IBM Digs Deeper for Data

IBM vows to extend the reach of its DB2 Information Integrator software until it can dig out data from every corner of an enterprise, whether inside or out of data warehouses.

IBM has launched work on a research and development project that promises to extend the reach of its DB2 Information Integrator software until it can dig out data from every corner of an enterprise, whether inside or out of data warehouses, IBM Distinguished Engineer and Director of Information Integration Nelson Mattos told eWEEK on Tuesday.

The technology is code-named Masala—an Indian word denoting a heady mix of spices that IBM chose to represent the "harmony of integrated technology," according to a spokeswoman. Masala is being designed to push the limits of DB2 Information Integrator by doing a number of things. One of its central functions will be to delve beyond DB2 Information Integrators grasp of databases on up to application packages from vendors such as SAP AG, Siebel Systems Inc. or PeopleSoft Inc.

Masala will also build upon DB2 Information Integrator by offering data replication thats several orders of magnitude faster than that of Information Integrator, Mattos said. It also will offer the ability to use free-form text to search throughout an information infrastructure to get hits on relevant information using content-ranking capabilities.

Masala represents the next wave of information integration technologies to come out of the Armonk, N.Y., software giant. These technologies are focused on making the database a better platform from which to integrate data no matter where it is stored—in applications, in data warehouses, or in databases from virtually any vendor.

According to Mattos, IBM is working on this next stage of information integration in order to answer the pleas of customers who say that, after they deploy information integration infrastructures, they still need to drag in data that lies beyond traditional data repositories, including e-mail or .PDF repositories.

DB2 Information Integrator already reaches into distributed locations. The technology is part of IBMs concept of federation, or leaving data to reside in heterogeneous databases and applications, on different platforms, while abstracting the data for delivery to an application.

"Federation is a key component of information integration," said Mattos. "Without it you have nothing."

Why is federation so central to information integration? Because without it, applications are forced to be aware of where data is stored. Data has to move from one place to another—for example, from a Sybase Inc. database onto an Oracle Corp. database. The journey entails coding against different APIs, which all have to be ported: extra work with which costs are associated, Mattos said. Federation brings a level of abstraction that eliminates the dependency between the application and the physical location of the data. Rather than incurring the extra work of porting APIs, using federation, an application issues a request to DB2 Information Integrator, which knows in real-time where the data is.

For example, a user might issue a query asking for all customers that have bought a specific product and have done a certain amount of transactions in a given geography. That hypothetical example could entail three separate data sources. With federation, the application doesnt need where the data resides—DB2 Information Integrator knows and will access and deliver the data.

Extending this capability will mean empowering grid computing, Mattos said. Grid is a concept of virtualization that allows customers to exploit existing distributed and heterogeneous sources. Masala will extend the reach of information integration so that a grid will cover even more heterogeneous sources, according to Mattos.


Finally, Masala will bring additional self-tuning capabilities. Administrators will spend less time configuring, deploying and monitoring infrastructures, Mattos said—a boon for ROI.

Masala is also being designed to bring flexibility and speed to data replication, which will help in database migration. Mattos pointed to one customer, Quad Graphics Inc., which has a several-year plan to migrate most of a series of Sybase Inc. databases over to DB2 databases. The company has deployed DB2 Information Integrator to hide from the application the locations of physical data storage—a capability that will allow the company to migrate databases and do a consolidation without impacting the applications.

Masala will ship to a restricted set of beta customers this year. The first products to ship with the technology will go out sometime in 2004. Masala technology will also be included in the next version of DB2 Information Integrator.