IBMs On-Demand Conversation Getting Stale

By Charles Barouch  |  Posted 2007-10-18

IBMs On-Demand Conversation Getting Stale

When I stepped onto the exhibition floor of the IBM Information On Demand show for 2007, I expected to be surrounded by people talking about new things. I eventually found those people, but mostly what I saw was IOD 2006 redux.

The answers were smarter, the approaches were more sophisticated, and the software was more evolved, but the 2007 felt like the continuation of a conversation I had last year. This isnt a bad thing; it speaks to the maturity of certain market segments, but it wasnt the sea of new ideas I had expected.

DB2 Express-C, which was launched shortly before last years show, has evolved into something that should be on a lot of developers radar.

Unlike many of the free offerings in the database arena, The Express-C version of DB2 has no deployment limitations. IBM will actually allow you to deploy commercial applications on their free release.

I spoke to Leon Katsnelson, program director for data servers at IBM, about this and he told me that if you choose to pay a support license, you can deploy smart replication with filtering and aggregation and clustering, and even HADR (High Availability and Disaster Recovery), with your application. However, if you dont require those features, you have no obligation whatsoever.

Perhaps the most interesting news on this product is that it is going to be beta released on the Mac later this month. IBM intends to support this Express-C version in lock step with the other editions of DB2. The company was emphatic that this wont be a one-shot, rapidly aging experiment, and it intends to keep the free offering up to date.

This insist that DB2 code will work on Express-C without modification and that Express-C code will work on DB2. This means that you could develop on an Apple MacBook Pro and deploy on Linux or AIX.

Talking to Leon led me to talk to Zend, the PHP folks, who are now using this new set of rules to distribute DB2 Express-C embedded in Zend Core 2.5. They are making related moves with a number of other technology houses, but since this was an IBM show, they were somewhat circumspect. Zen Core 2.5 is available and represents the newest version of their PHP stack.

Once I spoke to the Zend folks, I was shown the IBM mashup starter kit, which is an IBM deployment of Zend and DB2 Express-C, designed to facilitate mashups (database applications with wildly disparate sources). Info 2.0, the IBM initiative which has brought the mashup kit into the light of day, is being actively evangelized.

Within a few minutes of showing interest, I found myself talking to Anant Jhingran, chief technology officer for the information management division of IBM. He was quick to point out that mashups are an application of Info 2.0, but certainly not the whole story. His vision encompasses everything from wikis and RSS feeds to social networks and quantum shifts in how data is managed. When I said the words user ownership of data he smiled encouragingly.

Thinking about mashups made me think about data security and quality of information, so I went to Neons booth and spent some time with Craig Mullins, who offered a different view of data.

Neon has added a new focus to their portfolio. They want to take data controls within the company to a new level. Titan Archive is their reinvention of the data warehouse as a compliance engine. It allows for digitally signed data, with read-only permissions and built-in compliance with over 160 government regulations, going beyond the Sarbanes-Oxley Act to EU issues and other initiatives from around the world.

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-Demand Conversation Is Getting Stale">

Titan was released just a few months before the show and it is already in use at customer sites with DB2 in the back end. Their goal is to make compliance a newly off-the-shelf issue.

Also on the data security track was a new offering in secure collaboration. Cerebrums Chandra Pendyala asserts that his company has built software to Department of Defense standards while leaving the work of maintaining that security on a scale where businesses can use it.

Building on an AJAX model, the software allows for spreadsheets, word processing documents and presentations to be built in a way where any change can be audited, rolled back or built upon by others.

Nothing in Cerebrums product is new, strictly speaking, but the sum is greater than the parts. The company announced the product at the show and have just begun to roll up a few beta sites. If it can deliver on all its promises, it will certainly bear consideration.

With Craigs comments about data warehousing still buzzing in my head I sat down with Dennis James of On Demand Strategies (the company formerly known as Diversified Computer Strategies). I expected to talk about his companys longstanding involvement with DataStage. Instead, he wanted to talk about Solospect, which is their new Customer Retention system.

When I asked him how this was different from existing CRM (customer relationship management), he told me that Solospect does what CRM does, plus extremely strong data mining to help manage sales planning and other event-based activities.

The sales and event planning, what he characterized as "Activity Based" customer management, is also done within the software. His first target is the retail market and his release date is imminent.

When I got Dennis back around to discussing DataStage, he spoke to me, not about the product, but about big changes for the developer community. In the past five years, their free discussion forums have grown to support over 19,000 members.

As a result, On Demand Strategies is opening up the site to third-party involvement so that his members can get help with a wide range of related products, even ones that compete with his company on some levels. "Its the right ting to do and the right time to do it," he said.

I rounded out my visit to the show with a stop at Novell (SUSE Linux) and Canonical (Ubuntu Linux), to see whats new there. Ubuntu was spreading the word about release 7.10, which was less than 24 hours away when I spoke to them. It features a tickless kernel—which should result in a meaningful speed improvement, as the operating system is now using fewer CPU cycles.

Other features include a new version of Gnome and better support for virtualization.

The company is nearly ready to release a strip-down version, which will make VMware appliance building easier by reducing the footprint of the resulting virtual machines.

On the Novell side, it was talking about its own VMware improvements. Barely 30 days ago, they announced that they had implemented specific tuning to make SUSE work better with VMware. The other big thing the company was promoting was "Open Workgroup Suite Small Business Edition," which is both a product and an initiative to further their inroads into the small business market.

On the whole, it was not as flashy and exciting a show as I expected, but provided excellent classes, and just walking the exhibition floor was highly educational.

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