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IBM DB2 Version 8 Available

Version 8 of IBM DB2 became generally available on Thursday. The version sports a new pricing structure and enhanced management features that make the database more attractive for smaller companies that have traditionally leaned toward SQL Server.

The simplified pricing and packaging means DB2 will come in two versions. A Workgroup Server Unlimited Edition will start at $7,500 per processor. An Enterprise Server Edition will start at $25,000 per processor. By comparison, SQL Server costs $5,000 per processor for the Standard Edition and $20,000 per processor for the Enterprise Edition.

In its announcement, IBM also played up the cross-platform flexibility of DB2 in running on Linux, Unix and Windows. That is an advantage DB2 has over SQL Server, but not over Oracle. IBM also enhanced its "data federation" capabilities for allowing companies to integrate and manage information sources on different computer platforms in different locations.

Among the 438 new features in version 8 are self-tuning, self-management, enhanced Web services support and performance improvements.

The main focus seems to be on manageability. A new Health Center feature updates DBAs on system performance, provides troubleshooting guidance and sends out e-mail, pager or PDA alerts when it generates fixes. Through a Web-browser interface and other new features, IBM claims a DBA can now manage five times the number of systems as before. A new Configuration Advisor is designed to minimize configuration time and reduce the need for frequent manual tuning.

Other enhancements include Multidimensional Data Clustering for improving performance of complex business queries.

The general release follows what IBM calls its most successful beta launch in a decade with 35,000 customer and 3,800 partner downloads.

DB2 has the lead in worldwide market share for databases by some measures. On the Windows platform, DB2 has enjoyed huge growth in market share over the past few years but still lags far behind market-share leaders Microsoft SQL Server and Oracle, according to IDC and Gartner Dataquest.

Keith Gile, senior industry analyst with Giga Information Group, says most of IBM's changes in DB2 are likely aimed at Oracle, which it competes with at multiple market levels -- from the very largest environments to the smallest.

The management and pricing changes give IBM the greatest advantage against Oracle, Gile says.

"IBM already had advantages over Oracle in database administration. This further increases the gap between the two," Gile says. Meanwhile, Giles notes that the new prices amount to about a 40 percent drop over previous list prices. "For IBM to offer a product at a lower price that can actually be managed and manipulated at a lower cost point from an administration perspective has to put a lot of pressure on Oracle. Not so much on [pressure] Microsoft," he says.

An area where Gile does see IBM playing catch-up to Oracle in version 8 is with the Multidimensional Database Clustering, which the Giga analyst says is a storage mechanism for speeding user response times when linking data between relational tables rather than an OLAP technology as the name suggests.

"Perhaps this cuts down the gap a little bit with what Oracle has had with their Real Application Clusters," Gile says.

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.

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