RealTime IT News

Big Blue Aiming 'Stinger' at Oracle, Microsoft

Following months of previews and testing, IBM released in open beta the most complete version of its next-generation Stinger database software Monday.

Looking to slingshot past the competition with new features and better performance, Big Blue officials said the latest DB2 Universal Database goes beyond what rivals Microsoft and Oracle offer with their respective SQL Server and 10g products. The software is also the latest iteration of its kind for underscoring IBM's on-demand computing initiative to provide access to information anytime from anywhere.

For example, Paul Rivot, director of database services and business intelligence software at IBM, said the new software features more of IBM's self-managing, autonomic computing features than in any previous versions of DB2 Universal Database, helping them vault ahead of the competition.

"We believe that the autonomic capabilities that get the system up are far advanced compared to both Oracle as well as Microsoft," Rivot said.

Automated database management, which Oracle and Microsoft offer in varying degrees, helps lower total-cost-of-ownership by freeing up database administrators (DBA) to attend to other tasks, such as such as data analysis, Web Services, integration, or information lifecycle management.

The new DB2 Design Advisor allows administrators to automatically set up, deploy and maintain DB2 on the fly, and tunes the database as the workload oscillates, ordering changes, backups and restores. The tool also suggests how complex queries can be accelerated, providing the shortest path to the requested information.

Chief among these features that let the database "learn" about changes and adjust, is a new query optimization technology from IBM's LEO (learning optimizer) research and development project. LEO renders queries without human intervention, allowing DB2 to automatically update query statistics about where it keeps information and how it is performing.

Rivot said products from Microsoft and Oracle force DBAs to constantly tell the database how to optimize queries.

"Our optimizer technology and LEO is much more advanced, especially on Oracle -- you have to keep giving their optimizer hints and tips on what to do," Rivot said. Another tool, Autonomic Object Maintenance, adjusts tables and backs up data instantly after a DBA programs it to do its maintenance.

IBM is also offering support for three-dimensional geospatial data with a tool called the DB2 Geodetic Extender, which renders "location" and "time and space" models of data to give programmers a better idea of how their data is mapped on a system.

Spatial data could be stored data that maps coordinates. "Say you wanted to go from my house to your house," Rivot said. "You can get online and put my address in and your address in and then it comes up with a map on how to get there. What it does is take the coordinates in the data and shows you visually."

For example, the city of San Francisco uses DB2 to map where different crimes occur. New 3D geospatial data improves on that capability. Business intelligence applications, Rivot explained, are increasingly using spatial data. The DB2 Geodetic Extender treats the Earth like a globe, whereas 10g and SQL treat it like a flat map, he claimed.

The Armonk, N.Y. company has also made strides in optimizing DB2 for application development. For example, Rivot said Stinger offers new tools that take advantage of the latest application development features of Java/Eclipse and Microsoft .NET.

As previously announced, Stinger has the ability to write stored procedures using .NET languages such as Visual Basic .NET and C#. By supporting Microsoft Common Language Runtime (CLR), "we are actually further along than Microsoft is."

Stinger, which supports Linux 2.6 and 64-bit computing to help IBM's database clusters scale higher and perform faster, will also provide enhanced support for Services Oriented Architecture (SOA) to ensure easier integration of Web Services within the database.

Lastly, Stinger boasts improved availability through DB2 Client Reroute, a mechanism for keeping the software running despite scheduled maintenance, or if a database server fails. The tool switches users over to a mirrored database without disruption.

"Most of these capabilities that we talk about here are leveraging everything from some of the big customers that want to take advantage of these, but also what we find is that a lot of the autonomic capabilities are very critical to our small and medium business accounts," Rivot told internetnews.com.

To that end, DB2 -- Express, a midmarket version of Stinger, will take five minutes to install and about another 10 minutes to run configuration advisors to get the system, up, tuned and maintaining itself.

Stinger, for which an official name has not been decided, will become available to the public later this year.