DB2 8.1 Beta Polishes Database

By Timothy Dyck  |  Posted 2002-08-05

DB2 8.1 Beta Polishes Database

The first open beta of the next version of DB2 provides an early look at what IBM DB2 Universal Database Version 8.1 will include when it ships this fall.

eWeek Labs evaluated Beta 3 of Version 8.1 and found that the update fine-tunes DB2 in many areas, including administration, performance tuning, data warehousing, uptime and XML data handling. There arent any fundamental changes or major new components here, but current DB2 customers may find that some pain theyre experiencing will go away with the update.

We were disappointed, however, to see that Version 8.1 does not include Xperanto, IBMs full-on merger of XQuery (the XML query language) with DB2s relational storage engine. IBM officials said Xperanto will be released next year in a future DB2 version. (See Xperanto preview.)

DB2 currently uses SQL functions based on the SQLX (XML extensions for SQL) draft standard, which is based on older XPath work. "[SQLX] is not the best; XQuery is the best way," said Jeff Jones, director of strategy, IBM Data Management Solutions, in San Jose, Calif. "Our vision for DB2 is that it evolves to become bilingual on the query side—SQL and XQuery—and, underneath, has both relational and other storage mechanisms."

That DB2 future isnt here yet. However, there are three important XML improvements coming in DB2 8.1 that bring DB2 up-to-date with other XML standards work.

First, database administrators can now validate incoming XML files using XML Schema files instead of just Document Type Definition files; second, DB2 can transform XML data into a variety of output formats using Extensible Stylesheet Language Transformation; third, DB2 will gain the ability to create a table that acts as a live gateway to data published by a Web service, making a Web service appear to be a normal relational database table.

Unfortunately, the Web services features will require software that comes with IBMs WebSphere Application Server Version 5, which ships this fall.

Oracle Corp.s Oracle9i Release 2 doesnt support XQuery, either, but its new native XML storage format (see review) provides a balance of XML document fidelity and performance that DB2 8.1 doesnt offer.

Management Tools

Management Tools

a number of useful, new graphical tools come with DB2 8.1. Configuration Advisor, for example, helps database administrators set up new databases based on workload expectations, and database monitoring of operational databases is now centralized in a new Health Center application (see screen).

Health Center (along with its Health Monitor server-side data collection engine) tracks various database engine statistics and can e-mail or page administrators when database usage passes particular thresholds. The tool can also run a database script automatically when an alarm is triggered.

Health Center suggests actions to fix problems it finds and has a Web module for desktop Web browser or personal digital assistant access.

The new DB2 Development Center provides a graphical tool for building DB2 stored procedures (in SQL or in Java) or user-defined functions that dynamically turn IBMs MQSeries, XML or any OLE DB data source into a format that looks like a native DB2 table. This tool can also be integrated with Microsoft Corp. and IBM IDEs.

The current DB2 7.2 release has about 150 database parameters that require a database restart. The 8.1 release cuts that number to about 100, allowing more database administration tasks to take place without bringing down the database and disconnecting all users and applications.

One thing in particular that has always irritated us was the requirement to restart the database to activate new buffer pools. With Release 8.1, we could activate them immediately after creating them.

Those using DB2 for data warehousing will appreciate the ability to cluster data based on multiple independent keys (or columns); the current clustered index option physically groups disk blocks using just a single clustering key.

Pre-computed queries (using summary tables) can be used by the optimizer in more cases, as well.

DB2 8.1 also introduces data compression to shrink the size of databases on disk for more efficient disk I/O, but the compression applies only to null and default column values, not to all repeated data values.

West Coast Technical Director Timothy Dyck can be reached at timothy_dyck@ziffdavis.com.

Executive Summary

: IBM DB2 Universal Database 8.1 Beta 3">

Executive Summary: IBM DB2 Universal Database 8.1 Beta 3

Current DB2 users will find the next major release of IBMs relational database easier to administer, tune for better performance and uptime, and use with XML data and Web services. eWeek Labs tests didnt find any fundamental changes to DB2; this release looks to be more of a polishing update in many areas.

(+) New graphical tools help database administrators tune and monitor DB2; more administrative operations can run online and without a server restart; support for XML schema files and the ability to make data from a Web service look like a table; data compression.

(-) Lacks support for XML Query; only null and default values can be compressed, not all repeated values; WebSphere Application Server Version 5 will be needed for Web services features.


  • Oracles Oracle9i
  • Microsofts SQL Server
  • Sybase Inc.s Adaptive Server Enterprise
  • www3.ibm.com/software/data/db2/udb

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