IBM Delivers Next-Generation DB2 8.2 Database

Big Blue also discloses plans to integrate its DB2 and Informix Dynamix Server product lines in future versions of both products

IBM Corp. last week officially announced the next release of its DB2 Universal Database (UDB) version 8.2, formerly code-named “Stinger.”

IBM announced the first beta of Stinger last fall, followed in May by a public beta preview. The resulting DB2 8.2 database—packing a bevy of performance and availability features, along with new autonomic capabilities—will become generally available this Friday.

For the record, Big Blue last delivered a major DB2 UDB update (version 8.1) in November 2002—just weeks after it kicked off its eBusiness-On-Demand computing strategy.

In light of IBM’s consistent emphasis on utility or “on-demand” computing, then, it’s not surprising that officials were anxious to tout the autonomic credentials of the new database. “These [autonomic] capabilities are by far the main point [of the DB2 8.2 release],” says Jeff Jones, director of strategy for IBM’s data management solutions. “The idea is that with these [autonomic] capabilities, fewer DBA resources are required, and the DBA is allowed to do other things, like maybe participate more at design time, like higher order detective work.”

Jones says that the revamped database will make it easier for DBAs to deploy, configure, maintain, and optimize DB2 databases on the fly. In this respect, officials point to enhanced versions of tools such as DB2 Configuration Advisor and DB2 Design Advisor, which give DBAs a wizard-like interface to customize DB2 for different application and data warehousing requirements. Configuration Advisor, for example, asks questions about what kind of application a DBA plans to roll out and how many users she expects to support, and then tunes DB2 accordingly.

Similarly, the new Design Advisor lets DBAs more easily tune DB2 as the database workload changes, automate changes to the database structure, and perform tasks such as database backup and restoration. Jones says it could be particularly helpful in complex-query environments.

One of the biggest new features in the revamped DB2 is based on technology IBM developed for its LEarning Optimization (LEO) research and development project. According to Jones, LEO helps to automate, simplify, and accelerate queries without requiring a DBA’s attention. The LEO technology also provides updated query statistics about database use, storage, and performance.

Still another new feature is what IBM calls Query Patroller, which introduces a query-based chargeback facility. “It allows you to basically monitor [and] understand the cost of queries, so you can do things like chargeback. You can basically calculate how much query time these departments are using and charge them for it,” said Paul Rivot, worldwide director of database servers at IBM, in an interview this May.

Elsewhere, DB2 8.2 boasts a new feature called Autonomic Object Maintenance that automatically performs administration and maintenance functions, such as table adjustments or data backups.

Perhaps surprisingly, IBM’s DB2 8.2 release borrows heavily from technologies already included in the Informix Dynamix Server, the object-relational data store IBM acquired with the purchase of Informix in 2001. For example, says Jones, the new version of DB2 features a capability called Autonomic High-Availability-Disaster-Recovery (HADR) with autonomic client reroute, which supports automated high-availability, disaster recovery and client reroute for clustered environments.

“We’re hugely automating the task of setting up failover pairs, back up systems, to fail to when a primary system dies,” he explains. “This was doable in the past with DB2, but it was quite a bit more manual. Turns out that Informix has a real rich, real powerful capability, so we decided, let’s get this going on DB2, because this will hugely impact DB2.”

HADR provides a wizard-like interface that lets DBAs “build and set up this [clustering] capability and also the automatic client re-route and the actual mechanical failover capabilities that are very quick and very automatic once something fails,” says Jones.

On the BI front, Jones says, DB2 8.2 features another contribution from Informix Dynamix Server. “The other is the Geodetic Extender that is an existing thing called the Geodetic Data Blade,” he confirms. Thanks to its Geodetic Extender component, DB2 8.2 can store three-dimensional geospatial data that is both location- and time-and-space-aware. This feature should appeal primarily to customers in certain verticals (government, defense, and transportation, along with restaurant chains and retailers) that sometimes use spatial data to identify new business opportunities, officials say.

Elsewhere in BI additions, Jones says customers can use DB2 Cube Views to define OLAP-centric metadata—including hierarchies, dimensions, attributes, and business rules or formulas—and store it as a transparent extension to DB2. In the revamped 8.2 release, this technology has been tweaked to enhance query performance.

DB2 and Informix Dynamix to Merge in Subsequent Revisions

IBM currently maintains separate development teams for DB2 UDB and Informix Dynamix, but Jones says Big Blue has plans to merge the two product lines in the future. “We have the luxury of having two development teams innovating simultaneously and sharing their innovations with one another, with the ultimate goal of having the next version of DB2 and the next version of Informix Dynamix Server end up being the same thing,” he asserts.

Jones points to IBM’s existing interoperability work with the two data stores, including cross-data-type support and SQL standardization, which, he says, will make it possible to migrate back and forth between the two data stores. “The strategy then is to support Informix Dynamix Server and enhance it through user requirements, but do this with a continual eye to getting closer and closer to common functionality with DB2,” says Jones, who adds “that is a way off.”

In the near-term, says Jones, IBM will continue to support existing Informix Dynamix customers. “Informix Dynamic Server is still growing and being enhanced. We have the Informix team still working on it, and we are supporting the Informix customer base,” he asserts.

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About the Author

Stephen Swoyer is a Nashville, TN-based freelance journalist who writes about technology.