IBM still sprucing up DB2 database

IBM Corp.’s road map for its DB2 Universal Database platform includes both new features and refinements of existing functions, according to Janet Perna, general of data management at IBM.

While the company will continue improving the database to take advantage of factors such as continued advancements in hardware, new features such as better XML support and Web services enhancements are being added, Perna acknowledged.

“Databases are not at a point where there’ss nothing to do [to improve] them [anymore],” she said.

“Today, DB2 does support XML and it does it through extensions of SQL,” Perna said during an interview at the recent IBM developerWorks Live conference in New Orleans. “We can ingest, bring in XML documents and store them as a BLOB in a column and store them as multiple columns.”

“What we really want to get to here is two things, one is the language that we use being XQuery, which is the evolving query standard for XML, and the second piece is storing the XML data natively,” Perna said. This would enable improved performance and is part of IBM’s Xperanto database project.

IBM has also introduced XML for Tables as a first stage of its XQuery implementation. This enables XML documents to be broken up into components and placed in multiple tables. This would enable, for example, an employee name on a document to be stored in one table and the department listed on the document to be stored in another table, making for easier access, Perna said.

“It kind of lets you take the information and parse it in a way that you can direct where you want pieces to go,” she said.

Currently available in a pre-release form on the IBM alphaWorks site, XML for Tables eventually will be included within DB2.

Additionally, IBM in early May plans to release Fixpack for DB2 8.1.2, a DB2 service pack. The package will feature a function called WS Consumer, for building SQL statements that can access Web services data from Web applications, according to Grant Hutchison, IBM senior software engineer and development manager for DB2/IBM SW Integration Center, in Markham, Ontario.

“You’re consuming data from a Web services provider,” Hutchison said.

“Once you have [the data] in a SQL statement, you can process it,” he said. WS Consumer already is available for download on IBM’s Web site.

Also with the database, IBM plans to keep maximizing the database to exploit new hardware such as 64-bit Intel Corp. Itanium processors, Perna said.

Decreasing database downtime remains a priority, with IBM seeking the goal of zero downtime, said Perna.

“We’re not there yet but we’re close. On 390 [model mainframes] we’re close to zero downtime,” she said.

She noted the growth in data sets.

“The demands on the database have become tremendous because we’re now talking a bout petabytes of data. We’re talking about never going down,” she said.

Also on the agenda is improving security via role-based security and enabling self-management of the database, with customers seeking zero management, she said.

Autonomic capabilities for self management are featured in Version 8.1 of DB2, but IBM seeks to improve this, said Perna.

IBM also is pursuing the migration of Informix DataBlade technology for handling special data types such as geospatial data over to DB2, Perna said.