IBM Ships Invisible Database

By Lisa Vaas  |  Posted 2003-06-05

IBM Ships Invisible Database

IBM on Thursday released DB2 Express, a no-click, quiet-as-a-mouse, self-installing version of its DB2 UDB (Universal Database) thats aimed at small to medium-sized businesses.

IBM DB2 Universal Database Express Edition for Linux and Windows Version 8.1 ships with 65 tools for automating and simplifying database functions—a boon to small businesses that lack pricey DBA (database administrator) skills, according to officials.

IBM officials said that feedback from partners customers has been that they need an invisible database. "It has to have a silent install, so the end customer doesnt know its there," said Paul Rivot, worldwide director of database servers.

Also important, customers said, is the need for simplicity. To that end, besides installing with no need for mouse clicks, DB2 Express features wizards to walk users through tasks such as expanding the systems capabilities without the need to code.

DB2 Express slimmed down from its enterprise parent by losing clustering, data warehousing, data mining and other business intelligence features including Intelligent Miner and IBMs DB2 OLAP Server. It still supports XML, Web Services, Java and Microsoft Corp.s .Net.

In the context of the DB2 UDB Express release, Rivot cited the significance of the Windows platform to DB2, from Express on up to the Enterprise edition. At in Dallas, IBM on Thursday announced 17 Windows 2003 certifications across the Standard, Enterprise and Datacenter editions of the operating system. In addition, to simplify development of .Net applications, DB2 UDB Express arrives with new tools that integrate into Visual Studio .Net.

IBM is touting DB2 UDB Express affordability, claiming its price is 30 percent less than Microsoft SQL Server. Priced at $499 for a base server package, plus $99 per user, DB2 Express represents an aggressive grab at a market traditionally held tight to Microsofts bosom with its lower-priced SQL Server database.

"What we found in the last number of years is that half of the opportunity for selling databases is in the small-to-medium business space," said Rivot, in Somers, N.Y.

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But Microsoft begs to differ on IBMs cost analysis between SQL Server and DB2 Express. Tom Rizzo, group product manager for SQL Server for the Redmond, Wash., company, said that DB2 Express lack of business intelligence features such as OLAP puts it on a footing not with the enterprise-class SQL Server database but rather with MSDE (Microsoft Database Engine), its own version of a slimmed-down database that ships for free. Experts cant be bothered to quibble over features. "On higher-end features and functions, your smaller guys wont miss them anyway," said Stephen OGrady, an analyst at RedMonk, in Bath, Maine.

OGrady said that there is a significant need for a slimmed-down version of DB2. "Were seeing a lot of customers, whether its for Web sites or internal applications they house, where more and more applications are becoming digitally enabled, whether its Web content, transactions, workflow, for auditing trails or a variety of reasons. As more and more customers turn to digital solutions, at the heart of a lot of these applications is going to be a database."

Why cant open-source databases such as MySQL fill that need? Again, the price of DBA skills comes into play. "At the low end, there are a variety of more or less pretty capable open-source databases available," said OGrady. "But [many customers will need] a bit of handholding. They dont have the skilled people to maintain these databases and keep them up and running."

IBM partners that will be selling into the small and medium-sized business space agree. Don Webb, president of Prelude Systems Inc., in Dallas, said that DB2 UDB Express will enable Prelude to cater to the needs of smaller companies that couldnt afford his companys software when it was just offered on top of the full-fledged DB2 database.

Those customers would find open-source support too wobbly for their needs, Webb said. "We have one database thats scalable and affordable at the low end," he said. "Which implies that the open-source databases cant support to the same degree and may not be scalable at the high end to the same degree. … Every ease of use that you can provide to these small companies [is important]. Theyre in competitive environments where anything they can do to make their labor resource more efficient and affordable is very important."

Also at TechEd on Thursday, IBM previewed DB2 support for Microsofts CLR (Common Language Runtime) for stored procedures in Visual Basic, C#, Visual C++ and other CLR-compatible language. CLR is a piece of .Net that allows programmers to code in any language, compiling the results within its environment to help speed up application development for .Net computing.

IBM on Thursday also demonstrated DB2 ADO (active data objects) .Net Managed Data Provider and integrated development tools for Visual Studio .Net 2003. ADO is an interface between DB2 and .Net that provides drag-and-drop programming for developers to build applications on DB2. It includes buttons on the Visual Studio screen that let developers grab DB2 data anywhere, on any platform, as they build applications. According to Rivot, IBM has also become the first database vendor qualified for the Microsoft .Net Connected logo to certify that DB2-based Web services can easily integrate with .Net-connected solutions.

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