RealTime IT News

IBM to Add Native XML for DB2

IBM is developing a new XML-based storage manager for its database software, highlighting what one analyst said is an industry shift toward recognizing the database as a significant part of the infrastructure again.

IBM will likely make the native XML storage manager available in the next version of its DB2 Universal Database for 2005, said Jeff Jones, director of strategy for data management solutions in IBM's Software Group.

"We are recognizing that XML is a force that is rapidly growing for organizing and representing any kind of information," Jones said. "It's not just for document interchange or Web site painting. That force means there is an increasing amount of XML in our shops, and the database needs to be better structured to handle XML."

The problem, Jones said, is that modern databases are better suited to handle relational data in tables, rows and columns. Applying the relational model to XML code means the XML has to be "shredded" or manipulated to work in relational columns. This means XML loses much of its effectiveness.

While pure XML databases exist to handle the language, they are not fast enough, nor do they scale large enough to handle enterprise workloads, Jones said. With the new storage manager, IBM is making it possible for DB2 to handle XML code as if the database were constructed out of XML itself.

The tool is not a relational table manager -- it's a second storage manager that will function as both a relational table manager and an XML manager. Jones and his team have solicited a select group of beta testers to run the new storage manager as an add-on to DB2. No timetable has been set for the inclusion of the native XML enhancements.

Jones said IBM is also providing developers more choice in terms of programming language as they may choose to use traditional SQL to write to DB2 or XQuery , which he calls "the most flexible means to address XML with questions."

The importance of such XML-enabling capabilities can't be understated. Many developers are using XML to construct Web services applications and service-oriented architectures , so it makes sense to have databases that can store the XML information from these applications without shredding documents and putting them into columns.

Burton Group's Peter O'Kelly said IBM, Oracle and Microsoft are leading a resurgent database market, which languished in popularity after taking a back seat to applications servers, which were red hot during the last few years. With IBM's new native XML enhancements, database software will likely regain some of its lost luster, O'Kelly said.

Comparing their level of complexity to operating systems, databases do such SOA-related tasks as message brokering, native Web services support and event management, O'Kelly said. They also ensure corporations remain compliant with record retention policies.

"When people go back and check their assumptions, they will see an expansion of what you can do with DBMS because of XML and standards like XML Schema and XQuery," O'Kelly said. "You want to be able to take those data-centric things in XML and put them into a database without a loss of fidelity, and this is one area where IBM is going further than Oracle and Microsoft."

Sprucing up XML capabilities in DB2 is just part of the company's plan to shoot past rivals Oracle and Microsoft in the competitive database market. In the past two years, all three companies have added automated management features and better search capabilities for their products.

Aside from enhancing DB2 with XML, IBM also has grand plans to boost the product's search capabilities. The last release, DB2 8.2 (code-named Stinger) featured OmniFind, the search component of DB2 Information Integrator.

OmniFind, a tangible result of IBM's search research and development efforts, helps applications find pieces of answers to questions from multiple vendor databases and content repositories.

"It gets the right info closer to the people who need it," Jones said.