DB2 9, an update to Big Blue's database due next month, heaps on features aimed at stealing market share.
IBM is expected to announce Thursday that DB2 9 will be available at the end of July and to detail some previously undisclosed features, including support for the Web development framework Ruby on Rails.
Bob Picciano, IBM vice president of data servers, also hinted at some features planned for follow-up releases to DB2 9, including easier administration and closer integration with service-oriented development frameworks.
The biggest technical breakthrough with DB2 9 is the software dedicated to handling XML-formatted information, Picciano said.
Formerly code-named Viper, the XML capabilities will greatly improve the speed of applications that use XML, he said.
"There are 68 patents alone in Viper, and it involved 750 developers over five years," Picciano said. "This is something no one else has and will take years to get here."
DB2 9 will also have a storage mechanism, enabling corporations to reduce their hardware storage needs by about 40 percent, he said.
The data server will be optimized to run with SAP's packaged applications and have close integration with Ruby on Rails, Picciano said.
He predicted the release will lure in Oracle customers and defend IBM from open-source alternatives, which are increasingly viable for corporate customers.
Market researcher Gartner said Oracle has the relational-database industry's greatest market share, 48 percent--a number that includes new license sales, support and maintenance.
But revenue at both of IBM's primary competitors--Oracle and Microsoft--grew faster than Big Blue's last year, according to Gartner.
Picciano also sketched out some of the capabilites that IBM is building into future versions of DB2. He said future IBM databases will try to advance the company's information on demand strategy, the idea that people can access information easily and in the proper context.
Later versions of DB2 will have closer ties with the service-oriented development tooling in IBM's WebSphere middleware and Workspace client software, he said. Also, more features will be added to make databases self-managing.
"We are going to make sure we can deliver information in line and in context by semantically integrating information as it exists across applications...as opposed to in application silos," Picciano said.
The cost of add-on features for DB2 9 has gone up, but the base server prices are the same as the current version. The high-end Enterprise Edition costs $938 per user, with a 25 user minimum, or $36,400 per processor. The low-end Express Edition is $165 per user or $4,874 per processor. A WorkGroup Edition is $350 per user or $10,000 per processor.