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DB2 Viper to boost XML capabilities

Analysts say the big plus for the System i in IBM's DB2 Viper release, is its ability to leverage XML for service-oriented architectures

IBM's DB2 9, code-named Viper, may help System i customers organize multiple types of data under a single interface, analysts say.

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The recently released DB2 9 allows customers to pull structured and nonstructured data -- ranging from simple text fields to complex audio and video files -- and have it come up for the end user in a single graphical interface. For example, the DB2 allows a doctor to more easily pull a patient's history (structured or semistructured data) and results from a test, such as an EKG (unstructured data).

That same capability could help a business that wants to sell products over the Web, allowing customers to draw data about different aspects of an order from the same database.

Currently, Viper is available for Linux, UNIX and Windows, but only on Linux for System i. Jeff Jones, director of strategy for IBM information management and software, said IBM is considering providing some of Viper's advantages to i5/OSs built-in DB2 database program but hasn't done so yet.

"It is a future direction that we are considering," Jones said.

With Viper, the data is tied together using XML. XML, short for Extensible Markup Language, is a Web-based language that sets up a type of template for information on a Web page or multiple pages. This is in contrast to HTML, which describes the details of a specific Web site.

XML has become dominant in service-oriented architecture (SOA) applications because it provides a language for different applications to connect through a common interface that the end user can see, usually on one computer screen.

It's that connectivity that XML provides in DB2 9 Viper that Bloor Research analyst Philip Howard said is the selling point for System i customers.

"In principle, we should see the emergence of a new class of XML/relational applications that are made practical by the XML performance of Viper," he wrote in an email. "The key question, which is not clear at the moment, is how extensive those applications will be."

The connection to XML, and thus to SOA, could be that it allows IBM to match Oracle in relational database technology, at least for the time being.

"Right now the difference with the latest release is that it appears that DB2 has gone Oracle 10g one better," said Wayne Kernochan, president of Infostructure Associates. "If you're writing a query in an Oracle database, you can write it according to objects or relational data. Or, you can run one query across the two or write it in a more object-oriented query language. IBM has said we're not only going to do that, but we're going to do it all in connection with XML."

Jones, from IBM, said that DB2 Viper and the built-in DB2 for i5/OS each have their advantages. Both are efficient data compressors and work well with SAP applications.

DB2 Viper allows database managers to run queries in XQuery, which is a language that deals with XML. That's what makes it appealing from a SOA standpoint.

DB2 for i5/OS, in its current incarnation, provides the advantage of being woven into the operating system, which Jones said leads toward good performance and automating administration tasks, such as installing DB2 itself.

The other advantage that Howard and Kernochan said the DB2 Viper has is its ability to partition data in three different ways -- multidimensional clustering, hashing and range partitioning. The partitioning sets up a way for DB2 to point to a particular piece of data without pulling an entire file up and hogging processor power and memory.

With range partitioning, new to DB2 Viper, a database administrator can query information based on key values, such as dates.

"It allows you to take one extra step in localizing the data," Kernochan said.

It's a feature that Oracle has had in its products for a while, and its addition in DB2 could help it gain share in the relational database market.

In a report last month, research firm Gartner Inc. said that Oracle had the largest share, with almost 50%, followed by IBM at 22% and Microsoft's SQL Server at 15%.

Let us know what you think about the story; e-mail: Mark Fontecchio, News Writer

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