IBM kicks the tires on Viper

IBM says the upcoming version of its DB2 relational database will put it ahead of competing products from Oracle and Microsoft.

“With our XML capabilities, security capabilities and other features we believe we will have a significant lead on our competition,” Steven Miller, the company’s worldwide manager of database marketing, said this week.

“It gives us a very strong platform to stand on when we talk about the business value it will give to our customers and for our partners.”

Miller made the remarks as IBM launched the first wave of marketing for the product — code-named Viper, but what will officially known as version 9.0 — in the form of what it calls an “open test drive” of the software.

Downloadable copies of release candidate 1 in Windows, Linux and Unix versions of the database are now available. When it ships at the end of July it will also come on a version for IBM’s iSeries servers.

A database analyst says Big Blue will only be keeping pace with Oracle’s Oracle 10i and Microsoft’s SQL Server.

“DB2 is catching up,” says Noel Yuhanna of Forrester Research. “They didn’t have a very good XML implementation until now. Viper makes a big attempt to get back into the game with Oracle and SQL Server. They (IBM) have made some dramatic improvements in storage of XML documents in a more efficient manner, giving higher performance and scalability. That will certainly put them a bit ahead in storage management, but from XML functionality point of view they are still catching up.”

“For the security point of view,” he added, “this is another attempt to catch up to Oracle.”

On the other hand, he acknowledged that DB2 has a lead on Oracle in automating database management, which could be extended with the addition in the new version of memory management.

Forrester estimates worldwide licence revenues for relational databases totaled US$11 billion last year, and that will grow by as much as 10 per cent a year for the next three years.

DB2, Oracle and SQL Server account for 87 per cent of the market. Forrester says IBM has a “slight lead” because in addition to Windows, Unix and Linux versions, DB2 also has a version for IBM mainframes.

Earlier this month IBM revealed that Viper will include Label-Based Access Control (LBAC), which gives administrators the ability to control user access to databases at the row level.

According to Sal Vella, a vice-president of DB2 development at IBM’s Toronto software lab, LBAC is one of the four key selling features of the new database.

But the “marquee” feature is Viper’s pure XML support, he said. IBM believes only 15 per cent of corporate data is stored in a relational database. As much as half of the remaining data is in XML formats, which are harder to search than most files.

To solve that, some databases store XML as text files, or “shred” the XML into tables, Vella said. But DB2 V.9 allows the storage of XML in its native form, allowing it to be indexed for high performance searches.

While Yuhanna notes both Oracle and SQL Server store XML natively, he agreed Viper defines XML objects in a way that allows faster retrieval than competitors by putting them in separate table spaces from relational data.

“That only matters when you’re dealing with high-end performance” for terabytes of XML data, he added. But he doesn’t believe most customers have that need yet.

“As far as I understand from interviews with customers (running the Viper beta) there’s a more efficient storage of XML documents, but we haven’t seen any major challenges from customers seeing degradation in performance from Oracle or SQL Server.”

DB2’s third major feature will be the ability to compress data. In one test of SAP BW data, files were compressed by 80 per cent, he said.

“For customers building large data warehouses this is a huge saving of storage,” said Vella. “I think this is the killer feature,” he said, “because it is so easy to understand and demonstrate its value.”

Finally, v. 9.0 will include self-tuning memory management. The software will monitor memory use in real time and reallocate it automatically. This promises to be a time-saver for administrators, who have to do this task now by hand.

To avoid problems with existing customer databases memory management will ship turned off, Vella said, but will become enabled with the creation of new databases.

Viper will enable IBM business partners “to comfortably lead with DB2 to their customers,” said Miller. “The security features, the XML features and others will shorten their sales cycles and enable them to sell more DB2.”

Meanwhile, corporate adoption of open source databases continues to grow, mirroring the popularity of Linux.

Forrester estimates the worldwide market last year for products such as MySQL (which Oracle has tried to buy), Postgres and Ingress hit US$300 million, which is tiny compared to the big three commercial products. But the research company believes that will swell to US$1 billion by 2008.

Comment: info@itbusiness.ca

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