Database players add, yet aim to simplify

Microsoft's release last week of its SQL Server 2000 caps another round of updates from the three biggest database vendors and underscores the key competitive fronts of management, data warehousing, XML, and Java.

According to Dataquest estimates, the database market tops $US8 billion.

Customer are facing an industry-wide shortage of seasoned DBAs (database administrators), with fully 80 per cent of DBAs having less than two years experience, according to Peter Urban, an analyst at AMR Research. As a result, he noted, databases need to be easy to operate.

To that end, IBM is stuffing more and more into the database engine, with the goal of making it easier to use, simplifying the application development process, and increasing performance, according to officials.

For its part, Microsoft concentrated on making the database easier to use by centralising management and enhancing the self-diagnostics and self-tuning, its officials said.

Before Microsoft's SQL Server update, IBM released DB2 Universal Database 7.1, and Oracle issued Release 3 of Oracle 8i earlier this quarter.

On the data mining and warehousing front, Microsoft, shipped SQL Server 7.0 with an OLAP (online analytical processing) server, which has been enhanced for the latest release. IBM also upgraded its DB2 OLAP Server, and began offering a free OLAP starter kit for smaller installations.

But companies that want to scale up with OLAP still have to buy DB2 OLAP Server. With the advent of DB2 7.1, said Jeff Jones, IBM's senior program manager of the data management group, Big Blue moved its Visual Warehouse to the Data Warehouse Centre inside the database.

Oracle is expected to pull its Express OLAP server into the core database.

This is the first iteration of Microsoft's database to have XML functionality, according to a product manager for SQL Server at Microsoft. Users can pull data off the SQL server formatted in XML and vice versa, and XSL (Extensible Style Language) makes it readable for humans.

IBM has defined XML as a data type in DB2, Jones noted. Oracle enhanced its XML development kit, which includes XML parsers, XSL processors, XML class generators, XML JavaBeans, and XSQL servlets.

IBM and Oracle made improvements to Java support, although predictably, given its legal entanglements and strategic considerations, Microsoft did not bolster its existing support.

IBM added support for Java Database Connectivity 2 (JDBC 2); Java 2, Enterprise Edition (J2EE) transaction APIs; and the capability of writing logic in Java and storing it in DB2.

In the latest release of 8i, Oracle included support for Enterprise Java Beans 1.1 (EJB 1.1), Java Servlets and Java Server Pages, J2EE APIs, and the Oracle8i Java Virtual Machine Accelerator.

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