DB2 gets B2B boost

“Make it fast, and focus on the Web” might well be the only battle cry left in the world of high technology, and IBM Corp.’s latest database release is no exception to this call to arms.

With millions of database servers out there and an increasingly high number of them tied directly into business-to-business e-commerce, it is little wonder IBM has positioned this release as an e-business database.

The company’s Toronto lab played an integral part in the development of Version 7 of IBM’s DB2 Universal Database and it was there that an announcement was made in April about the beta release. IBM’s focus is on companies consolidating data which has been typically spread over disparate systems. Add to this massive amounts of data generated from corporate Web sites and there is, quite logically, a perceived urgency to integrate everything under one roof.

“DB2’s job is to manage and store the data and retrieve it from wherever it is in the organization,” said Brett MacIntyre, director of database technology at the company’s Toronto lab.

MacIntyre cites the introduction of a warehouse manager which can build a collection of information with DB2 using a graphical user interface. He said if the data is spread through different systems, DB2 Version 7 can pull it all together. It can leave the data where it is and access it as needed. Another option, according to MacIntyre, is to bring all of the data into DB2, cleanse it and build a warehouse there.

Increased XML integration has also played an important roll in this latest release. “We have integrated XML as part of the database to be able to get information shared,” MacIntyre said.

IBM calls it deep XML integration, which has some analysts a little confused.

“Deep. What does that mean?” asked Carl Olofson.

The Framingham-based IDC program director did expand on the need for XML integration in the database market. “XML integration is a prerequisite to be able to support business-to-business e-commerce, so the better the XML support the more you are able to provide an integrated solution.”

Olofson said IBM’s competition is what he calls the usual suspects – Oracle and Microsoft.

It was Microsoft, he said, which pushed IBM to up DB2’s OLAP functionality.

“An obvious motive to put more OLAP functionality into the server is to counter Microsoft’s bundling of OLAP tools into SQL Server 7,” he said.

“I think IBM is trying to distinguish themselves in terms of performance and scalability,” he added, seemingly reading MacIntyre’s mind.

The goal is to “make DB2 run fast, make it the fastest database in the world,” MacIntyre said. He added that the OLAP technology, based on Hyperion Essbase, gives corporate analysts the ability to “ask a question and get an answer back in a minute (instead of waiting hours),” he said.

For some users, who have been on board for a while, the increased OLAP integration is just an added bonus.

When edeal.com, a Toronto-based person-to-person trading community, started using DB2 in late 1998, OLAP technology was not a huge concern, though it is now. “[It] just helps us reaffirm that we made the right decision (in choosing DB2),” said Leon Kuperman, CTO of the company. He added that the firm looked around quite a bit when choosing a database. “We really wanted a reliable Unix platform to house the database,” he said. Kuperman liked some of Oracle’s development features and wasn’t too keen on Microsoft’s scalability. So for his company’s requirements DB2 was the most rock-solid option available, he said.

“The choice has paid off because we have had no downtime on the database side.”

IBM claims it has the industry’s first and only “integrated, in-memory relational database technology, designed to speed up text search for Web applications,” but Kuperman is a little leery of the company’s lofty claims. “I don’t’ think any relational database vendor has really done a good job of integrating true text search into the database engine,” he said. edeal built their own for their site.

The beta release is available now and can be downloaded at www.ibm.com. Full Unix, Linux, NT, Windows 2000 and OS/2 versions will be available in Q2. Pricing will be announced upon availability.