native 32-bit application which focuses on an intuitive, completely customisable interface. The product also provides users with many types of contact exchange built-in, from one contact to a whole database, and from LAN to Internet.
Features include links to Microsoft Word and WordPerfect; the ability to attach letters and files to contacts; contact form and list views; the ability to track business opportunities as well as people; simultaneous views of calendars by day, week or month; and shared customer calendar information across an entire team.
ACT! 3.0 provides TAPI support with a complete telephony integration function allowing users to take advantage of Caller-ID and direct dialling from a contact record. ACT! Also features built-in network support and password protection. Users can share their customer information and their calendar on a LAN, over e-mail, or over the Internet.
A built-in database synchronisation provides database replication for workgroups.
With supports to most popular Web browsers, the product lets users store World Wide Web addresses with contact records.
LiveUpdate technology enables Symantec customers to obtain ACT! 3.0 product information, patches and updates direct from Symantec via the Internet or a modem. A wizard guides users through the software update process.
System requirements are Microsoft Windows 95, Windows 3.1, or Windows 3.51 or NT 4.0 with 80486 or higher microprocessor (80386 for Windows 3.1), 8Mb of RAM and at least 16Mb of free hard disk space.
The RRP is $299 and the upgrade price is $139.
Tel (02) 9879 6577 Fax (02) 9850 1001
Seagate Crystal Reports 6.0
This software is tool which extracts data from a database and presents it as a report. Suitable data sources include PC and SQL databases; ODBC-compliant data sources; multidimensional data (OLAP) data; Web server activity logs; special Microsoft data sources like Exchange and Outlook, NT event logs; Internet information server logs; and application data from ADO, RDO and DAO using the Crystal Active Data driver.
Report Experts walk the user through the design process from start to finish. Users can choose from columnar reports, form-style reports, mailing labels, sub reports, conditional reports, cross-tab reports, multiple section reports, Top N reports and drill down reports.
Data can be placed in the report in any way the user wants and it can be customised to look any way the user chooses.
Data can be analysed with capabilities such as multi-pass reporting and unlimited sorting, including sorting on groups, custom sorting and Top N/Bottom N sorting. The formula language contains over 160 functions and operators, and is extensible to allow user-defined functions written in any COM language.
Graphs can be inserted that integrate more than 80 customisable styles that reflect detail, group or formula data. Graphs can be improved by including fonts, bit-maps, boxes, lines or embedded objects for other applications. The user has precise control over the placement of report objects, including graphical watermarks underlaying entire report pages.
Seagate Crystal Reports can be deployed across the web by linking them to the user's web server and installing and configuring the royalty-free Crystal Web Report Server (included). The report can be created once and distributed to any user with a Web browser, regardless of their desktop platform.
To access reports, users browse to a Web page with report links or a Web application with reporting. Seagate Crystal Reports detects their browser type and automatically returns the report with the compatible Smart Viewer - ActiveX or Java display reports in native Crystal Reports format.
Fast response times
The thin-wire architecture of the Crystal Web Report Server "ensures superior response times and helps reduce Web traffic". The user pulls reports to the browser as desired, a page at a time. While viewing a report, the user can also use the drill down, search and group tree facilities of Smart Navigation to help find report information quickly and intuitively.
Also included with Seagate Crystal Reports is the Crystal Active Server Component, allowing the user to integrate the Crystal Report Engine directly into Active Server Pages (ASPs) and a Visual InterDev Design-time ActiveX Control wizard to simplify integration of reports into ASPs.
Seagate Crystal Reports 6.0 has an RRP of $620 and Seagate Crystal Info has an RRP of $2700.
Tel (02) 9436 1175 Fax (02) 9436 1184
A PIM in the hand
Sidekick 98 is the latest version of what must be one of the longest lasting PC products. While not a database, this PIM has a strong data management content. It manages data, tracks phone calls, connects to your e-mailer and synchronises seamlessly with devices such as the Palm Pilot and the REX which will be released early next year. New features include a built-in web pub- lisher and an automatic link with Microsoft Outlook Express and Outlook 97 to create a virtual card file. At $99 this is an easy sell. It will ship in around two weeks.
Tel (02) 9899 5888 Fax (02) 9899 5728