IBM plans to debut the first fruits of a long-standing research project later this year, setting the stage for a clash with rivals in the multibillion-dollar database software market.
Big Blue will announce later this month that it will ship by June the first product from Xperanto, an initiative aimed at helping companies fetch information from many data sources all at once, from sales records to documents stored in e-mail servers.
Meanwhile, Microsoft and BEA Systems are approaching the same problem with similar technology, while database market leader Oracle favors a different approach.
Database companies have been tackling the idea of the "federated," or virtual, database for years, although many attempts have failed because of the poor performance of distributed queries, said Philip Russom, an analyst with Giga Information Group. System complexity and the lack of a universal data language such as Extensible Markup Language (XML) also sidetracked earlier efforts.
With Xperanto, IBM stirs up a longtime industry debate over how best to manage enterprise data. On the one side are IBM, BEA and Microsoft, which favor a federated approach. On the other side, the leading advocate of a more centralized approach is Oracle, which argues that fewer large databases are less expensive to maintain than a larger number of smaller databases. But Oracle databases can also query multiple data sources and handle XML as a data format, said Benny Souder, vice president of distributed database technology at Oracle.
IBM argues that companies need integration at multiple levels--between information sources, applications, and business processes--and it has invested in all three areas. By using IBM's programming tool, WebSphere Studio, a developer can create an application that exploits the capabilities of Xperanto, its WebSphereMQ application integration middleware and WebSphere Business Integrator.
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