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IBM Offers Open Beta of 'Stinger' DB2

IBM is entering the open beta stage for "Stinger," the code-name for the next-generation release of DB2, which is slated for availability later this year.

IBM has been putting the finishing touches on Stinger in a phased approach, says Paul Rivot, worldwide director of database servers for IBM.

Last fall, Big Blue announced a very limited technology preview that focused on features such as tighter integration with Microsoft’s Visual Studio .NET integrated development environment (IDE) as well as IBM’s own WebSphere Studio IDE. Big Blue’s decision to build bridges to the .NET world may be surprising, but the move is logical. “We have seen a lot of delays in [the next version of] SQL Server, and that’s why we’ve spent so much time with .NET support,” Rivot explains, suggesting that some of these SQL Server seats could be in play.

If the Stinger technology preview focused on tighter integration with development tools and .NET support, the Stinger public beta is all about ease-of-use and autonomic capabilities, Rivot says. Out of the box, Stinger should make it easier for DBAs to deploy, configure, maintain and optimize DB2 databases on the fly, he asserts. That’s because the new database features enhanced versions of tools such as DB2 Configuration Advisor and DB2 Design Advisor.

“The Configuration Advisor asks some very basic questions about what type of application you have, how many users, and it can typically tune the database to within 90 or 95 percent of what you’ll need, while Design Advisor maintains configurations and optimizes the database,” Rivot notes.

IBM has further tweaked Design Advisor so that DBAs can more easily tune DB2 as the database workload changes, automate changes to the database structure, and perform tasks such as database backup and restoration. The Stinger open beta release also includes a new feature (called Autonomic Object Maintenance) that automatically performs administration and maintenance functions, such as table adjustments or data back-ups.

The idea, Rivot says, is to automate many common DB2 administrative tasks—or expose them to less technical IT staff—freeing up DBAs to tackle tough tuning, optimization, and architectural issues.

“We’re giving the experts more time to do the more complicated things, but we’re also simplifying it so that a good IT person can pick up some of these administrative tasks,” he explains. “That’s the biggest issue on any survey we’ve ever done. This is the biggest thing [customers have] wanted us to focus on, and that’s regardless of whether they’re doing OLTP, BI, whatever.”

Similarly, the Stinger open beta also includes a new query optimization technology from IBM’s LEarning Optimization (LEO) research and development project. According to Rivot, LEO helps to automate, simplify, and accelerate queries without requiring a DBA’s attention. The LEO technology also provides updated query statistics about database use, storage, and performance.

Another new feature is something that IBM calls Query Patroller, which introduces a query-based chargeback facility. “It allows you to basically monitor [and] understand the cost of queries, so you can do things like chargeback. You can basically calculate how much query time these departments are using and charge them for it,” Rivot says.

Elsewhere, Stinger can store three-dimensional geospatial data that is both location- and time-and-space-aware. This feature should appeal primarily to customers in certain verticals (government, defense, and transportation, along with restaurant chains and retailers) that sometimes use spatial data to identify new business opportunities, he explains.

IBM’s previous DB2 public previews have typically lasted about six months, which would put Stinger on track for release in late 2004. That’s a realistic expectation, Rivot says, but don’t try to hold IBM to it. “We’re just telling everybody [that we’ll release the next version of DB2] later this year, but just like anything, if we think of something else that we want to include, it could push it back."

Mike Schiff, a senior analyst with consultancy Current Analysis, says that although he’s impressed with the ease of use features that IBM has built into Stinger, Oracle offers similar functionality. “They’re making it very DBA-friendly and making DBAs more productive, so you don’t need an expert DBA to do a lot of these [administrative] tasks,” he points out. “When you think of DB2, you think of mainframes, and you think of a cadre of DBAs supporting the mainframe and DB2. And no one has ever claimed that Oracle is easy to tune. But both Oracle and IBM are pushing for DBA productivity and automating more things, and so these perceptions aren’t really accurate anymore.”

About the Author

Stephen Swoyer is a Nashville, TN-based freelance journalist who writes about technology.

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