IBM outlines changes in store for DB2

IBM Corp. has detailed a series of changes coming to its flagship DB2 database, including an upgrade of the mainframe version of the software that will support 64-bit addressing capabilities.

Version 8 of DB2 Universal Database for IBM’s zSeries mainframes will also provide an increased number of memory buffer pools to improve system performance, said Tom Rosamilia, the company’s vice-president of worldwide data management development. In addition, IT managers will be able to make changes to databases without bringing systems down, Rosamilia said at the annual North American conference of the International DB2 Users Group (IDUG).

IBM is also adding a feature that will let mainframe systems administrators recover old data by using a combination of system memory and off-line storage. For example, the upgrade will be able to roll back to a database log from a previous day, Rosamilia said.

IBM has yet to set a shipment date for the upgrade. But initial field tests have begun, and Rosamilia said the company plans to start making the software available to more beta testers this summer.

Joe Carola, manager of database administration at Siemens Medical Solutions in Malvern, Pa., said the Siemens AG subsidiary is an early tester of DB2 Version 8 for z/OS and is eagerly awaiting its release. In particular, database managers at Siemens Medical Solutions want to take advantage of the promised database schema evolution capabilities. Those will allow them to propagate changes on the fly to DB2-based systems at hospitals that use the company’s IT products and services, Carola said.

Carola also said that the 64-bit support will let Siemens cut costs by reducing the amount of hardware it needs to run DB2 applications. He added, though, that he still wants IBM to offer easier-to-use management tools, better training and free resources to help companies migrate applications running on Oracle or SQL Server databases to DB2.

IBM has added support for Microsoft Corp.’s .Net technology to the Unix, Linux and Windows versions of DB2, enabling Microsoft tools to be used to craft applications for the database. That capability is part of a DB2 Version 8.1.2 release that’s available now.

In addition, IBM is partnering with developers of business-intelligence software to deliver multivendor “cube views” as part of the online analytical processing (OLAP) capabilities in DB2. Due next month, the cube-view function will let end users access a single OLAP cube with front-end analysis tools from different vendors without having to reformat the data, said Rosamilia.

David Beulke, president of Chicago-based IDUG and a consultant at Pragmatic Solutions Inc. in Alexandria, Va., said most of the companies he works with use a mix of data analysis applications. The cube-view feature should make it easier to do so and simplify the process of integrating third-party analysis tools with DB2, he added.

Carola said the cube views could come in handy at resource-strapped companies that don’t have enough CPU processing power to easily break down and reload OLAP cubes for use with different analysis tools. But he added that most of Siemens Medical Solutions’ data warehousing applications are based on SQL Server, not DB2.

Cube views caught the eye of Robert Catterall, director of strategic technology for the e-commerce division of CheckFree Corp. in Norcross, Ga. Speed of development is important to the team building the company’s enterprise data warehouse, he said, and the technology could help improve productivity in serving CheckFree’s OLAP needs.