DB2 Family Spreads Out

IBM Corp. used the one-year anniversary of its DB2 Universal Database (UDB) to detail a lengthy list of improvements that pull more business intelligence features into DB2 and bring the products closer to offering a fully integrated data warehouse. While the details that got the most attention were the porting of DB2 to other platforms such as SCO UnixWare7 and Windows 98, a few of the myriad changes were aimed at Windows NT.

Overall, the September announcement centered on the release of version 5.2 of DB2 UDB and had the feel of an open automobile hood, allowing the public a chance to see what the company had in progress. At the same time, IBM offered its perspective on its position relative to Oracle Corp.’s Oracle8i release and Microsoft Corp.’s upcoming SQL Server 7.0.

"While some companies are just beginning to [turn their databases] to the Internet, or as I like to call it, i-appeal, DB2 has been doing it," says Janet Perna, general manager of data management at IBM Software Solutions, in a reference to Oracle.

Jeff Jones, program director of data management marketing at IBM Software Solutions, credits Microsoft SQL Server 7.0 for raising customer expectations but says IBM is beating Microsoft to the market. "[These announcements are] probably more relevant on NT than on any platform because Microsoft is driving the industry perception that more and more should be on your desktop when you install," he says. "To be blunt, part of this announced activity is to firmly establish our position as Microsoft is about to announce their product."

Cross-platform improvements to the product family include support for J-SQL, integration with the IBM WebSphere Application Server, support for XML and a Web-based control center for UDB.

Windows NT-specific changes include the porting of some previously available tools and features to Windows NT and a new set of packaged data marts built for an NT platform. "We’re making it simply easier for you, on NT, to get started doing OLAP and get started on warehousing and mining," Jones says. "More and more is done by DB2."

One tool new to Windows NT is IBM’s Intelligent Miner -- version 2 -- for data mining, which includes a new Java user interface.

IBM also now delivers its DB2 Extenders to the DB2 UDB Enterprise-Extended Edition, the top-tier version of DB2 for Windows NT, which supports clustered and parallel configurations. The extenders allow users to manage multimedia data types, including audio, video and images, and conduct searches across the actual multimedia files for attributes such as a color scheme. The extensions had previously been available for less complex Windows NT environments.

IBM unveiled four new packaged data marts, all built to run on Windows NT. Each bundle includes IBM hardware (a Netfinity server), software and support, and ISV software. The packages are the cross-industry IBM Data Mart Solution, DecisionEdge for Banking, Local Government Data Mart Solution and the Retail Data Mart Solution.

The Patricia Seybold Group, a Boston-based computer analyst firm, gave high marks to the announcements in its newsletter, The Pulse: "This announcement is very much an upgrade, but it includes many attractive features and provides a view into IBM’s database strategy. IBM continues to gain database market share and mind share with good technology, good marketing and focused sales. DB2 UDB deserves to be on every short list."