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IBM Refreshes Mobile DB2 for Users on the Move

IBM Tuesday unveiled new database software that extends corporate data to handheld computing devices at a time when employees using mobile devices such as smart phones and PDAs must experience little or no drop in their access to business information.

Analyst group IDC expects the number of U.S. mobile professionals and mobile data collectors to balloon to 26.9 million in 2004. That's why Armonk, N.Y.'s IBM has tweaked the latest version of its DB2 Everyplace software (version 8) to make it easier and faster for developers to tailor applications such as e-mail and instant messaging for smaller devices.

The new software, which comes a week and a half after IBM announced major Express upgrades for SMBs, is now fully automated and provides federated access and synchronization capabilities to employees across their enterprise, which is the goal of the company's "pervasive computing" strategy.

Mobile databases software is basically a scaled down version of a company's flagship database. In true database software fashion, DB2 Everyplace gives mobile workers the ability to query, retrieve and modify information in real-time from different applications and data sources. But it does so not only in IBM's DB2 platform, but also in Microsoft SQL, Oracle and Sybase database environments.

IBM Mobile Computing Product Manager Jay Pederson said this heterogeneity makes DB2 Everyplace unique from other database vendors because customers have more platform choice. DB2 Everyplace runs on PalmOS, Microsoft Windows CE/Pocket PC, Symbian, embedded Linux, QNX Neutrino, Microsoft Windows NT/2000/XP and Linux.

"Oracle and Microsoft both have similar products as far as mobile databases go, but Oracle pitches theirs to Oracle-only backends and Microsoft's is limited to Pocket PC devices," Pederson said. Sybase is the only other heterogeneous vendor next to IBM."

DB2 Everyplace works with about 200 kilobytes of data and doesn't feature the additional bells and whistles, such as business intelligence. But then again, that is normal for a scaled down version of the product that is used to accommodate thousands of computers, not just odd laptops and handheld gadgets.

"We've really looked to fine-tune the parameters for this version and to keep it up to date, but not so much that we turn users into database administrators," Pederson said.

For example, a sales person might use DB2 Everyplace to enter new orders and retrieve customer information using PDAs. The software synchronizes the new customer information with the company's backend applications and database, which can be downloaded to each sales person's PDA in the field keeps the sales team up to speed.

Pederson said DB2 Everyplace 8 is an upgrade over last year's seventh version because it is more tightly synchronized with the company's middleware, WebSphere Everyplace Access, which provides customers with a real-time view of their e-mail, instant messaging and enterprise applications. The company says its DB2 Information Integrator also supports it.

IBM is also being as accommodating as usual for the .NET environment, following up on its "Stinger" development from Microsoft's Professional Developers Conference two weeks ago: DB2 Everplace 8 features new .NET Framework and .Net Compact Framework interfaces to simplify mobile application development on Windows workstations and servers or Windows mobile devices and Pocket PCs.

Lastly, Pederson said a new plug-in for WebSphere Studio developers helps them create mobile Java applications for PalmOS and PocketPC platforms.

A smaller version, DB2 Everyplace Express, is designed for a departmental or small business environment but offers customers the same features as DB2 Everyplace. DB2 Express can be deployed on Windows or Linux running up to two CPUs.

DB2 Everyplace version 8 and DB2 Everyplace Express are available now. DB2 Everyplace Enterprise Edition is $15,000 per processor with unlimited users DB2 Everyplace Express Edition is $379 per server (up to two processors) and $79 per user. IBM also offers DB2 Everyplace Database Edition priced at $49 per user without the DB2 Sync Server option.

DB2 Everyplace products feature a free Mobile Application Builder (MAB) that cuts back on application development time for handheld devices by employing drag-and-drop application development that eliminates hand coding. MAB supports devices based on the PalmOS, and any device supporting Java.