IBM is due to officially unveil its DB2 9 database, previously codenamed “Viper,” this month. In addition to fully detailing functionality and pricing for the hybrid relational and XML database, the company has committed to a July 28 worldwide shipping date for the product.

Big Blue is positioning DB2 9 as one of its most important database releases in recent years, given its capacity to store and manage not only structured relational data but also unstructured XML data such as audio, video and Web pages natively.

Cindy Taylor, data management executive for IBM Canada Ltd. in Markham, Ont., said that DB2 9 is a “very significant release,” particularly when considering the new storage compression and XML capabilities.

“It’s a unique way of dealing with (XML data) without having to shred it,” Taylor said. That additional ability contrasts with rival products from Microsoft and Oracle, which rely on the older, slower approach of reformatting XML data or placing it in a large object before storing it as relational data.

The storage features enable users to compress database tables’ rows by scanning for duplicate data and building dictionaries to assign short, numeric keys to those entries, which according to IBM, can result in disk, I/O and memory savings.

“The database doesn’t have to have multiple repositories anymore…you can integrate relational and XML data and use them in the same apps,” Taylor said.

One industry analyst notes that while the new features may in the short term give IBM a leg up in a tight database market, it is too early to tell if the offering can make significant gains against Oracle.

“DB2 9 does look promising,” said Wayne Kernochan, president of Info

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