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The next version of DB2 has inched closer to public consumption with IBM today releasing an open beta of the database that shows off a host of new features designed to save administrators time and keep the software up and running.

The latest iteration of DB2 for Windows, Linux and Unix - code-named Stinger - has arrived with a number of tools that fit under IBM's on-demand computing umbrella. High on the the list of new goodies are the Design Advisor for automatic configuration and tuning of the database, the LEO (learning optimizer) for speeding queries and a software package for automating admin tasks such as data back-ups. All of these tools will ship with the final release of Stinger, which is due later this year.

With Design Advisor, IBM has introduced technology that could make database jobs run up to 6 times faster. The tool removes the need for a lot of the manual configuration and tuning done in the past and lets DB2 do the work instead.

"Basically, what it does is track real workloads and comes up with recommendations to help improve performance of queries for that workload based on real life activities or input such as sample workloads," said Les King, senior manager of IBM's DB2 solution development.

In many ways, the Design Advisor gives administrators a chance to train a database before placing it in production.

The LEO technology complements the Design Advisor by suggesting different data paths that can help speed up queries.

"It looks at what is the fastest way to access information within the database," King said. "It then runs a check to make sure this is the fastest path and gives the customer the information."

The LEO software continues to scan the database over the course of its production life and makes more recommendations based on usage patters.

IBM's Autonomic Object Maintenance software was built to handle basic administration and maintenance functions. The software lets users schedule table adjustments and back-ups.

"For example, a DBA specifies what time the database should do its maintenance, the database then considers its workload with the DBA's time suggestion, and automatically performs its maintenance tasks," IBM said.

These are just a few of the add-ons that sit on a fairly long-list of new DB2 additions. IBM has also included the exotically named Geodetic Extender, which is not a new spamming tool but rather software for letting customers work with spatial data. IBM found a way to represent spatial data in relational form.

"As a result, companies can more easily build more powerful and accurate geospatial applications for land management, asset management, or business development applications that rely on geographical, physical and time-based data requirements," IBM said.

IBM additionally added in new tools for sending production database information onto a standby database, as a means of helping customers deal with failures and software upgrades. IBM has also improved DB2's performance on server clusters.

In total, both IBM and Oracle continue to gear their databases toward the more utility style computing being pushed by hardware vendors and ISVs. The idea is to have more flexible software that can run just as well on a large SMP as a set of linked, lower-cost systems. In addition, the database makers continue to try and reduce some of the management burden faced by admins, which can be seen as both a good and bad thing if maintaining databases pays the bills.

Before you know it, IBM may just "on-demand" your job away. Of course, we'll all be much older then, living under water and playing with our pet nanobots. ®

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