Product review: DB2 hits its stride

Once year-2000 projects are behind you, you will most likely focus on adding or enhancing Web applications to strengthen your business's competitive edge. With this in mind, database heavyweights IBM and Oracle are jockeying for a central role in your plans by expanding their services so as to become core end-all Web platforms.

IBM DB2 Enterprise Edition 6.1, Beta 1, gives an early indication of strong support to come for sites that need a solid database foundation upon which to support a wide array of data- and content-driven Web applications.

As an enterprise-grade database with a broad platform reach, DB2 is definitely up to the task of supporting mission-critical data and Web applications with ease. Simplified Java-based administration and expanded application support -- combined with expected per-processor pricing -- will go a long way toward expanding application potential while reducing costs.

During my tests, I found Version 6.1 to be fairly rough, showing typical early beta bugs. Also, several key features, such as a visual tool that helps developers build stored procedures for Java, will not be implemented until a second beta is released in June. However, if IBM delivers the expected features at the end of July, the company will really up the ante for rival Oracle.

Current DB2 customers will want to upgrade to DB2 6.1 as soon as it is production-ready. Sites undecided on a core platform for supporting Web applications should definitely investigate this version.

Specifically, IBM's support for linking file systems with DB2 -- called DataLinks -- allows sites to more easily manage corporate data and Web content. DataLinks technology directly challenges Oracle's internet File System (iFS) support. Although Oracle's soon-to-be released iFS brings the file system into the database, IBM's DataLinks manages content on external file systems from DB2.

My early tests of DataLinks on the AS/400 were quite positive and showed that IBM had met the objective of managing content and data while preserving security, application performance, and accessibility. DataLinks support will be expanded to other DB2 platforms. (For more on IBM's DataLinks and Oracle's iFS, see the Enterprise Toolbox column next week.)Like Oracle, IBM is expanding support for Web technologies, inclusive of Java. DB2 6.1 is expected to support a stored procedure builder for Java, and DB2's administration tools have been nicely ported to Java in this beta version. Likewise, IBM is expanding DB2 support for the Extensible Markup Language (XML) with an included parser and a search facility. An XML extender is currently entering a separate beta program and is expected to go into production following the release of DB2 6.1.

Administrators will find that installation is much improved -- whether upgrading to 6.1 or migrating from other databases. IBM has included additional features that simplify the process, such as expansion of SQL statement sizes.

Though this first beta release was a bit rocky, organisations with enterprise Web application plans should keep DB2 on the radar. The savings from per-processor pricing, combined with expanded application support and easier administration, should make DB2 appealing for current customers and those who need an enterprise-grade solution for supporting corporate Web applications. With these enhancements, DB2 6.1 will give Oracle8i some stiff competition.

Senior Analyst Maggie Biggs (maggie_biggs@infoworld.com) evaluates enterprise applications.

The bottom line

IBM DB2 Enterprise Edition 6.1, Beta 1

Summary: This database update issues a strong challenge to rival Oracle with a bevy of additions and enhancements.

Business Case: Companies that support mission-critical Web applications should definitely investigate DB2. Increased application support and simplified administration boost DB2's enterprise appeal.

Pros

+ Broad platform reach

+ Simplified administration

+ Expanded Java and XML support

+ Tool extras ease migrations/upgrades

+ Expanded Linux distribution support

+ Can manage content outside database

Cons

- Several features not fully implemented- Several early beta bugsCost: No pricing data was yet available. Expected Web-based per-processor pricing will reduce overall costs.

Platforms: Mobile devices to mainframes.

Ship date: July 30

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