Enhancepak Delivers Final Pieces of Universal Database

After several months delay, IBM has finally begun shipping the remaining components that will round out its DB2 Universal Database for AS/400. These features, first announced as part of V4R4 last February, consist of support for large objects, datalinks and user-defined types and functions. IBM claims that, with UDB, AS/400 users can manage and analyze multimedia content and support more sophisticated business intelligence solutions.

These features are being offered to sites running V4R4 via an EnhancePak (also known as the DB2 UDB Group PTF), available on the IBM AS/400 Web site or on CD. The PTF will also automatically be integrated into copies of V4R4 delivered after November 29, and as part of V4R5, scheduled for availability next year.

IBM struggled internally over whether to issue the features--originally slated for release last May as part of V4R4--as a large PTF or in the next release of the software. As a compromise, the upgrade was packaged as an EnhancePak. "There wasn't enough function to have a separate point release," says Dave Nelson, IBM AS/400 DB2/UDB functional manager. "When you have point releases, or separate releases, there's more overhead involved from a support structure." However, don't expect this large EnhancePak to become a habit, he adds. "Down the road, when we have something as major as this, we won't be doing it with PTFs again."

An exception was made this fall due to the extended length of time until V4R5 is released, post-Y2K. "We had some functions that we had to get out there, and we just didn't want to delay it for another release," adds Tom Giordano, IBM AS/400 advisory software engineer. The PTF features in the latest release bring the AS/400's UDB "on a par with the other UDBs," says Nelson. In fact, AS/400 is the first platform to have the datalinks function.

With the initial release of V4R4, the AS/400 became the first platform to implement UDB, followed shortly by versions for OS/2, Linux, Unix, Windows NT, 95 and 98, and OS/390. While DB2 UDB for AS/400 doesn't share a common code base with DB2 UDB on other platforms, the system is consistent in function with the IBM database on those platforms.

Such interoperability between AS/400 software and that of other IBM platforms is increasing, as related by Tom Jarosh, GM of the AS/400 division, at the recent COMMON users' meeting in San Antonio. "A couple of years ago, we had lost our way. We were known as 'Fortress Rochester,'" he told attendees. "We've worked hard to re-establish relationships with all of the other pieces of IBM."

New UDB Features

Binary large object (BLOB) support: DB2 UDB will store object data such as scanned images, video clips or audio files.

Datalinks: DB2 UDB employs a URL format to retrieve nontraditional database files (such as scanned documents) stored outside the AS/400's relational database, or on a different server.

User-defined data types: DB2 UDB will convert and rationalize data to meet the requirements of the application.

UDB is a prime example of internal cooperation between Rochester and other IBM divisions. "We try to be functionally compatible within IBM's database family," says Giordano. While the AS/400 database doesn't have the same architecture or source code as other versions of DB2, Rochester is striving for "functional compatibility," he says. "Many customers and business partners have the different databases in their shops."

The result is an ongoing process where the OS/400 version of UDB surpasses other platforms then is once again eclipsed as different versions are rolled out. "We constantly battle the synchronization problem," says Giordano. "We came out with datalinks, which the other UDBs don't have, but maybe later this year they'll come out with datalinks and two other functions that we don't have. We'll then have a release next year that will catch up on those and provide two other things that the other UDBs don't have. Certainly, there are cases where we share technology. And there are certain areas where Rochester takes the forefront and then shares those technologies with the others. It goes both ways."