IBM Releases Xperanto Beta

DB2 database tools aim to help customers access, integrate and analyze information in a federated data model.

IBM Tuesday rolled out a beta version of the first product to come out of its years-long Xperanto data integration research project.

Consisting of two products, the DB2 Information Integrator and the DB2 Information Integrator for Content, the software encapsulates IBMs goal to help customers access, integrate and analyze all forms of data within and beyond the enterprise. The offerings fall into the Armonk, N.Y., companys "On-Demand" initiative.

Nelson Mattos, IBMs director of information integration, said that the softwares ability to integrate both structured and unstructured data—including XML, e-mail, multimedia files, Web services, and even data from competitive sources such as Oracle Corp. and Microsoft Corp. databases—will enable customers to make the right business decisions in real time, as opposed to having to think in advance about how to structure data queries.

"In the past, customers needed to think in advance: What questions do I have, so I know what data to centralize? Thats history," said Mattos, in San Jose, Calif. "Customers today dont know what challenge will face them tomorrow. How can they know what questions to ask in order to make the right decisions? Thats what On-Demand is about: allowing them to make the right business decisions right when faced with their next challenge."

IBM pledges that the new software will help developers to slash the amount of laborious hand-coding required when integrating two or more relational databases. It does so by creating a metadata index that indicates where data is stored. This "federated" approach to computing leaves data stored in its native applications, as opposed to the "centralized" approach, which consolidates data in one place.

That approach appeals to Crystal Decisions, which is a beta user of DB2 Information Integrator. "All the yucky stuff [such as SQL joins] are done behind the scenes," said Trevor Smith, a Crystal business development manager, in Vancouver, British Columbia.

The two products support two separate development platforms: DB2 Information Integrator is tailored to the SQL-based, or structured data, developer community, whereas DB2 Information Integrator for Content supports the content management programming model, which is primarily geared to unstructured data.

DB2 Information Integrator provides XML support for accessing and integrating XML documents as data sources and for generating XML documents as query results, but as of this beta release, support for XQuery – the XML query language – is still missing. According to an IBM spokeswoman, IBM is basing this initial offering on SQL, where there is both ample skill and a broad tool set that customers can exploit immediately. IBM plans to add XQuery support when it becomes a standard, likely next year, she said.

Pricing is yet to be determined and will likely be announced with general availability, which is expected sometime during the first half of this year, officials said. For now, the beta versions are available through IBM sales associates.

This story was changed after its original posting to correct the sourcing of some information.

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