Users make wish list for IBM database products

This past week, members of the International DB2 Users Group (IDUG) raised some issues they would like IBM to address down the line.

On Monday, IBM unveiled a number of coming enhancements to its DB2 set of applications at the IDUG North American 2002 show. While users showed enthusiasm about some of the new features, they also had some wish list items.

For instance, Robert Catterall, director of strategic technology for the e-commerce division at Norcross, Ga.-based CheckFree Corp., a provider of e-business services, said he'd like to see a closing of the "functionality gap" between different operating systems in the DB2 product lines.

"DB2 for Unix and Windows is somewhat more feature-rich than DB2 for OS/390 and z/OS. That functionality gap is much reduced of late, thanks to DB2 for OS/390 and z/OS Versions 6 and 7," he said. "I'd like to see it close further, preferably to the point of being eliminated." This in turn would make it easier for cross-platform development, said Catterall. His shop is running DB2 on the mainframe in Version 6 and plans to upgrade to Version 7.

IBM executives said the company is working to close the functionality gap and it already offers the ability to create repeatable processes on the various platforms.

User relations were another issue. IBM and other database software vendors are putting excessive pressure on companies to buy their products but they aren't taking the time to properly understand their potential customers' businesses and to develop a long-term relationship with them, said Kathy Komer, the IDUG president, and database architect for insurer Aetna Inc. in Hartford, Conn. "There is an incredible amount of pressure from various vendors, including IBM, to make quotas," she said.

In addition, while acknowledging IBM has made some progress, Komer said she wants to see more complete integration between DB2 and related products, such as IBM's WebSphere application server and other software.

A spokeswoman said IBM is committed to the customer and said the company has users that have been doing business with IBM for 30 years. She added that IBM is focused on more completely integrating different software products.

In another area, IBM offers utilities that are competitive with third-party offerings, noted Joseph Burns, senior database consultant at insurance company Highmark Inc. in Cranberry, Pa., but he said IBM sells the management utilities only in two types of bundles, so users end up buying tools they don't need.

Moreover, the utilities IBM is charging for have increased the costs of DB2 on the mainframe, although the tools are needed to run the database, noted Michael Vaughan, IT analyst at Principal Financial Group, a financial services provider in Des Moines that uses Version 6 to support its transactions.

The IBM spokeswoman, in response, said the utilities software is competitively priced.

Vaughan also said that at Principal, Version 6 of DB2 on OS/390 was "somewhat buggy" as it ran high volume transactions and that it was challenging at times to maintain data integrity. He said IBM has been working closely for the past six months to address these problems, and he expects Version 7, which Principal is migrating toward, to be more stable.

The IBM spokeswoman added that in general, software stability has not been an issue.

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