DB2 6.1 strengthens Web database appeal

DB2 6.1 strengthens Web database appeal

Companies that are examining the added revenue that can be derived through Web application deployments will no doubt want a solid database server at the core of such a critical implementation. IBM's DB2 Enterprise Edition 6.1, beta 2, adds promised features that demonstrate DB2 is definitely up to the task of managing data and content in Web settings with ease.

This latest DB2 beta shows much improvement over the first beta. Many features that were missing in the first beta, such as visual tools to create Java stored procedures, have been implemented in this version. Also, many earlier errors have been corrected.

IBM still has to smooth some rough edges on this 6.1 version before the expected production release later this month. For example, several minor bugs still exist within the Java-based administration tools. And DB2's Linux installation and configuration routines need some additional work. But if IBM can resolve these issues, this DB2 release will be a real winner for current customers and strong competition against rival Oracle's Oracle8i. Both database heavyweights are still vying for customers with Web deployment needs.

Fitting in easily

DB2's broad platform support makes it an easy fit for sites large and small, especially for customers with mixed platform requirements. Added application support, easier administration, and a new pricing model will enable IT managers to expand application support while reducing database costs.

This second DB2 beta expands its new DataLinks capability - which links the database with external file systems to better manage content - to a wider number of platforms. Like previous tests with DataLinks on the AS/400 platform, tests with this beta on Windows NT also proved solid.

With DataLinks, IBM issues a challenge to rival Oracle and the iFS feature soon to be released for Oracle8i. It is too early to gauge the success of Oracle iFS, but my tests of DataLinks show that it's definitely up to the task of managing both data and external content while maintaining appropriate security, performance and accessibility.

IBM is also boosting DB2's support for Web technologies such as Java and Extensible Markup Language (XML). Visual tools to build Java stored procedures worked well during my tests and, except for the few minor beta bugs that I uncovered, the Java-based administration tools also worked well. Additionally, IBM added an XML parser and search facility in this release. But DB2 XML extender support is still undergoing separate beta testing, and IBM expects to release this support after DB2 6.1 goes into production.

Developers and database administrators alike will find this DB2 version a great improvement over previous versions of the database. I used IBM's VisualAge for Java to build several test applications that used DB2, and I tried my hand at setting up the database in new installation configurations - as well as performing upgrades and migrations from previous versions of DB2 and other data-bases. DB2 was extremely easy to work with.

Database rivals such as Oracle, Sybase, and Informix have already extended database support to Linux. DB2 also supported Linux in previous releases, but 6.1 expands support to a greater number of Linux distributions, such as TurboLinux.

I was able to set up DB2 with several different Linux distributions, but I encountered some problems along the way. In some cases, I had to revert to an earlier release of some of the Linux distributions to get things working properly. IBM will need to bolster the Linux installation and configuration process further to accommodate some Linux environments.

Organisations that need to extend database management functions from mobile devices and laptops to desktops, servers, midrange and mainframe systems will find DB2 right on target. The database already supports a slew of platforms, and DB2 support will soon be expanded even further via two new versions: DB2 Satellite and DB2 Everywhere, that are expected to support database management on laptops and mobile devices. These releases will match rivals, such as Sybase and Oracle, which already support these platforms.

IBM is also working with its business partners to expand the number of applications available for DB2. Approximately 2000 third-party vendors are porting applications to DB2, bringing the number of DB2-supported applications to more than 6000.

This second beta of DB2 6.1 is much improved from the earlier beta I reviewed.

If IBM is able to straighten out the final minor issues with this release, customers will gain a stellar database management solution that is well worth the investment. Current customers will definitely want to invest in an upgrade after the final tweaks are completed.

Organisations that are seeking a world-class database choice, which includes per-processor pricing, management of corporate data and external content, enhanced application support, and easier administration should also seriously consider DB2.

The bottom line ****

IBM DB2 Enterprise Edition 6.1, beta 2

Summary: The second beta of IBM's latest DB2 Enterprise Edition adds several features - such as support for Java stored procedures - that were not present in the previous beta. Though the database still needs some polish prior to production, this latest DB2 promises to provide stiff competition for database rival Oracle.

Business Case: Current customers will find this newest DB2 version well worth the upgrade. Organisations seeking a reduction in database costs will appreciate DB2's new Web-based pricing. DB2 fits easily into existing environments, boasts expanded application capabilities, and offers easier administration, a boon for sites large and small.

Pros: ¥ Fits in just about any computing environment ¥ Easy to set up and manage ¥ Good migration and configuration aids ¥ Java-based administration ¥ Manages data and external content ¥ Simplified client configurationCons: ¥ Minor beta bugsCost: To be announced.

Platforms: IBM AIX, OS/2, AS/400, IBM S/390; Linux; HP-UX; Solaris; Windows 95/98 and NT.

Ship date: Late July.

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