DB2 plans prompt enthusiasm, wish lists

IBM Corp. last week detailed a series of upcoming enhancements to its DB2 databases at the annual North American conference of the software’s user group. Users at the conference showed enthusiasm about some of the planned new features, but several said they have additional wish list items that they want IBM to address.

The promised capabilities include new “smart database” self-managing tools and the ability for the flagship DB2 Universal Database software to take better advantage of IBM’s 64-bit mainframe technology. Some of those features are due to become available later this year, IBM said.

Robert Catterall, director of strategic technology for the e-commerce division at DB2 user CheckFree Corp. in Norcross, Ga., said he especially likes the sound of some of the 64-bit architecture features that IBM has in the works for the mainframe version of the database. For example, memory efficiencies will hopefully reduce the amount of CPU (central processing unit) cycles that DB2 needs to use, he said.

The self-managing features would also be helpful, Catterall added. “We’re trying to grow the [data] workload without growing the personnel at the same rate,” he said.

But Catterall said the Unix and Windows versions of DB2 are “somewhat more feature-rich” than the mainframe one. The gap was reduced by Versions 6 and 7 of DB2 for OS/390 and z/OS, he said. But, he added, “I’d like to see it close further, preferably to the point of being eliminated.”

That would make it easier to do cross-platform development for DB2, said Catterall. CheckFree, which sells e-business software and services, is also installing DB2 for Unix and wants its developers to be able to use the same tools across the board, he said.

Kathy Komer, president of the Chicago-based International DB2 Users Group, said she wants to see more complete integration between DB2 and related products, such as IBM’s WebSphere application server. IBM has made some progress in that area, said Komer, who works as a database architect at insurer Aetna Inc. in Hartford, Conn. But, she added, “we don’t believe they’re done yet.”

Jeff Jones, director of strategy for IBM’s data management solutions, said the company is working to close the functionality gap between different DB2 releases. It already supports the ability to create repeatable processes that let users transfer SQL commands from one version of the database to another, he said.

In addition, an IBM spokeswoman said the next release of DB2 for OS/390 and z/OS will include a tool that can automatically summarize information, such as monthly sales totals. The feature is already included in DB2 for Unix and Windows.

IBM is also focused on more completely integrating its different software products with one another, including DB2, the spokeswoman added.

IBM Works on Marketing Challenges

IBM took over the top spot in the overall database market last year, according to sales data released this month by Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner Inc. But attendees at the DB2 conference said IBM has to work harder on marketing if it wants to make more inroads with Unix and Windows users.

“They still have work to do in building mind share in the Unix [database] market,” said Robert Catterall, director of strategic technology for the e-commerce division at CheckFree.

Database users tend to be conservative and generally stick with what they have, noted James Governor, an analyst at Nashua, N.H.-based Illuminata Inc. IBM has increased its marketing efforts for the Unix and Windows versions of DB2, Governor said. But he added that the database still hasn’t penetrated Oracle Corp.’s installed base of users as quickly as IBM officials would like.

Kathy Komer, president of the International DB2 Users Group, said IBM in the past was more comfortable dealing with the largest companies. But it’s learning how to sell to a wider range of users, she added.

An IBM spokeswoman said the company is working to address the awareness issue in the Unix and Windows markets through a new marketing campaign designed to highlight those versions of DB2.

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