DB2 gets boost from Informix acquisition

IBM Corp. has finished work on the code for the next version of its flagship DB2 database software the first version to incorporate technology gained from the company's acquisition of Informix Corp.

IBM is testing the code and plans to release the next version of DB2 next summer, said Janet Perna, general manager of data management solutions at IBM Software, in a recent briefing here.

On July 1, IBM conducted the final transfer of the US$1 billion it pledged to acquire Westboro, Mass.-based Informix's ailing database business.

IBM has begun the process of integrating Informix technology into DB2. The addition of 600 research-and-development personnel from Informix now puts the size of IBM's R&D community at more than 3,000, and DB2 enhancements are on a fast track, said Perna.

"It's about acceleration and moving further ahead faster," she said, declining to speculate if and when IBM's 30.1 percent database market share would surpass Oracle Corp.'s 33.8 percent. The next version of DB2 is likely to include Informix's multimedia data management modules, known as DataBlades, Perna said. But "it will probably take us two to three years to complete all of the integration," she acknowledged.

In addition to increasing scalability and availability, the combined engineering staff is concentrating on XML, said Don Haderle, chief technology officer for DB2 who is known at IBM as "the father of DB2." XML "offers an inroad to semantic understanding and linguistic analysis of huge databases" in the range of 400 petabytes, he said.

Price and performance "were the key drivers for us back in the 1970s," Haderle said. "While that is important today, the most important attribute is scale. DB2 is transforming into an XML query processor."

The future DB2 will focus on Web services and managing "any information, any format, any vendor and any platform," according to Perna.

Still, I/O bandwidth remains a significant challenge, said Bernie Schiefer, manager of DB2 performance and advanced technology at IBM. A partnership formed recently with Intel Corp. has produced InfiniBand, a technology designed to address the bandwidth problem. According to Schiefer, the technology eliminates bottlenecks in the data bus by enabling DB2 to communicate directly with the storage subsystem.

Intel and IBM demonstrated InfiniBand last week at the Intel Developer Forum. DB2 Version 7.2, released in June, already supports InfiniBand. During the live demonstration, DB2 ran a Linux cluster of 12 nodes in addition to software from SAP AG.

"The challenge IBM has to deal with is continued execution," said Betsy Burton, an analyst at Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner Inc. "It's not a technology issue with IBM. The big question is, are they going to keep the steam rolling?"

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