IBM pushes out virtual database technology

IBM is offering a technology that it boasts will slash integration costs for companies that want to seamlessly integrate disparate data and content repositories without having to reformat it.

Earlier this week, as expected, IBM announced the beta availability of its DB2 Information Integrator and DB2 Information Integrator for Content software. IBM claims that the application is meant to let users access heterogeneous databases and other sources through a single query. The DB2 Information Integrator, for instance, could be used with a call center application to extract and present customer data stored in a variety of applications and repositories, such as in e-mails or text files.

Nelson Mattos, director of information integration at IBM, said the technology will be tightly coupled with the IBM WebSphere Business Integration application and Web server platform, but will also work with similar products from Microsoft Corp. and other vendors. It also connects tightly to IBM's WebSphere MQ application messaging product, which could be used to send transaction updates throughout an enterprise, said Mattos.

A couple of biosciences users are already either rolling out the technology or have tested it. At Indiana University, staff members are already in the process of implementing the product, said Craig Stewart, director of research and academic computing. The department currently uses IBM's Discovery Link biosciences data cataloging offering. But with Information Integrator's native XML support, the school will be able to expand the types of sources that can be queried. It is the university's goal to let researchers access any relevant public or internal information "without knowing or caring where the original data resides."

One business user is also open to exploring the technology at some point. At electronic bill services provider CheckFree, the current process is to take e-mail and attachments and store them directly in the company's DB2 database, said Robert Catterall, director of strategic technology in the company's e-commerce division. The company hopes to create a virtual database that spans various repositories, and Information Integrator could be used to publish the data into an MQ message queue for transmission across the company.

That product may be especially appealing to companies that need to access heterogeneous data but can't afford to rip out their existing repositories and collapse that data into one database, said James Governor, an analyst at RedMonk, a consulting firm. However, installing it could lead to culture shock in some enterprises, as "anyone in charge of a database hates anyone touching it unless permission is given." So far, this technology has mostly been deployed in life sciences, and more enterprises will have to install it before widespread buy-in among corporate users takes place, he said.

General availability of DB2 Information Integrator and DB2 Information Integrator for Content is expected in six months.

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