IBM Unveils Latest DB2

The latest beta of IBM Corp.’s relational database server, DB2, has hit the Web, revealing what will come in the next release. When version 8 is released later this year, it will include new management features and Web services functionality.

DB2 version 8 will first be available for Windows, Linux, and Unix. A beta for these platforms is available for customers on the IBM Web site. DB2 for iSeries, zSeries and their predecessors comes from a slightly different code base and will follow the version for open systems.

One of IBM’s major cross-product initiatives is autonomic computing, and DB2 is no exception. IBM believes the next step for enterprise computing is to give machines and applications the ability to perform management and service tasks themselves, reducing human intervention. In addition to DB2, autonomic computing features have been added to servers and storage.

DB2 implements autonomic computing by adding automated tools that configure and maintain the database. These tools speed the time it takes a database administrator (DBA) to set up a database or optimize it for maximum performance.

One of the first tools a DBA may use is Configuration Advisor, an interactive tool that auto-detects the hardware and operating system, then quizzes the DBA about the characteristics of the database. Configuration Advisor uses the data to decide how to optimize the database for performance and stability and sets up the database.

Jeff Jones, director of strategy at IBM data management solutions, says an expert DBA typically takes two weeks to configure a new database, but a rookie DBA can spend 20 minutes with Configuration Advisor to nearly match the results of an expert. Jones says Configuration Advisor’s automation can make 98 percent of the optimization decisions of an expert DBA.

Another new autonomic feature in DB2 version 8 is the Health Center, a built-in monitoring tool. Health Center draws on the countless DB2 databases installed and detects when a database’s state deviates from a normal or stable state. If the Health Center believes the database is operating outside the norm, it can alert a DBA and suggest a plan of action.

IBM’s relatively new tools organization is also rolling out as many as 2000 new tools for DB2, Jones says, which will expand the ways IBM can help DBAs do their jobs. These tools include Performance Expert and Advice Expert.

DB2 version 8 also features expanded Web services and XML support. Since the last major release (version 7.2) DB2 has had the ability to publish a database as a Web service. The new version includes what Jones calls “consumer support,” or the ability to draw information into the database from other Web services. With this feature, DB2 treats the Web service as another data source, as databases in the past have used traditional integration engines as data sources.

While the trade press and high-profile vendors have trumpeted Web services as the next wave of integration, Jones believes some of the Web services work is a little tentative. “It’s a new path,” he says, “it’s not one that’s driving the industry right now.”

Related to Web services is XML support, and version 8 expands DB2’s XML features. The last version of DB2 allowed information to be stored natively in XML format, whether in database tables or pointers to full XML documents. The new features make XML data more useful in the enterprise.

DB2 now offers autonomic schema validation (which ensures XML data is well-formed so other applications can use it) and a data transformation engine based on XSLT (which adapts the data for end-user needs).

Jones is particularly excited about a future XML-based enhancement, XQuery. “XQuery is the final frontier,” he says. When solidified, the XQuery specification will provide a uniform way for describing SQL calls in XML. Jones says IBM has already added over 100 extensions to SQL to manage XML data.