Oracle Corp., IBM and Microsoft Corp. are taking steps to make unstructured XML data fit as comfortably as traditional structured data in their respective data management systems.
Oracle is working on an update to its 9i database that will allow XML documents to be stored natively alongside relational data without transforming it into columns and rows, officials said. XML documents would then be turned into components that could be stored as objects in the database, making it easier to enrich Web services applications.
Separately, IBM is working to expand its XML support with a new query language, XQuery, and with the capability to search XML documents inside and outside its DB2 database.
Microsoft, which supports XML by re-purposing it to fit into columns and rows in its SQL Server 2000 database, plans to add native support in its next database release, code-named Yukon. Officials at the Redmond, Wash., company said the release, due next year, should support XQuery as well as Microsofts .Net languages and run-time environment.
While relational data still dominates databases, XML data is catching up. Already, 79 percent of companies have deployed or plan to implement XML, reports a recent survey by Forrester Research Inc., of Cambridge, Mass.
Oracles new XML feature, XML DB, will be included in Oracle9i Release 2, due by June 1. XML DB will add support for XML Schema definition, a World Wide Web Consortium standard for defining XML data types.
Oracle, of Redwood Shores, Calif., will use SQLx as the underlying querying language to support XML in Release 2. The proposed standard combines the familiarity of SQL with support for querying XML documents, company officials said. Support for XQuery is on the companys road map.
IBM argues that the XML Extender for its DB2 Universal Database, first offered in late 1999, offers much of the same support as Oracles XML DB. As a next step, the Armonk, N.Y., company is focusing on adding full-fledged XML querying capability through the proposed XQuery standard being considered by the W3C.
Last week, IBM launched a technology preview on its Web site to demonstrate XQuery in DB2 along with additional XML features being developed in a program called Xperanto. Among those features is expanded XML support so DB2 can query and consolidate any type of data stored in multiple databases, even non-DB2 ones, and data sources, such as the Web. Officials said some Xperanto features will ship later this year.
Not all IT managers are sure native XML support in databases is necessary—at least not yet. San Francisco-based Robertson Stephens Inc. uses XML as a way to update its Web site, in data feeds from investment information providers and in its work developing Web services to access research reports. But to do so, the company finds that its own internal IT work to parse the XML into and out of the Oracle, Microsoft and Sybase Inc. relational databases it uses has been effective enough, said Dirck Hecking, vice president of e-commerce.
“Whose job is it to be in the XML business? Is it really the databases job? Ive got to tell you youre not going to sell me on that,” said Hecking.
Oracle user David Brown sees the wisdom of the moves but doesnt plan to deploy XML DB because he already uses middleware to transform XML-based supply chain data into a relational form. “I could see how many companies could use this [XML DB feature] as XML becomes more … of a standard by which companies share data,” said Brown, senior enterprise application integration and emerging technologies architect at Vector SCM LLC, in Portland, Ore.
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