IBM enhances DB2 analytics and performance functions

IBM enhances DB2 analytics and performance functions

By MARC L. SONGINI

Looking to keep its installed base of database users happy, IBM continues to enhance its DB2 relational database product family with boosts in integration, analytics and performance capabilities.

This week at the International DB2 Users Group IDUG 2003 conference in Las Vegas, IBM executives detailed changes coming to DB2, including the recently announced rollout of Version 8 of the DB2 Universal Database for the big iron zSeries eServer. DB2 v8 for z/OS will have more buffer pools in memory to improve performance as well as the ability to make changes to the data schemas without having to bring the system down, said Tom Rosamilia, vice president of worldwide data management at IBM.

The company is also adding a feature that will let administrators recover previous data in the memory. For example, if the log for a previous time or day needs to be checked, the system can roll back to it and present that data.

There is no specific date for when the product will ship, but Rosamilia said IBM intends to start opening up access to more beta customers this summer.

Additionally, IBM has added support for Microsoft's .Net technology, allowing Microsoft tools to be used to craft applications. That capability is part of the maintenance release of DB2 Version 8.1.2

Also this week, Stamford Conn.-based Gartner Inc. released statistics showing that IBM boosted its share of the global relational database market to 36 per cent last year, up from 33 per cent in 2001 -- even though revenue dropped slightly from US$2.41 billion to US$2.4 billion. In the global Unix and Windows marketplace, rival Oracle Corp., maintained its lead with a 43 per cent share and US$2.5 billion in revenue, with IBM at No. 2, with 24 per cent of the market and US$1.26 billion in revenue.

Availability is a focus across the board.

During a keynote speech on Tuesday, Janet Perna, general manager of IBM's data management solutions group, pointed out that Version 8 of UDB, already available on Unix, Linux and Windows, has eliminated 85 per cent of the reason for planned outages, allowing users to perform upgrades without having take the database off-line and enabling rapid failover between servers. "We're building resiliency into the system and taking advantage of the resiliency underlying hardware and operating systems."

IBM is also making moves to boost its analytic offerings, partnering with business intelligence vendors to enhance the online analytical processing (OLAP) capabilities of DB2 and deliver "cube views." That means end users can access a single OLAP cube with tools from vendors such as a Cognos Inc. or Business Objects SA without having to reformat it. That function will be embedded in UDB Version 8.1.2 and most likely will be available next month.

Some users were enthused by this feature. A typical customer will have a variety of business intelligence applications in-house, said David Beulke, president of the IDUG and a consultant at Pragmatic Solutions Inc. in Alexandria, Va. This extension of DB2's analytic functions will make it easier to integrate third-party applications and, he said, makes IBM unique in the market.

The cube view function could be particularly handy for resource-strapped companies that need to use various tools but don’t have the CPU processing power to easily break down and reload a cube, said Joe Carola, manager of database administration at Siemens Health Solutions, a provider of IT products and services to the health industry and a subsidiary of Germany-based Siemens AG. Currently, the division runs DB2 on Windows NT and AIX, as well as on mainframe-based systems. Most of its data warehouse technology is on SQL Server, however.

Siemens is now beta-testing DB2 v8 for z/OS and eagerly awaits the product's shipment, said Carola. In particular, Siemens wants to take advantage of the online schema-change capabilities because they will allow staff to propagate changes across key systems that hospitals rely on without taking them down. The 64-bit support will also allow the company to cut costs by being able to run more DB2-related functions using less hardware.

Carola also said he would like IBM to offer easy-to-use management tools, educational training and free resources to help companies running Oracle or SQL Server to migrate to DB2.

Cube views caught the eye of Robert Catterall, director of strategic technology for the e-commerce division of CheckFree Corp. in Norcross, Ga. Speed of development is important to the team building the company's enterprise data warehouse, he said, and the technology could help improve productivity when it comes to serving CheckFree's OLAP needs.

CheckFree now runs a mix of mainframe and Unix-based DB2 applications.

However, Catterall said he would like to see improved IBM management tools that would let Unix or mainframe administrators support either platform. Although the tools exist to some degree, they are still in their early stages.

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