IBM software to link data from multiple sources

IBM Corp. late this year plans to deliver DB2-based data integration software that will let IT managers link data throughout their systems without needing to collapse the information into a single data warehouse.

While sketchy on the details, IBM this week said the integration technology will also give end users real-time access to data beyond DB2 and rival databases. Using native XML capabilities in DB2, users will be able to access data from conventional sources, such as applications, as well as unstructured information stored in documents or e-mail messages, said Nelson Mattos, director of information integration at IBM.

He added that the new software will further IBM’s federated approach to integration, which is designed to provide access to data without requiring users to move the information from its source and reformat it to be DB2-friendly.

The company has already used the federated approach in products such as its DiscoveryLink technology, which lets users in the life sciences industry touch multiple databases, applications and search engines with a single query.

IBM is the only large vendor that’s pushing ahead extensively with this kind of virtual database concept, said Philip Russom, an analyst at Giga Information Group Inc. One of the enablers for its approach is the fact that DB2 has the ability to index data stored in other repositories, he said.

IBM has yet to disclose the middleware platforms that will be supported by the new data integration software. But it likely will use its own WebSphere integration and WebSphere MQ data messaging products, Russom said.

The concept of federated databases has been around since the 1990s, but companies are only now starting to view it as desirable, Russom said. For one thing, extracting large amounts of heterogeneous data and formatting it for use in a database requires extensive network resources as well as a data warehouse, which can cost US$1 million a year or more to maintain.

In theory, IBM’s upcoming technology will allow users to avoid those costs while gaining real-time data access. Mattos said the new software will be released for beta-testing by June and should ship by year’s end.