IBM Preps DB2 Universal Database for AS/400

IBM Corp. plans to ship in May a version of its DB2 Universal Database for the AS/400 platform, an IBM official said today.

Although IBM had ported DB2 Universal Database to Windows NT, to a host of Unix platforms and to OS/390, it hadn't yet ported the product to the AS/400.

"It's the largest database release that we've had on the AS/400 platform for the past several years. It's a very significant release," said Brant Davison, an IBM business intelligence product manager. "This the first DB2 Universal Database release on the AS/400 platform."

The DB2 Universal Database for AS/400, which will be formally announced on Tuesday, counts the following among its highlight features, according to Davison:

-- Support for SQLJ, which allows developers to embed SQL calls in a server-based Java application.

-- A query optimizer with a new indexing technique called "encoded vector indexes" which lets the database solve queries faster. Thanks to this indexing technique, the DB2 Universal Database for AS/400 solved in 35 seconds a complex query that took the regular DB2 for AS/400 about 2 hours to complete, Davison said. This indexing feature hasn't yet been added to the versions of DB2 Universal Database on other platforms.

-- Enhanced JDBC support to make it easier for developers to create Java applets that can access data stored on the backend database server.

"What we've recognized is that there is continued strength in the AS/400 marketplace," Davison said, adding that IBM's revenues from AS/400 servers and related software grew 20 percent in 1998, compared with 1997.

DB2 Universal Database is the next generation of IBM's DB2 database line. Unlike its predecessors, which were strictly relational databases, DB2 Universal Database is capable of handling data stored both in relational -- that is, in rows and columns -- and object formats. This object-relational design allows DB2 Universal Database to handle so-called complex or unstructured data, like pictures, and audio and video clips.

Users will get the new version of the database when they upgrade to the new version of the AS/400 operating system, version 4.4, which will be available in May. The new version of the database for the AS/400 will not be sold separately from the operating system upgrade, Davison said.

The AS/400 version of the database, however, will not be able to handle complex data until September, when the modules the database needs to do this will become available, he said. There is no pricing information available yet, he added.

This availability dates apply worldwide, give or take a week in some regions, Davison said.

IBM's online analytical processing engine for data analysis, called the DB2 OLAP Server, is also being ported to the AS/400 platform and is slated to ship in the second half of 1999, he said. A version of the DB2 OLAP Server for the OS/390 platform is in beta now and is expected to ship in the second half of 1999, he added.

"AS/400 customers are really beginning to focus on the business intelligence opportunity they have for their companies. Last year, we saw just under 9,000 implementations of business intelligence applications on the AS/400," he said.

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