IBM challenges Oracle with DB2 v8
Takes fight to Unix, Windows
IBM has recently introduced a new major release of DB2 - version 8. There are a host of new features in the product and we can only cover the headline items here, but it is quite clear that this release has Oracle in its sights.
You can take two distinct views of this release. On the one hand you can say that Version 8 majors on manageability and performance - which for most traditional applications, is what database is all about. IBM is using the term SMART management to describe many of the new management features. Some of these are autonomic, with the database managing itself without the need for intervention by the DBA.
There are features here that automate index reorganizations, parallelism and various aspects of query optimisation all of which naturally has a knock-on affect on performance. There are also new tools for tuning. The most impressive of which is a configuration advisor, which is rules based and appears to be very effective. In terms of straight performance features, version 8 delivers a wholly new feature - multidimensional clustering - which is aimed primarily at business intelligence applications, as well as improved compression and a number of scalability features for client sessions.
If you take the alternative view and look at functionality, then IBM is clearly expanding the range of application areas for DB2 with version 8. There are a whole series of new features relating to XML integration, ready for the world of web services when it eventually attains critical mass. This includes automatic XML schema validation and automatic transformations via XSL. In effect all XML documents can be stored (as XML columns in a table) and recomposed when required.
WebSphere Studio now provides DB2 XML productivity tools. Federated access to XML is also provided, which we believe will be an important feature in time. If you add this to the various content management capabilities that are already in the DB2 portfolio, IBM can legitimately claim to have the broadest area of application of the major database vendors.
However, IBM's major battle is with Oracle and it is being fought out on UNIX and WNT. DB2 on both the iSeries (previously known as the AS/400) and on the zSeries (previously known as the s390 or the mainframe) are actually different versions of DB2 and now have little direct relevance to the database war with Oracle. Oracle does not compete heavily on the zSeries and not at all on the iSeries. Overall IBM leads Oracle with a total market share of 34.6 percent to Oracle's 32 percent (according to recent Gartner figures).
However, on UNIX and WNT Oracle is the dominant product. In these markets Oracle has been losing ground slowly. On UNIX Oracle has 63.3 percent of the market to IBM's 24.7 percent and on Windows Oracle has 34 percent to IBM's 20.7 percent. Oracle's market share in both markets has declined, by just under 3 percent in the UNIX market and just over 4 percent on Windows. With Version 8 of DB2, IBM is adding further competitive pressure.