IBM DB2 at 25

By Brian Prince  |  Posted 2008-06-10

IBM DB2 at 25

In the 1970s, Don Haderle and a team of researchers at IBM began a project that would change the face of the company's database business forever.

The fruits of their labor would come to be known as DB2, and would hit the market in 1983 to become a force for IBM among relational databases.

"The biggest challenge with relational was to make it cost-performance responsible," said Haderle, who led the DB2 project from 1977 to 1998. "That's where we toiled for the first six, seven years or so."

Prior to relational databases, the network and hierarchical database languages were assemblylike, meaning they were very low-level, Haderle explained. The higher-level language of relational improved productivity, he said.

By the time Haderle retired from IBM in 2005, he had become CTO of IBM's information management segment and had watched the DB2 product he helped to establish grow in features and functions. Some two decades after the product hit the market, the demands of the enterprise are very much the same-even if what is needed to meet those demands is very different.

"Robust [in the '70s] meant it had to perform well, and the system had to stay up ... for a shift to a shift and a half," Haderle said. "Today systems have to be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Back then they had to be available 10 hours to 12 hours a day, five to six days a week, and that was a monumental hurdle to get the systems to be that responsive."

Today's enterprises want their databases to drive business, said Anant Jhingran, IBM CTO and vice president for Information Management. Speed is key, and in the future, IBM will focus on stream processing inside and around the database, he said.

"What we find is that our clients are actually looking to add on on-the-fly processing to the database capabilities," Jhingran said. "They want to mix and match the persistence of the static information with online revelation. They want to do the modeling of historic information so then they can know what queries to run on the fly ... and that plays into IBM's strength."

Exploiting the Web 2.0 Data Explosion

Other enhancements will come in the form of technologies that can exploit unstructured data and help organizations deal with the explosion of data from Web 2.0, the CTO said.

"For unstructured info, we need very high-quality information extraction capabilities to be able to determine names, addresses, phone numbers ... and to be able to determine the sentiments, the causalities, etc.," Jhingran said. "IBM scientists are working on these hard problems and we have made great strides to be able to bring this extracted information back into the world of databases where the behavior is slightly different and the reasoning [and] analysis needs to be too."

As an example, he continued, "a sale in a quarter is a sale in a quarter. But is this document about IBM, about databases or about the computing industry? Probably all three-so how do we account for uncertainty in the database analysis? That is a major question that our scientists are answering."

Peter O'Kelly, an analyst with the Burton Group, said the DBMS market is no longer a strictly relational DBMS market. He noted that the top vendors-IBM, Microsoft and Oracle-have moved to multidata model DBMSes with support for the extended relational data model along with specialized storage subsystems for XML content, file streams and analytical data domains, and while some thought leaders in the DBMS market have suggested that the "one size fits all" DBMS era is ending, the latest DBMSes from those vendors are central to enterprise application infrastructure partly because those vendors have seamlessly extended their DBMSes to accommodate nontraditional database requirements.

"I believe the single most important contribution DB2 made to the DBMS market was in establishing the credibility and effectiveness of relational DBMSes for real-world enterprise data management scenarios," O'Kelly said. "IBM, Informix, Ingres, Oracle, and Sybase all played an intense game of RDBMS feature/function leapfrog during the 1980s and 1990s, and each vendor contributed to overall RDBMS innovation, but I believe DB2's biggest influence was in irrefutably establishing the fact that RDBMSes were ready for enterprise prime time.

"This is all taken for granted today," he added, "but it was a radical and hugely controversial proposition 25 years ago, when enterprises were still focused on earlier-primarily hierarchical and network-DBMS architectures."

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