IBM has loosed its "Viper" database upon the world, announcing on Wednesday an open beta for the next-generation, native XML/relational data version of its DB2 database.
Viper, the code name for DB2s next version, which does not as yet have a final name, has been in alpha testing since June.
The company also announced that it will extend early support of Viper to the PHP development community using Zend Core for IBM: an offering that integrates IBMs Cloudscape database and Zends PHP environment, each of which is based on open-source technology.
Viper (the company has not yet decided on a final name) contains native XML technology that does away with the traditional ways to handle XML data: by shredding or parsing it and putting data assigned to a particular tag into a column in a relational table, or by putting "blobs" of data into relational fields.
Both nonnative ways of handling XML are deficient as they stand on their own. Shredding XML means you lose the fidelity, or the hierarchy, of the XML document itself.
For example, if XML data comes from a Web application that includes an electronic signature thats associated with part of a form, its contained in the XML hierarchy.
But if you parse the XML content in rows across a relational table, that hierarchy is lost, and youre unable to pull that exact structure back out.
Blobs retain XML fidelity, but you lose the ability to search on data thats put into fields.
Bernie Spang, director of Database Servers for IBM, said that Viper gives the best of both worlds, as its XML handling capabilities allows users to retain the hierarchical, searchable form of XML.
Vipers native XML technology provides support for XQuery, an emerging standard language that extends XPath and is specially designed for processing XML data.
With Viper, applications can use XQuery, standard SQL or both to retrieve documents from either or both underlying storage formats.
"You can mix XQuery within a SQL query and vice versa," Spang said. "You can write one query against the database and it can give an answer, some of which is in XML structure and some of which is in table structure."
Thus, in the case of an insurance company, for example, queries can be made on account balances in which both tables and insurance claim forms are holding data.
Spang pointed to data from client surveys and compilation of other sources that show less than 20 percent of critical information is being stored in relational databases, compared with some 35 percent being stored in XML format.