IBM shows off DB2 clustering at forum

Claiming that the InfiniBand architecture makes clustering servers significantly easier, IBM demonstrated a clustered configuration with a new prerelease 64-bit version of the DB2 database for Intel's McKinley chip at the Intel Developer Forum, in San Jose, California, a Big Blue official said.

Infiniband is a new I/O specification in which servers, storage, and networking devices connect via a central, unified fabric of InfiniBand switches and links. According to Intel, InfiniBand increases system performance, reliability, availability, and scalability.

"InfiniBand as an architecture is a new way to more easily connect servers, storage, and processors. It's a faster way to build clusters," said Jeff Jones, senior program manager in Armonk, New York-based IBM's data management group.

To that end, IBM demonstrated a 12-node cluster of DB2 on Linux that uses InfiniBand switches and links to connect the systems. The database ran on 10 of the systems, while a Web server and application server ran on the other systems. Within the configuration, 11 nodes were Linux 2.4 and 1 node was Windows 2000. On top of the cluster, IBM also ran MySAP.com and SAP BW (Business Information Warehouse).

"Customers scared away by the complexity of managing clusters can now begin to think about clustering because it is easier," Jones added.

Jones continued that with InfiniBand users now have a standardized means to cluster boxes, even heterogeneously; the performance is faster, administration is easier, there are fewer cables to potentially mix up, and clustering will cost less.

IBM is not the only database vendor preaching its product's clustering abilities. Microsoft and Oracle, in fact, both have touted clustering capabilities. Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft, for its part, claims the top ranking results on the TPC (Transaction Processing Council) benchmark.

With the release of Oracle's latest database, 9i, the Redwood Shores, California-based company made RAC (Real Application Clusters) available. RAC is an option that enables customers to add servers to boost scalability and performance.

But as the database vendors show off their big fat clusters, analysts said that very few customers even cluster databases, particularly in configurations as vast as the ones vendors are showing off.

Philip Russom, an independent industry analyst in Waltham, Massachusetts, said that the customers who actually cluster databases usually need only 4-node configurations.

"I typically find that customers are using clusters for high-availability, not scalability. When people are trying to achieve scalability, they tend to go with a single box that has lots or processors," Russom said.

Hardware based on InfiniBand will be available next year. Test systems with the McKinley processor are slated to ship by year's end, and polished systems will make it to market in 2002.

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