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Mainframe DB2 emerges from primordial swamp

Columns, memory and Cube Views. Oh my!

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IBM's mainframe machine keeps rolling along with the release this week of DB2 Version 8 for the venerable hardware and the z/OS operating system.

With the new version of the database, IBM worked to increase the amount of memory that can be addressed, added new security tools and made the software work better with DB2 for Unix, Linux and Windows. The new database arrives on the heels of a strong quarter for IBM's zSeries mainframe business, proving the old kit still has some legs, even if they have the leathery, green hue of a dinosaur.

First up, IBM has added 64-bit support to DB2 Version 8. Moving from 31-bits, will make it possible to address more memory and many terabytes of storage capacity. IBM has also expanded table name sizes from 18 to 128 characters, upped column name sizes from 18 to 30 characters and bulked up SQL statement length from 32 kilobytes to 2MB. All of this helps customers shed some of the nasty mainframe limitations lingering on from years ago.

A new feature unique to DB2 for the mainframe is row level security. This makes it possible to create barriers between different data sets, giving access to the information to specific users or departments. It also helps to segregate customer information, said Jeff Jones, IBM's director of strategy for DB2.

"This is very broadly applicable security technology not just for top secret government organizations," he said.

Another major addition to DB2 comes in the form of QMF (Query Management Facility) technology that can tap into DB2 Cube Views on Unix, Linux and Windows servers. This lets different versions of DB2 share information and form the Cube Views or graphical pictures of data for customers. IBM is selling the QMF package as an add-on for mainframe DB2 but might build it in as a standard package down the road, Jones said.

Overall, there are about 100 new features in DB2 for z/OS. IBM is touting the release as one of its biggest achievements ever in the database space. All the ins and outs can be found here.

As always, IBM is reluctant to provide public pricing on its mainframe software. There are too many factors and "special builds" in the mainframe world to give some sort of standard pricing model, Jones said.

IBM is still talking up the use of Linux on the mainframe but has certainly toned down the marketing schtick around the effort. Big Blue recently moved to make Linux a standard option on its highest-end Unix boxes, which may account for part of the backtrack.

IBM's mainframe business tends to have fairly dramatic ups and downs quarter by quarter, but the most recent numbers from IDC say the beast is booming. IBM's mainframe biz enjoyed a 33 percent revenue surge in Q4 year-over-year. This comes with rivals such as HP and Sun gunning as hard as they can to move mainframe customers onto high-end Unix gear.

The new database is generally available worldwide on March 26. ®

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