New release puts a shine on DB2 Enterprise Edition

One normally doesn't go around casually upgrading a database or migrating from one database to another. Usually, there has to be a compelling reason to consider such a major change to what are considered core services. IBM Corp.'s latest update to the venerable DB2 database presents compelling reasons on several fronts.

DB2 Universal Database Enterprise Edition 6.1 delivers solid database enhancements that include increased performance capabilities and tools that will make life easier for database administrators and application developers. For agencies already using DB2, these changes make upgrading to Version 6.1 worthwhile.

We also discovered two gems in this release that strengthen the business case to consider moving to DB2. The first is an IBM change in pricing. With this version, IBM offers a per-processor fee that supports an unlimited number of users. By contrast, IBM's rival, Oracle Corp., charges per processor but also adds fees for each client beyond eight concurrent licenses. The costs can add up quickly at large sites or for agencies deploying large-scale World Wide Web initiatives.

The second DB2 jewel - called DataLinks - is a good match for organizations that need to better manage data and content, such as for a World Wide Web site or an intranet. DataLinks enables you to manage content from within the database, such as graphical images, on external file systems, while maintaining proper security, performance and accessibility.

DataLinks is a direct response to rival Oracle and its new Internet File System (iFS) capability for Oracle8i. Oracle's iFS brings the file system capabilities into the database, but IBM has gone the route of managing external content. We have tested DB2's DataLinks and found it to be a viable way to manage an entire Web site or intranet. DataLinks also is available on a per-processor basis with unlimited user licensing.

One of the reasons we have found DB2 appealing is its support for a wide range of platforms. With this release, DB2 has added support for Linux, which was very easy to set up and configure. In addition to Linux, DB2 supports Unix platforms, such as its own AIX and Sun Microsystems Inc.'s Solaris, as well as Microsoft Corp.'s Windows NT and OS/2, OS/400, OS/390 and more. New versions of DB2 - known as DB2 Satellite and DB2 Everywhere - also extend the database's capabilities to users who have notebooks and mobile devices.

During our tests with DB2, we tried a new installation from scratch, an upgrade from Version 5.2 and a migration of some Oracle databases we had on hand. In all cases, we found the documentation detailed and straightforward, and we were able to find the answers to our questions without considerable effort.In particular, we liked the new Java-based administration tool known as the Control Center. Regardless of whether we were local or remote, we were able to manage DB2 very easily. In earlier tests we performed on a beta of DB2, the Control Center did have some quirks. However, IBM has flushed out the problems in the production version of this release.

Another notable addition to this DB2 release is the Index SmartGuide, which reduces the effort required to build indexes. After submitting queries, DB2 automatically monitored and built the indexes.Database developers also will find useful DB2 additions. The new visual Java Stored Procedure Builder lets you create SQL queries, and it subsequently creates the stored procedures. IBM has added an Extensible Markup Language parser and search facility that worked well during our tests. And new support for Microsoft's Object Linking and Embedding for Databases enables access to relational and non-relational sources that OLE DB supports.

Performance-minded agencies will like newly added DB2 support for summary tables. Of the major relational databases on the market today, only IBM and Oracle offer this feature, which is quite useful for those grappling with large data sets. Summary tables are sets of precalculated results for the most common queries, such as counts and summations. We noted a dramatic increase in response times once we implemented summary tables. In some cases, the response time was one-tenth of what it had been without the summary tables.

There are several compelling reasons to consider this DB2 version. Sites with large Web-based initiatives will find good value in the new per-processor pricing model and the use of the DataLinks feature to better manage external content.

Agencies that are considering movement of database services to Linux to reduce costs will find DB2 up to snuff. Likewise, those with large data sets and complex application requirements will find DB2 up to the task from a tools and performance perspective.

Those who wish to take a DB2 test drive can do so by downloading or requesting a CD of the Personal Developers Edition at: www.software.ibm.com/data/db2/udb/downloads.html. DB2 Enterprise Edition 6.1 is well worth a look-see.

-- Biggs is a senior analyst at the InfoWorld Test Center who evaluates enterprise technologies, has more than 15 years of IT experience and writes the biweekly Enterprise Toolbox column.

***

DB2 Enterprise Edition 6.1

Grade: AIBM Corp.(800) 426-4968www.ibm.com

Price and Availability

Available via IBM's Passport Advantage Program, the price is $8,125 for DB2 Enterprise Edition (per server CPU and unlimited users); $5,200 for DataLinks Manager (per CPU).

Remarks

The latest update to IBM's DB2 database contains marked improvement in performance, easier administration and options that simplify development and application interoperability. Agencies will find significant return on investment with DB2's new per processor pricing. A new capability—called DataLinks—offers a better way to manage content external to the database without impacting performance.

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