In-Depth

What are the vendors up to?

Most major software suppliers are waiting on the XQuery standard to be finalized before they ship any related products.

According to Jeff Jones, director of strategy for data management at IBM, the lack of a finished standard is “the one happening that’s keeping IBM from delivering” XQuery-based products, including a version of DB2 that uses the standard. IBM has been demonstrating a version of XQuery in DB2 since March 2002, but product is not yet shipping.

In IBM’s view, XQuery is considered an extension to help the DB2 relational world “speak” XML. The notion of having a separate XML database is not one that IBM wishes to pursue because of the existing knowledge base and infrastructure already built up in customer shops around SQL and relational technology, Jones explained.

That said, IBM is also building XQuery support into its DB2 Content Manager, to manage unstructured content, as well as into the DB2 Information Integrator, which pulls information from a variety of formats, including other vendors’ DBMSs, flat files, Notes -- and XML.

The main idea is to allow unstructured data to handle some structure, if and when needed, and to then allow the relational data to access some unstructured content. It just depends on where customers are starting from and where the bulk of the data is residing. In the meantime, “we’re tuning, optimizing and waiting for the standard to lock,” said Jones.

Longer term, IBM hopes to use DB2 to be “bilingual on the bottom layer,” he added, where DB2 could manage XML-specific storage, including tables and structures built specifically for XML. The notion is to give DB2 the ability to cache, store and pre-fetch this XML content by using SQL commands.

Over at Oracle Corp., the company has made available a prototype downloadable from the Oracle developer’s Web site, “an alpha for developers to play around with, send up comments and educate themselves about how XQuery is shaping up,” said Sandeepan Banerjee, the firm’s senior director of XML technologies. “In our product line, we support XML and XML schema, but not XQuery because it’s not a standard yet.”

Like it does with XML schema, Oracle will likely eventually support XQuery not only in its DBMS, but also with its tools and repository. “I would expect something broad like that” by way of XQuery adoption within the company, noted Banerjee.

As for the smaller vendors, they are also waiting to some degree, but many of them have already delivered products. X-Hive Corp., for instance, has a native XML database that supports XQuery, among other standards. The firm has been keeping up with the draft standards as they come out of the W3C, said Jeroen van Rotterdam, CEO/CTO at The Netherlands-based company, and has made changes to its product as appropriate. “I expect very few changes in the final release,” he said; van Rotterdam expects the final release within the next six months or so.

Fatdog Inc., Roberts Creek, British Columbia, has a Java-based search engine that uses XQuery as its front end. “I’m tracking what the working group is doing to make sure that it doesn’t diverge too much” with what is already in his product, said Howard Katz, Fatdog founder. At the end of the day, though, “I’ll probably change the way I do it to their way. Marketing and business-wise, it makes sense to implement the XQuery standard,” he noted.


Please see the following related stories: “XQuery percolates” by Johanna Ambrosio

Users judge BEA’s XQuery play” by Jack Vaughan

Briefing Book: XQuery Update

About the Author

Johanna Ambrosio is a freelance writer based in Marlborough, Mass., specializing in technology and business. Contact her at jambrosio@earthlink.net.

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