IBM 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 a 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 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 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 found answers to our questions without much 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 that 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.

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 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.

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