IBM adds self-healing features to DB2 upgrade

IBM Corp. on Monday unwrapped what it characterized as a major upgrade to its DB2 database, adding self-management and self-tuning features designed to help customers reduce the cost of maintaining the product.

DB2 Version 8 also adds better support for Web services, or technologies that link disparate business applications over the Internet, and improved capabilities for integrating data stored in a variety of sources across an enterprise, the company said in a statement.

A beta version of DB2 Version 8 was due to be made generally available for download Monday from IBM’s Web site. It said details of pricing and availability would be released in the fourth quarter.

IBM hopes the upgrade will help it to steal further business from Oracle Corp., which last year narrowly held its lead in the US$7 billion market for relational database management software, according to research company Gartner Inc. Oracle took 39.8 per cent of new license revenue from that market in 2001, down from 42.5 per cent the previous year, while IBM increased its share from 32.6 per cent to 34.1 per cent over the same period, Gartner said.

Oracle released an upgrade to its own database, Oracle 9i, in June. Release 2 of the product added better support for XML (Extensible Markup language) documents, as well as a list of tweaks designed to improve performance and reliability.

In its statement Monday, IBM made much of the new self-healing, or “autonomic” capabilities, which are also being added to some of its hardware equipment. One feature, called the Health Center, automatically updates a database administrator (DBA) on system performance, offers advice about problems with the database or applications running on it and sends alerts when a fix has been generated, IBM said.

For example, if a database system runs short of memory or if a query is taking too much time to run, alerts are sent via email, pager or PDA (personal digital assistant), and DBAs can make the required adjustments to their database through a Web browser, IBM said.

The upgrade also adds a “configuration advisor” that’s supposed to cut the time it takes to configure a database and cut back on the need for frequent manual tuning. Administrators typically need to configure as many as 100 parameters for their database, according to IBM; DBS automatically sets some of those parameters based on responses to questions about how the database will be used.

Addressing the difficulties of integrating data from multiple sources, IBM said it improved DB2’s “federation capabilities,” making it easier to pull together information stored in databases from rivals such as Oracle and Microsoft Corp. It also claimed that developers can create a single SQL query that will allow DB2 to access information offered in the form of Web services, which use XML to link business applications from different vendors.

Other new features aim to boost query response times and make it easier to manage and retrieve data stored in the XML format, IBM said. DB2 version 8 also adds support for the 64-bit versions of Microsoft Windows and Linux, the Armonk, New York, company said.

Taken as a whole, the improvements should help customers address two of the biggest challenges they currently face, according to IBM: managing increasing amounts of data at a time when skilled DBAs are in short supply, and tying together business data that is stored in an array of formats and a variety of computer systems.