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New DB2 tools spring from IBM initiatives

IBM's just unveiled DB2 Information Integrator family represents the fruits of several IBM initiatives, according to experts inside and outside of the Armonk, N.Y.-based computer giant.

The well-publicized initiatives include the e-business On Demand effort to allow organizations to build on existing IT infrastructure; the Xperanto R&D project charged with developing next-generation data management technologies; an R&D effort developing next-generation IBM federated technology; and the company's drive to dominate the growing business integration market.

In the data management arena, ''the next major battleground will be around the question of what is the best approach to integrate all that information for business analysis,'' said Nelson Mattos, IBM Distinguished Engineer and director of information integration. IBM believes giving customers a choice -- taking a centralized data approach, providing federated data on demand or any combination of these -- is the right path, noted Mattos.

While building a centralized data warehouse will continue to be appropriate for many applications, Mattos said many new applications will require real-time integration of both structured and unstructured data (such as e-mail, video clips and images) residing in a variety of platforms. ''We believe 'on demand' will be the next major step in the industry,'' he said. ''It requires the ability to obtain information without knowing beforehand what will be needed. The traditional approach that requires customers to know what questions to ask, and to centralize data, is pretty much history.''

The first two products in the DB2 Information Integrator family -- now installed in beta test sites -- are the DB2 Information Integrator, which represents the evolution of the DB2 DataJoiner, DB2 Relational Connect and DB2 Life Sciences Data Connect products; and the DB2 Information Integrator for Content, the evolution of IBM's Enterprise Information Portal.

The two offerings each support different APIs, said Mattos. DB2 Information Integrator targets developers working with SQL-based tools, while DB2 Information Integrator for Content targets developers working with object-oriented APIs, ActiveX components and C++ classes. The current versions do not support XQuery, for XML queries. Said Mattos, ''While there is full support for XML in the product, there are no standardized tools that support XQuery, and skills in the marketplace are small.'' He added that IBM has demo'd the use of XQuery on its Web site, and will deliver that capability with DB2 Information Integrator once a standard is agreed upon and tools are available.

Mattos said the products can be used in DB2 environments, but can also run on top of other database environment, such as Oracle, Microsoft and Documentum. He positions DB2 Information Integrator as complementary to ETL products, which might be used to build and populate a warehouse; DB2 Information Integrator could extend that warehouse with federated data from unstructured formats.

A major differentiator from the competitors, Mattos said, is IBM's strength and experience in query optimization. ''Optimization makes sure that federation provides value to customers.''

Gartner Group analysts said Information Integrator will interest some large, sophisticated enterprises with significant investments in DB2 that are ready to work to make a systematic view of heterogeneous data. Enterprises will initially use the new offering for low-complexity, read-only applications.

About the Author

Colleen Frye is a freelance writer based in Bridgewater, Mass.

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