A New DB2 Coming to a PC Near You

IBM is launching a new release of DB2, Version 7. When SQL Server 7 from Microsoft came out, there was a lot of hype about its built in support for OLAP data capabilities. Most of these revolved around the ability to support key structures that can be used in multi-dimensional databases that are a requirement for data warehousing applications. That gave SQL Server a leg up on DB2 on the Windows NT platform anyway.

Now, IBM is playing a little catch-up with this latest release of DB2, providing much of the same functionality with the addition of better performance. Of course it sometimes helps to be second. It gave IBM the ability to see what capabilities were really required by its customers.

More and more companies are having issues with the amount of data they store. Now that the Web interfaces are requiring more uptime (less time if any for backup), and the users are getting smarter as to the data they want to see. This is causing many shops a double whammy of requests. More data warehouse capabilities and tighter links to the web.

The OLAP (online analytical processing) capabilities will give the various tool vendors of data warehousing tools, more direct access and better performance by utilizing the native DB2 capabilities, than building "data cubes" outside the database in a proprietary structure. Microsoft released this capability with its last release of SQL Server and many companies changed their software to support it. Now, DB2 can play in that same market.

This could be a good thing for companies trying to standardize on one database platform. Many shops today use DB2 on the host (AS/400 or 390) and then use SQL Server on NT because it came with Back Office and was relatively easy to setup. When IBM Released DB2 on NT there was a promise of a single structure across all IBM platforms. This will be a wonderful thing when it is finally realized, and this release brings it closer.

Apparently the release will also include a component called the OLAP Starter Kit which includes a 5 user license to the OLAP server. This should be enough for developers to try it and see how it works with the rest of their applications. It will not be until the tool vendors like Cognos, take advantage of this new capability that we will see wide spread use of it for most shops though.

There are still some differences with the various platform implementations of the database. Of course the biggest differences are with the AS/400 and the rest. Unfortunately, the very thing that made the AS/400 (and System/38) a winner is constantly haunting it these days.

Rumor has it that it will also include Data Joiner, currently a separate product that makes it easier to join data from heterogeneous environments. This is becoming more and more important with the more and more of our data spread across multiple machines (and platforms). It also helps reduce the cost a little by bundling this with the base DB2 product.

Other additions that are coming (although I am not sure if this release will have it or not) are better memory management and support for full text searches. This is obviously being driven by the requirements of the web.

Since DB2 has grown to a family of products, other areas will be upgraded too. Of most concern to AS/400 users are the enhancements to DB2 Connect. This is the facility that supports the connections to the AS/400 database. There are a number of enhancements mostly aimed at performance and ease of setup (which is greatly needed). For those in the Windows 2000 mode, it will include support for the Windows 2000 Active Directory.

One nice feature that will get some use is the ability to work with multiple DB2 databases in the same SQL statement. This can also be accomplished by an Oracle DB with an optional product called DB2 Relational Connect (hmmm connect to connect – I’m glad none of this is confusing).

The net/net of all this is that, there is a new version of DB2 that will make it easier to interface with the larger databases we have, as well as provide a more standardized database platform across operating systems. Open systems are great, but there is a lot to be said for standards and sameness in the new component world we are diving into.

Related Editorial:

  • IBM Showcases OLAP on AS/400
  • I Love a Smart Database

    Related Information:

  • IBM DB2 Page (new window)
  • SQL 7.0 Overview (new window)