IBMs Stinger Pokes Holes in Oracles Open-Source and Grid Ambitions

By Lisa Vaas  |  Posted 2004-05-04

IBMs Stinger Pokes Holes in Oracles Open-Source and Grid Ambitions

IBM on Monday released the beta of "Stinger," the next version of its DB2 database. With the move, IBM lobbed yet another volley in the battle over which major enterprise vendor will provide the database of choice for the open-source Linux operating system.

In addition, the release also represents strong pushback from Big Blue on the question of just which enterprise software giant should be found next to the word "cluster" in the computing dictionary.

In Stinger well see support for the new Version 2.6 of the Linux kernel, a move thats geared to helping database clusters scale higher and perform faster as well as to better exploit the speed of 64-bit databases and servers that rely on multiple processors.

IBMs promise is that such multiprocessor servers can be joined in Linux clusters, as with DB2 ICE (Integrated Cluster Environment), an integrated package that combines DB2 and eServer Linux Cluster 1350 (xSeries, 325, BladeCenter) to provide a solution that, according to IBM, can cluster from two to 1,000 servers and pick up nodes at the rate of four per hour.

Click here to read commentary on how hot automation is in Oracle Database 10g.

Oracle and IBM are obviously neck-and-neck in the race to both capture open-source hearts and to become synonymous with clustering—an ill-defined term that was once solidly associated with IBM, what with the long list of scientific and academic cluster projects to Big Blues credit.

However, Oracle, with the recent introduction of Oracle Database 10g, grabbed the cluster spotlight away from IBM and focused it squarely on itself. Oracles recently announced leadership of the new Enterprise Grid Alliance was yet another move to mold itself as the leader in the enterprise grid market, which it claims is something unique enough to warrant an alliance separate from the extant Global Grid Forum.

Click here to read how Oracle caught the grid community off-guard when it announced plans to start up its own grid alliance.

Next page: Stinger as a move on clustering.

Stingers clustering credentials

Stingers an attempt to re-solidify IBMs King of Grid mantle, and from the looks of it, its likely going to be a persuasive move.

For example, Larry Bazinett, director of business development at Fremont, Calif.-based VA Software, says his company isnt using clusters yet, but theyve got the IBM hardware to do it. The company is a staunch DB2 convert after converting from the open-source PostgreSQL database back in January 2003, and is certainly looking at the possibility of deploying clusters down the road.

VA Software uses DB2 to run the sites that form the beating heart of the open-source community, including the Open-Source Development Network (OSDN) sites freshmeat, Geocrawler,, NewsForge, Slashdot and With that venerable list of open-source sites, its not surprising when IBM puts out customer testimonials, including one from OSDN, that point to Big Blue as being one of the perceived "good guys" in the open-source community.

These sites are growing like wildfire, just like the open-source movement itself. The nine OSDN sites are adding some 750 users and 70 open-source projects per day. The last time I spoke with Bazinett, a few months back, the sites were seeing some 12 million unique visitors a month and getting 2 million page views. Today theyre getting 16.1 million unique visitors per month and 250 million unique page views

Bazinett told me that the security, manageability and high availability that come with an enterprise database are what drove VA Softwares choice to migrate from PostgreSQL, as well as the 1-800 support structure. But when it came down to a choice between whether Oracle or IBM would fit the bill as the open-source database of choice, Bazinett said IBMs one-stop shopping was what really sold VA Software. Theyre running DB2 8.1 on xSeries hardware, so theres never any guessing with hardware-software mismatches.

Next page: The one battlefield Microsoft doesnt enter.

Microsoft wont go there

Just why is open source so important to both IBM and Oracle? Because its one place where Microsoft cant compete.

As pointed out to me recently by Mike Schiff, an analyst at Sterling, Va.-based Current Analysis, besides having such glowing testimonials coming from the open-source community, IBM also has a release that runs on all platforms that support Linux, including the AS/400.

Now, I havent seen recent IDC numbers on who rules the database world, but Schiffs guess is that Oracles still king of the market when it comes to the pure relational database numbers. What happens when you throw the mainframe into the mix? Its IBM all the way, Schiff opined.

Of course, besides open-source and clustering, Stinger is all about automation and manageability, as all major databases releases are nowadays, including Oracle Database 10g and the upcoming SQL Server 2005 release.

According to Carl Olofson, Research Director with IDC, of Framingham, Mass., theres a good reason to this industry-wide phenomenon of simplifying the care and feeding of databases. He told me recently that its just that database administrators are getting harder to find and more expensive. The costs of deploying and maintaining databases—as customers want to do—are becoming prohibitive because of the number of staff it all requires. That work reality is bad for software vendors, of course, since it inhibits the number and size of databases customers can buy.

Nowadays, we need systems that run themselves. Its a direction all the database vendors must go in if they want to be successful. Its no longer just small to midsize businesses that lack IT staff who can twist database knobs—its also large enterprises that are being squeezed.

The DBAs are being squeezed too, Olofson pointed out. "Ive talked to many who are frustrated by having too much of their time taken up re-indexing tables, and doing unloads and reloads, and managing database space allocation, which is really boring," he said.

IBM wants Stinger to be the open-source database of choice. Oracle wants 10g running all the Linux. And both want to be cluster kings.

What do DBAs want? They want to be designing new databases. They want to work with the development team to do next-generation applications. They want to be freed from drudgery.

The battle over grid and open-source hearts and minds will likely be a long one with no clear outcome, but at least we can anticipate that DBAs will benefit from Stinger, and thats what really matters at the end of the day.

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