IBM has announced that its software products for managing business data are being upgraded across the board.

It says the new offerings enable real-time information delivery through data warehousing, data integration and master-data management.

IBM is focusing on making data seem local even when it is distributed across multiple systems, mapping information to get consistent views of data, and quickly processing many types of data and content, said Steve Mills, senior vice president of the company’s software group.

“We can deal with any customer’s data in virtually any format,” Mills said during a press conference at the IBM Information on Demand Global Conference in Las Vegas. “We have focused on very-high-scale high performance. How do you make that remote information seem local?”

One key announcement has IBM releasing Master Data Management Server, software for managing information about customers, products and accounts within a service-oriented architecture (SOA). The product, which is entering beta testing and will become available in early 2008, treats master data as a strategic asset supported by capabilities for defining, accessing and using it, according to IBM. This will help financial services providers, retailers, governments and other large organisations design and implement processes that depend on an accurate, comprehensive and consistent view of master data, IBM says.

The following is a summary of IBM’s other data announcements:

- Big Blue introduced the DB2 9.5 “Viper 2” data server, with data-automation and -performance enhancements to improve the way customers store, manage and access business information. The system’s new data management capabilities could double data-transaction performance and provide significant storage savings, IBM said.

Viper 2 will be available by 31 October, with prices starting at $50 per processor value unit or $170 per user. Another version will be available as a free download with optional yearly support at $2,995 per server.

- IBM announced DB2 Warehouse 9.5, which is built on the new Viper 2 data server and aims to improve real-time business intelligence. New capabilities include “extreme workload management, embedded online analytic processing and embedded analytics for unstructured information, enabling customers to address the increasing demand for real-time analysis of strategic business information,” IBM states.

- IBM introduced Information Server for System z, a software platform that profiles, cleanses, transforms and delivers information from the mainframe and distributed data sources. This provides a foundation for key business initiatives, such as real-time reporting, business intelligence, data migration, data warehousing, data governance, CRM and SOA, according to IBM. The product will be available worldwide in November at prices starting at about $80,000, officials said.

- IBM announced a Client Data Management tool that lets financial institutions consolidate client data from multiple systems and data centres, letting them improve customer service. “For instance, a bank’s customer address-change can be updated in real-time by just a single notification across multiple business units and systems, such as checking and savings accounts,” IBM states. Available now, prices start at about $200,000, depending on a customer’s needs.

The set of announcements was a bold move for IBM, which is already the market share leader in data integration and master data management, says James Kobielus, principal analyst for data management at Current Analysis. The new products and upgrades will help IBM stay ahead of rivals Oracle and Tibco Software in overall capabilities, he says.

“It's easily the most extensive and far-reaching set of co-ordinated product announcements IBM has ever put forth in [the] IBM Information On Demand [initiative],” Kobielus says.

IBM’s profits in this space have grown faster than the market average over the past year, IBM officials said. The company’s data integration strategy was aided this year by acquisitions of Princeton Softech and DataMirror. More acquisitions can be expected in this area, IBM officials said.