Less than one week after rival Oracle put the finishing touches on its pending 9i database and set a shipping date, IBM this week detailed a forthcoming version of DB2 UDB (Universal Database).
The new iterations, in fact, will be available within a week of each other; DB2 will ship on June 8 and Oracle 9i will reach general availability on June 14.
In this latest edition, DB2 UDB 7.2 IBM focused on integrating the database with the overall e-business infrastructure, according to Jeff Jones, senior program manager of IBM's data management group.
"This version takes the next step down some paths we have previously started," Jones said.
Big Blue integrated DB2 with its MQSeries middleware, thus enabling the database to interoperate with new data sources, offer alternative ways to source and load data warehouses, and provide faster delivery of data.
DB2 also is more closely integrated with WebSphere to weave support for Web services standards SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol) and UDDI (Universal Description, Discovery, and Integration) into the database as well.
As for exactly how DB2 fits into IBM's overall Web services strategy, Jones declined to elaborate. "There's more to be said from IBM on Web services," he said.
Continuing its federated data philosophy, on the data integration side IBM added sources to its Relational Connect product so it can communicate with SQL Server 2000, Sybase and, naturally, Informix.
IBM has been working on connectors to those three databases, Informix included, since well before it purchased Informix late last month.
Adding to its distributed querying, DB2 includes connectors to DB2 Warehouse Manager that hook into SAP R/3, i2 Trade Metrix, and WebSphere Site Analyzer, and connectors to flat files in the life sciences area.
Analysts said that DB2 will be challenged by Oracle's forthcoming 9i database in terms of scalability and self-tuning features.
Analysts and users have long criticized Oracle for not scaling as high as DB2 or NCR Teradata, but the Real Application Clusters feature in 9i promises to enhance Oracle's scalability, said Peter Urban, a senior analyst at AMR Research.
IBM's Jones said that IBM has improved scalability with faster recovery and plans to stick to its guns with the shared-nothing approach for Unix and Windows scalability, saying that the overhead for partitioning the database is less than the cost of migrating data into one database.
AMR's Urban added that although both IBM and Oracle are working to make their databases easier to use, Microsoft's SQL Server is still the easiest to use, though it doesn't scale as well as IBM or Oracle.
"These guys have to make their software easier to use because there aren't enough experienced DBAs [database administrators] out there," he added.
IBM's release also includes support for the Linux 2.4 kernel and Microsoft's high-end operating system Datacenter Server 2000.
Jones said that DB2 UDB 7.2 will ship in one month, on June 8. He said that Oracle scheduling a date for the release of 9i did not factor into the timing of DB2 7.2.
"We've been planning this time for months, and there was no impact by Oracle at all."