DB2 Eases Management, Failover

By Michael Caton  |  Posted 2005-05-09

DB2 Eases Management, Failover

With the addition of self-regulating database management tools and high-availability features, IBMs DB2 Universal Database 8.2 Enterprise Server Edition relieves some management overhead while still delivering broad platform support and data interoperability.

Click here to read the full review of IBMs DB2 Universal Database 8.2 Enterprise Server Edition.


With the addition of self-regulating database management tools and high-availability features, IBMs DB2 Universal Database 8.2 Enterprise Server Edition relieves some management overhead while still delivering broad platform support and data interoperability.

Available now, DB2 8.2 occupies the middle ground between Oracle Corp.s and Microsoft Corp.s database offerings in terms of features and complexity. Version 8.2 simplifies management of DB2, a database that is more complex and robust than Microsofts SQL Server 2000. However, Version 8.2 doesnt make the significant strides in the area of grid computing that Oracle 10g does.

DB2 8.2 is priced on a per-processor basis, starting at $26,500. This is considerably less than Oracle 10gs $40,000-per-processor pricing.

This release introduces what IBM terms autonomic features, which are derived from work at IBMs Almaden Research Center. During eWEEK Labs tests, these autonomic capabilities delivered a level of time savings for database administrators that was comparable to what we found when we looked at the new autonomic features in Oracle 10g.

Although the phrase "autonomic computing" implies hands-free administration, some of DB2s self-regulating features require administrators to script an action based on performance thresholds.

Click here to read about how a South Carolina school district is using DB2s autonomic features.

Version 8.2 introduces what IBM calls HADR (high-availability disaster recovery) features. In tests, HADR delivered improved failover, putting DB2s capabilities on par with those available in the companys Informix Dynamic Server (which IBM acquired when it purchased Informix in 2001).

Version 8.2 includes a number of smaller enhancements that will make it easier to integrate DB2 into companies existing infrastructures as well as improve performance and application development. However, while these features are useful, they largely fill gaps that IBM has needed to fill for some time to stay competitive with other database vendors offerings, including Oracles namesake database and SQL Server.

The new self-managing administration features in DB2 8.2 give DBAs (database administrators) a way to improve database performance by optimizing database design and a way to use information gathered through the Health Center and Activity Monitor to optimize workloads and queries.

DB2s new Design Advisor provided us with a simple way to set up database partitioning, to repartition existing databases and to create indexes. IBM has given DBAs the choice of a command-line interface as well as a wizard within the Control Center management application.

The wizard is well-designed and will make it particularly easy for a novice administrator to step through the process of optimizing performance against indexes, query tables, clustering tables and partitions.

We saw performance improvements of as much as 40 percent when performing multidimensional queries.

While the wizard will be helpful to DBAs who might not be familiar with a particular database, we found it also does a good job of helping to validate existing optimizations and assisting administrators in performing additional tuning of indexes and partitions that have been created by hand.

The Design Advisor provides good flexibility when it comes to acting on a recommendation. We could accept or ignore recommended actions such as creating indexes as well as dropping unused objects. In addition, the tool has nice features for schedule optimizations within the Task Center and for saving out the associated script.

The Health Center has been improved to provide harried administrators with more selective information, some practical recommendations for managing DB2 8.2 and quick ways to make recommended changes. The Health Center has also been updated to allow administrators to set alert levels globally or on an instance and object level. For example, we could specify a threshold for deadlock rate across all databases on an instance as well as execute scripts or tasks to resolve a problem when a threshold had been reached.

Next page: Recommendation Advisor.

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DB2 now provides a wizard for determining a course of action when intervention is required. The Recommendation Advisor can provide an immediate solution or examine the problem that caused an alert in more detail to give the administrator other options.

For example, when table space utilization in one of our test databases exceeded a threshold, Recommendation Advisors more detailed examination of the problem included suggestions to explore storage utilization, in addition to the more practical recommendations to add new table space containers.

By letting administrators launch the Recommendation Advisor directly from the wizard, Version 8.2 enables them to eliminate the potentially time-consuming step of having to search for the appropriate tool in the Control Center.

The Activity Monitor keeps tabs on application performance, so administrators can configure DB2 to improve database performance as well as optimize query performance. It includes a number of preconfigured reports, such as "Applications with the largest total sort time," that include recommendations for solving a problem, or it can launch a tool to help solve a performance problem.

In addition, we were able to configure a number of other database management and maintenance tools to run automatically. For example, Version 8.2 performs automated statistics collection, which enables it to maintain the necessary table statistics for a given workload.

The HADR features in version 8.2 provide data replication using synchronous, near-synchronous and asynchronous modes.

Setting up a standby database proved easy using the HADR wizard in the Control Center. DB2 allowed us to establish a secondary database, convert that database to the primary database when the original primary went offline, and re-establish the original hierarchy after recovering and synchronizing data between the two databases.

The HADR features allow DBAs to copy log files to the secondary server as part of the replication process and can automatically apply the log files to the secondary server.

In addition, when the primary server is offline, DB2 now allows the client to find the secondary database through a client library. This eliminates the need for a third-party failover management application.

For Visual Studio .Net developers, Version 8.2 includes an add-in for the Visual Studio .Net application development suite that allowed us to quickly build tables, indexes and views using a wizard or the code editor directly within Visual Studio. In addition, developers can now build DB2 CLR (Common Language Runtime) procedures from within C# or Visual Studio. A plug-in is available for Eclipse that allows developers to create tables and indexes.

DB2 8.2s other notable improvements include a new ability to tap into Windows group and domain authentication, as well as other authentication schemata. Ultimately, Version 8.2s authentication recognition will make it easier for organizations to better manage applications for groups and cross-domain applications.

However, although we welcome this new capability, its another catch-up feature for DB2 that will keep the product on par with, and not ahead of, its database competition.

IBM offers DB2 in a number of editions, with optional features providing companies with flexible alternatives. For example, the $369 Personal Edition can be used in remote offices and replicated back to a central database in the home office.

The Workgroup Server Edition and Express Edition can be enhanced with options, including HADR capabilities, for $6,000 per server. Adding the database partitioning feature to the Enterprise Edition costs $7,960 per processor.

Next page: More options, more complexity.

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IBMs DB2 Universal Database options increase pricing complexity, while Workgroup Server Edition provides more license options.

  • Enterprise Server Edition $26,500 per processor
  • Workgroup Server Edition $969 per server plus $249 per concurrent or registered user; Unlimited Edition costs $7,500 per processor for servers with up to four CPUs
  • Express Edition $499 per server and $99 per named user or $3,899 per processor; limited to servers with up to two CPUs
  • Personal Edition This $369 version would be well-suited for remote offices with slow or intermittent connectivity
  • Warehouse Standard Edition $15,000 per processor, based on Workgroup Server Unlimited Edition
  • Warehouse Enterprise Edition $50,000 per processor, based on Enterprise Server Edition

    Next page: Evaluation Shortlist: Related Products.

    Page Five

    Evaluation Shortlist

    Microsofts SQL Server 2000 An affordable option that lacks the sophisticated management tools found in competitors but is well-supported by third-party developers (www.microsoft.com)

    Oracles Oracle Database 10g Excellent scalability and administration features with good third-party app support, but expensive (www.oracle.com)

    MySQL ABs MySQL Well-suited to Web apps and provides a low-cost open-source alternative to commercial offerings (dev.mysql.com)

    Technical Analyst Michael Caton can be reached at michael_caton@ziffdavis.com.

    Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest database news, reviews and analysis.

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