IBM combines OLAP, data mining in DB2

IBM is adding some basic data mining capabilities to the OLAP (online analytical processing) Server in its DB2 database, a step that should help customers identify abnormal trends in their data more quickly, the company said.

Big Blue claimed to be the first database vendor to combine OLAP and data mining capabilities in the same product. It plans to roll out the data mining feature, which it calls "opportunity discovery," to new and existing customers on Dec. 7.

"It's a new feature we're adding at no additional charge, but it represents a first in combining OLAP with discovery data mining," according to Jeff Jones, director of strategy for IBM's data management group.

The feature isn't supposed to be a substitute for Intelligent Miner, IBM's standalone data mining product. Instead, it addresses a specific area known as "deviation detection," or the business of identifying unusual patterns in large volumes of financial, CRM (customer relationship management) or other data, he said.

For example, an administrator could ask the database to provide an alert when sales of a group of products in a particular country rise or fall below a certain level. The idea is that managers would spot the trend earlier and be able to react to it more quickly.

The feature will be offered at no charge to existing OLAP Server customers Dec. 7 in the form of a "fix pack." New OLAP Server customers will find it as part of the product.

IBM made the announcement a few days before Oracle Corp., its biggest rival in the database market, kicks off its Open World conference in San Francisco. Oracle was quick to issue a response to the news. It said IBM now offers data mining functionality in three separate areas, and accused it of taking a "piecemeal" approach to information management that could confuse customers.

As if the rivalry between the two firms could get any fiercer, IBM issued a separate statement Wednesday reminding customers that they can cluster IBM databases using InfiniBand, an emerging, high-speed technology for linking servers, storage equipment and other computers.

IBM already said earlier this year that its database is compatible with InfiniBand, but decided to remind customers because Oracle has been making "a lot of noise" lately about its own clustering technology, called Real Application Clusters, Jones said.

For large customers, switching to InfiniBand should offer incremental benefits in terms of scalability and cost reduction, he said. Mid-size customers should benefit the most and may be tempted to try clustering for the first time, because InfiniBand takes some of the complexity out of clustering servers, he said.

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