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Barely a week after Microsoft laid claim to enterprise readiness by launching SQL Server 2005, IBM has upped the stakes releasing early details of its next DB2.

The Viper edition of DB2, due in 2006 and announced on Wednesday with open testing, will see an expansion in the number of automated actions such as self-configuration and self-healing established in earlier editions of DB2, IBM said.

Earlier this year IBM enhanced DB2 with version 8.2.2 that enabled the database to configure itself for SAP environments. Microsoft had used the example of SQL Server 2005 running SAP last week as proof there was "no job too big" for the Windows platform.

"DB2 is unique in the self configuration and self optimizing capabilities that were delivered in the 8.2.2 version... which were initially tailored with the SAP team to enable deployment in an SAP environment," Bernie Spang director of IBM's database marketing told The Register. "SQL Server doesn't have that capability".

Spang added: "More features will be added in this area - more automated actions that can be taken."

IBM's pledge has added teeth, coming as Microsoft works to speed-up the delivery process behind its own database. Microsoft is reported to have promised customers they won't have to wait another five years for the next edition for SQL Server. SQL Server 2005 is the first new edition of Microsoft's database since SQL Server 2000.

Viper, by contrast, is expected just two years after IBM's last major DB2 update, codenamed Stinger, which shipped in September 2004 - a year after it was previewed by IBM.

In a further repost to Microsoft, IBM said Viper would become the first database to deliver native support for XML. Viper will store, search and retrieve unstructured XML data for use in business analytics, without parsing or breaking down data into rows or columns - processes that are slow and can result in a loss of data fidelity.

IBM claims Viper will address a market where just 20 per cent of business data is stored in a relational data form while 35 per cent is in unstructured XML. This latter figure is likely to grow as Microsoft brings online its version of Office next year with XML file formats and the OpenDocument Format (ODF) sees wider adoption.

"The spot we are hitting with Viper is that all the business information needs to be available... and [it] should be secured and [be] highly available, not just the percentage [of data] in the relational database," Spang said.

Like Microsoft, IBM is focusing on developers - only, not just Windows programmers using Microsoft's Visual Studio integrated development environment (IDE). Viper will be made available with Zend Technologies' Zend Core for IBM, which features a driver to enable the open source PHP to speak to DB2. Viper will also be able to read and understand web services implemented in PHP.

In an additional development, the Zend Core will be updated this year to feature a version of DB2 Express for developers without a license charge. Spang said it was important for web services and service oriented architectures (SOAs) written in PHP to talk to information in DB2.®

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