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IBM seeks to ease database burden

"Stinger" update of DB2 will focus on automatic administration and an improvement in clustered performance.

IBM next week will release a major revision of its DB2 database, providing fresh ammunition in the ongoing battle for supremacy in the database marketplace.

Big Blue announced on Thursday that the DB2 Universal Database version 8.2, code-named Stinger, will be available Sept. 17. The company will offer an "express" version for smaller organizations, which starts at $500, and an enterprise edition, starting at $25,000.

With Stinger, IBM is seeking to lower the cost of operating databases and to beef up the performance of DB2, particularly when running on interconnected clusters of Linux servers.

IBM has built automation tools--born from its autonomic computing initiative--into DB2 to help database administrators troubleshoot problems and automate routine tasks. For example, Stinger includes a feature called Learning Optimizer, which automatically improves on frequently run queries to improve speed.

The update also quickens the failover capabilities of clustered database servers and expands the number of servers that can be connected to up to 1,000 nodes. In the area of application development, IBM has built in the ability to run Web services applications and improved the integration with Microsoft's flagship development tool, Visual Studio.Net.

IBM, Oracle and Microsoft have emerged as the three largest and most influential database providers, controlling more than 80 percent of database license and services revenue, according to market researchers.

For 2003, IDC found that Oracle had the greatest market share as measured by new license revenue and services fees, such as maintenance. Another research company, Gartner, gave IBM the top spot based solely on license revenue. Analysts said sales of IBM's mainframe-specific database were particularly strong last year.

Like IBM, Oracle and Microsoft have beefed up the management capabilities of their respective databases in an effort to make administrators more productive. After years of competing largely on top speed and performance, the leading database companies are now seeking to appeal to cost-conscious corporate customers with simpler administration, according to analysts.

Oracle earlier this year shipped Oracle 10g, its latest database update, which focuses on the ability to cluster several low-cost hardware servers to boost speed and availability. Microsoft delayed the release of its next edition of SQL Server, called Yukon, until the first half of next year.

IBM is also facing competition from open-source databases, according to some analysts. MySQL has been successful in filling the need for a low-cost, simple database. Other open-source databases include PostgreSQL and Firebird.