IBM beta-tests virtual database technology

IBM Corp. is starting to beta-test two software tools designed to integrate distributed data repositories, and several users have said the new technology could help them set up virtual databases that pull together a wide range of information.

The beta versions of IBM’s DB2 Information Integrator and DB2 Information Integrator for Content software are the first tangible results of an integration initiative, code-named Xperanto, that the company detailed last month.

IBM said the tools will let end users access various SQL databases and other content sources through a single query. For instance, DB2 Information Integrator could be used as part of a call center application to extract customer data stored in e-mail messages or text files. Commercial shipments are expected to start by year’s end.

Expanded Data Sources

At Indiana University’s campus in Indianapolis, the life sciences department is already installing DB2 Information Integrator, said Craig Stewart, director of research and academic computing.

The life sciences department currently uses IBM’s DiscoveryLink software, a data cataloging tool for bioscience applications. But DB2 Information Integrator’s native XML support will let the school’s IT managers expand the types of data sources that can be queried, Stewart said.

Robert Catterall, director of strategic technology at CheckFree Corp.’s e-commerce division in Norcross, Ga., said he’s open to exploring the integration software, although he has no specific plans at this point.

CheckFree currently stores e-mail messages and attachments directly in IBM’s DB2 database. But Catterall said the electronic billing services provider hopes to eventually create a virtual database that spans various repositories.

The integration technology is being built on top of DB2, but Nelson Mattos, director of information integration at IBM, said users won’t have to move information out of existing repositories or convert data to DB2 formats. The software will also be tightly coupled with IBM’s WebSphere MQ and WebSphere Business Integration middleware tools, but it will work with rival products from Microsoft Corp. and other companies, Mattos said.

James Governor, an analyst at RedMonk, a consulting firm in Hollis, N.H., said installing the integration software could cause culture shock for some database administrators. “Anyone in charge of a database hates anyone else touching it unless permission is given,” Governor said.

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