IBM’s DB2 Universal Database gains mobility

Distributed data application deployments are picking up steam – invading laptops, personal digital assistants and intelligent mobile devices – and bringing with them the need to distribute data and applications to a widening enterprise with sufficient management built-in.

IBM Corp., following the example of Sybase and Oracle, expands the reach of its flagship database, DB2 Universal Database, with the release of the DB2 6.1 Satellite Edition – a scaled-down version of the database aimed squarely at mobile Windows users. The Satellite Administration Center, a new component of the DB2 Control Center, provides a centralized way to configure and monitor DB2 Satellites.

IBM hopes to achieve centralized mobile-client administration with little or no end-user involvement and limitless scalability. These goals are possible given the DB2 Satellite architecture, but IBM needs to iron out several wrinkles before DB2 Satellite will be a viable solution.

Before you can create a DB2 Satellite environment, you’ll need a server with the DB2 Universal Database 6.1 and Fixpack 1. With these prerequisites, you will find the Control Center with the DB2 Satellite Administration extension. You can use the latter to configure replication and monitoring tasks for each mobile client. The configuration settings and DB2 Satellite client-operation results are stored in a common DB2 database, located on the server machine. You’ll also need to deploy DB2 6.1 Satellite Edition on each mobile client.

My first attempt to install DB2 Universal Database and Fixpack 1 produced an unusable Control Center, and I had to call for help to straighten things out. After a long and unproductive debugging session, I tried the installation again, only to get a warning at the end that the user was missing one of the NT rights. After a little fumbling, I finally had a working DB2 server. The next action was to build a Satellite Control database in which I could store settings for each client.

Installing the Satellite software on my mobile clients proved much easier than the server setup. However, the client setup asked for an application identifier and application version level for the Satellite machine. I also needed to know the server administrator’s user ID and password. Clients must be described in the Control Center, and then you must use the Satellite Administration Center to define applications and databases that each client machine can access.

To prepare a mobile user for replication, you put together batches of scripts, which the system downloads to the client machine when the user requests synchronization. The scripts execute off-line, and at the end of the process, the client will automatically connect to the server to record the results in the Satellite Control Database. The scripting capabilities are among DB2 Satellite’s best features.

DB2 Satellite’s visual administration tools are helpful. However, deploying and managing a DB2 Satellite end-user requires several correlated pieces of information and the use of different tools, which can easily get confusing. For example, from the Control Center you can see an overview of each client machine along with its database settings. However, to activate the individual mobile client replication, you need to enter information in the Satellite Administration Center via its graphical tool.

To simplify the initial setup of DB2 Satellite clients, the Administration Center lets you group together users with similar database and applications requirements. Members within the group can share the same script, which simplifies the administrator’s work.

These features are a welcome relief, but my initial impression of DB2 Satellite is that the product is not yet viable for production use. The installation needs to be simplified, and the management tools need improvement, both of which IBM has said it will address. DB2 Satellite falls short when compared to its rivals. If you wish to extend DB2 data and applications to mobile clients, keep DB2 Satellite on radar, but think about waiting for the next release.


DB2 6.1 Satellite Edition

Supplier: IBM Corp.

Price: US$199 per client; US$12,500 per server

Platform: Server: AIX, Windows NT; Client: Windows 95/98, Windows NT

Pros: Cloning simplifies client configurations, centralized administration and monitoring tools

Cons: Difficult to set up and manage, limited platform support, requires added management tools for sites that also need to support personal digital assistants