Linux Port Allows Flexible Installations of DB2

Although DB2 companies are traditional IBM customers centered on Big Iron, IBM Corp.'s recent port of its enterprise database to Linux means that more cost-effective hardware options are now available.

You might not want to tear out your S/390-based data center just yet, because the ability to run DB2 on departmental and development Intel-based servers could have huge appeal to both users and your IT department. Not only is the cost of Linux hardware substantially cheaper than the large systems, but you can continue to leverage your current investment in DB2.

In spite of some installation hurdles, we found that DB2 7.1 for Linux offered most of the features of DB2 for more powerful platforms in a very attractive package, earning a score of Very Good.

But this doesn't mean you can throw up Linux boxes willy-nilly. The license fee for the Enterprise Edition of DB2 7.1 is a steep US$17,500 per processor, regardless of the platform.

IBM has attempted to make setup less painful by providing a version-independent installation script that runs in a terminal window. In our Gnome window, its prompts and answers often overlapped, creating a jumble of text.

Another more time-consuming problem is the presumptions IBM made when creating the installer. For example, the install script doesn't work without Korn and the DB2 GUI is doomed without the JDK (Java Development Kit).

After installation DB2 is sweet sailing. Start the Java-based Control Center and you will find yourself in a graphic environment similar to what's available on other platforms. You can do most administrative tasks such as adding a new instance, creating a new database, and managing users from the Control Center.

Each operation is assisted by a wizard to simplify tasks if you are new to DB2.

As is customary in DB2, from the Control Center you can start the Command Center, another GUI that is a workbench for testing SQL queries. From there you can type your queries or use the SQLAssist Wizard to select tables and columns with your mouse, define joins, and set conditions for your query. If you are familiar with DB2, you will feel at home administering and working with the database via the GUIs or command line, from which most anything can be done.

As with versions for other platforms, DB2 7.1 for Linux has some very useful features. For example, you can use PL/SQL, an extension to SQL, to concisely write database queries. This feature rivals the PL/SQL language offered by Oracle. Database administrators will also like the possibility of nesting stored procedures and defining temporary tables that clean up after themselves.

Particularly interesting for companies with DB2 on multiple platforms is the capability of running a SQL query across multiple databases; if cost considerations do not get in the way, this feature could be very handy when using an ad hoc Linux box to tap in to the data center.

If your company is committed to Linux, DB2 7.1 for Linux should be on your short list. As long as the installation and pricing issues are not a major deterrent, the combination of IBM DB2 7.1 and your preferred Linux flavor can give you a relentless database server with greater hardware choices.

Mario Apicella (mario_apicella@infoworld.com) is a senior analyst for the InfoWorld Test Center.

THE BOTTOM LINE: VERY GOOD

DB2 7.1 for Linux

Business Case: Despite a price that hits the ceiling for Linux-based products, IBM DB2 7.1 for Linux offers most of the DB2 functionality on a budget-friendly platform.

Technology Case: With the exception of some specialized options such as Data Links, the Linux version of DB2 7.1 is fairly complete.

Pros:

+ GUI consistent with other platforms

+ Database supported by an extensive set of development productsCons:

- Expensive license

- Installation script should be improvedCost: Enterprise Edition: $17,500 per processorPlatform(s): Virtually every major platformIBM Corp., Armonk, N.Y.; (800) 426-4968; www.ibm.com.

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