Once the deal is sealed, Informix will be renamed Ascential Software.
Big Blue said the purchase will strengthen its database technology. IBM says its database revenue grew 36 percent year to year in the first quarter of 2001.
IBM plans to integrate the Informix database-business operations and employees into its software data-management division under general manager Janet Perna. IBM plans to market and sell Informix database products worldwide through a combined IBM and Informix sales force.
"At first blush, this seems like a very smart way for IBM to continue (its) success in the database market," Merrill Lynch analyst Thomas Kraemer wrote in a research bulletin issued Tuesday morning. "We think this (acquisition) will make IBM more competitive in the open systems segment of the relation database market," Kraemer wrote.
Informix offers IBM a large number of customers, and established products running on Unix and Windows NT operating systems, according to Kraemer.
After challenging market leader Oracle in the mid-1990s, Menlo Park, Calif.-based Informix fell on hard times.
Informix appeared to have its business in order after years of financial struggles, stringing together six consecutive quarters of revenue growth. However, by the second quarter in 2000 the company was again reporting losses.
Still, Informix maintained a reputation for solid database technology used in so-called data warehousing, business intelligence and transaction-handling systems. Informix claims its software is used by more than 100,000 customers, including phone companies Verizon and Deutsche Telekom, retailer Sears and airline-reservation system Sabre.
Informix plans to use the proceeds from the sale of its database unit to focus on asset-management software. Upon the closing of the IBM deal, Informix said it will change its name to Ascential Software. The two companies said on Tuesday they plan to jointly market and sell business-intelligence software.