IBM bolsters WebSphere with BI, blasts Oracle

IBM on Wednesday unveiled WCA/Advanced (WebSphere Commerce Analyzer Advanced Edition), its latest volley in the heated database market.

Speaking at IBM's Software Solutions Conference in San Francisco, Janet Perna, general manager of IBM's data management solutions division, explained that the product is designed to further integrate DB2 and the WebSphere product family.

"Customers can now do real-time data analytics," Perna said.

WCA/Advanced offers users immediate access to customer buying patterns and trends when used in tandem with DB2's BI (business intelligence) and data mining capabilities. For example, it could provide retailers with data showing a demographic group of customers who typically abandon shopping carts online, according to IBM.

Building on top of IBM's middleware and DB2 relational database, which includes OLAP (online analytical processing), data mining, and data warehousing, Big Blue added the Brio.Inform business performance management application from Brio.

IBM DB2 provides the analytics and data mining, while Brio's software gives it a browser-based interface that can be used to generate reports, charts, and graphs.

The overall result is what the company describes as an infrastructure combining analytics with an e-commerce transaction system that is designed to translate into better customer service to yield a faster return on Web site investments.

"The intent is to provide insight into customer buying trends, such as the success of campaigns, and promotions," said Paul Rivot, IBM's director of database server and BI. "So users will be able to tune their Web sites or offer targeted promotions."

The product can be used, for example, to uncover information about buying habits, with the data then applied to a targeted-marketing campaign.

Rivot added that although Wednesday's announcement ties into Brio's technology, IBM is working to add more front-end BI products, beginning with Business Objects software.

"You'll see delivery of a similar product [with Business Objects] over the next quarter or so," Rivot said.

WCA/Advanced is preconfigured, enabling customers to quickly utilise it. The software supports standards such as Java and SQL as well as collaboration and security tools.

The product is to be available Wednesday on the Microsoft Windows NT platform, officials said. A version for IBM AIX is due in mid September.

Meanwhile, in commenting on IBM's acquisition of Informix, Perna said DB2 customers can expect to see the next three releases of the product contain functionality from Informix's "Arrowhead" project, a database designed to provide a single management system for distributed databases using a "shared nothing" architecture.

Perna said the majority of the functionality planned for development in the Arrowhead project already exists in DB2.

In addition, Perna used the opportunity to assert IBM's position in the market, refuting repeated comments from Oracle Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Larry Ellison about the limitations of its shared nothing database architecture.

Perna described Oracle's approach to clustering as "a pig with lipstick," and attributed Oracle's financial slowdown to increased competition from IBM. Perna said that 1,000 customers decided to choose DB2 over Oracle last quarter for pricing and technology reasons.

"IBM will go head to head with Oracle any time, any place; you can write that down," she told reporters here.