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New IBM database speaks Web services

The company debuts a new version of its DB2 database with better Web services support and a revamped pricing plan.

IBM on Thursday launched a new version of its database server software that includes better Web services support and revamped pricing.

DB2 version 8 includes more tools to automate database setup and management, and makes it easier to query and manage disparate data sources, said Jeff Jones, IBM?s director of data management products.

Among the new features included in DB2 v8 is technology called multidimensional clustering, which helps to speed up queries through better organization of data; additional self-healing, or "autonomic" computing features, to quickly configure new databases and optimize existing databases; and better ways of querying data stored outside of DB2.

In the area of Web services, DB2 v8 now allows database users to query data from Web services. A single Structured Query Language (SQL) query can span both DB2 and Web service providers, simplifying programming of new applications.

Microsoft is also building additional Web services capabilities into its SQL Server database. A new release, code-named Yukon, is expected to debut next year with better support for Extensible Markup Language (XML), one of the key languages for Web services programming.

As previously reported, analysts say that a new pricing plan introduced with DB2 version 8 is likely to be a mixed blessing for customers: Midsized businesses could find bargains, and big companies could wind up paying more.

IBM previously offered two high-end versions of the database, one with clustering and one without. Now, the company will sell one product, the DB2 Enterprise Server Edition. The new version of DB2 will cost $25,000 per processor, or about $5,000 more per processor than the former version.

Clustering will be an add-on feature, priced at an additional $7,500 per processor, according to IBM. Clustering lets businesses harness multiple servers to run a very large database system or lets servers share work or take over from each other if one fails.

In hopes of capturing more customers at midsize companies--a growing market for database makers--IBM will cut pricing for its midrange version of DB2 by about 45 percent. DB2 Workgroup Server Unlimited Edition will cost $7,500 per processor for any application connected to the Internet. A second offering for small and midsized companies, called the Workgroup Server Edition, is aimed at businesses with between 24 and 36 employees. The Workgroup Server Edition will cost $999 per server and $249 for each "named" or "concurrent" user.

Named user licensing gives database access to 100 specific employees, for example, while a concurrent user license allows for access by any 100 employees simultaneously.