Upgrading for XML Support

By Lisa Vaas  |  Posted 2005-12-15 Print this article Print

ORF needed to upgrade its 2GB relational database of sporting stats to get support for XML and to better integrate with mobile devices as it delivered entertainment such as its extensive coverage of Austrian winter sports. ORF is in the process of moving off of SQL Server 2000 and onto SQL Server 2005 running on Windows Server 2003 Standard Edition.
The broadcaster is already finding 70 percent faster responses with XML data types and has found it up to 90 percent faster to create XML-based applications.
Of course, moving off of one flavor of SQL Server and onto the next is something of a no-brainer. But Schinagl has reasons for preferring SQL Servers approach to XML over that of either IBM or Oracle: "[Microsoft] gives you the best of both worlds … if an XQuery is underperforming, you still have the option of reverting to relational techniques"—what Schinagl called "relationalizing" part of the data back into property tables. Read details here about virtualization in IBMs DB2 "Viper." "The IBM way seems to me like a mixed approach (two different engines), more the type of an interim release (seems like they are looking [to see] if it makes sense to use one engine)," he wrote. Thomassen said he finds Vipers dual-engine approach to be well integrated. "IBMs solution is, in our experience, very robust and for any practical use it looks like one single engine for a user," he wrote. As far as Oracles XML handling goes, Schinagl is one of many who dismiss the database giants XML handling as amounting to—heres the dirty word again—shredding. "Oracle does not have … really, XML handling," Schinagl wrote. "Its a type of shredding the content." Not fair, said Willie Hardy, Oracles vice president of database product marketing, adding that Oracle 10g R2 introduced true support for XQuery and XTable, and Oracle has been actively engaged in meeting customers XML handling needs with a choice of storage options that are tuned to serve individual customers. "The Were more native than you are is a way to create a differentiator thats irrelevant," said Mark Drake, an Oracle product manager. "Its not one is better than another, one is more native than the other. Each one solves different problems." Oracles XML-handling abilities in 10g have their fans. Oracle published a case study about Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide, for example, that pointed to XQuery being a key reason for the hotel chain to upgrade to 10g R2. "XQuery support will be great for our content management system, since the content is stored in XML format," Arup Nanda, Starwoods director of database engineering and operations, is quoted as saying in the case study. "The flexibility simply increases tremendously for the developer community." Native XQuery support does indeed mean that developers can query XML, relational, object-relational and repository data using this industry-standard XML querying language. For Don Chamberlain, an IBM fellow of query languages, all this boils down to an exciting time to be in the database business. "For many years weve had relational systems very good at what they do," he said. "Theyre highly optimized for structured business data. … They do it very well and theyre not going away." But theres a lot of data in the world that doesnt fit into that paradigm, Chamberlain said. Theres a need for self-describing data, and XML fits that need. Thus we find ourselves headed into 2006 poised on the edge of some important new languages coming along. Similar to the way SQL served as a focal point for the relational database industry years ago, the new language of XQuery may well serve as the next focal point. And squarely at the center of that focal point is the relational database. The thing to watch out for now, Chamberlain said, is how quickly the marketplace soaks up the new technology and what kinds of applications it spawns. Users, for their part, need more XML advances from the database vendors. Thomassen, for example, said a big issue is the need to control data quality. "In todays version you have the ability to do schema validation at insertion point, but it is [not] forcing the XML to be validated," he wrote. "It is also no validation of the XML once it is stored in the database. It is a big dilemma because we want the flexibility and ability to store anything but at the same time we want to have a database with quality data." Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest database news, reviews and analysis.

Lisa Vaas is News Editor/Operations for eWEEK.com and also serves as editor of the Database topic center. Since 1995, she has also been a Webcast news show anchorperson and a reporter covering the IT industry. She has focused on customer relationship management technology, IT salaries and careers, effects of the H1-B visa on the technology workforce, wireless technology, security, and, most recently, databases and the technologies that touch upon them. Her articles have appeared in eWEEK's print edition, on eWEEK.com, and in the startup IT magazine PC Connection. Prior to becoming a journalist, Vaas experienced an array of eye-opening careers, including driving a cab in Boston, photographing cranky babies in shopping malls, selling cameras, typography and computer training. She stopped a hair short of finishing an M.A. in English at the University of Massachusetts in Boston. She earned a B.S. in Communications from Emerson College. She runs two open-mic reading series in Boston and currently keeps bees in her home in Mashpee, Mass.

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