The object-relational wars will move up a gear next month when IBM enters the fray with a new elease of its flagship DB2 product, which the company is positioning as its most significant database announcement in 15 years.
DB2 Universal Database 5.0 will make IBM a third, potentially decisive force in what to date has been a bitter two-way struggle between Oracle and Informix to extend the traditional relational data model into a hybrid market. According to IBM's data management general manager, Janet Perna: "This is the one that will put us ahead."
But although battle will be joined on the object-relational front, IBM appears to have learnt from the bitter experience of Informix and will downplay this aspect of the release in favour of emphasising its claimed extensibility, scalability, access, applications support and ease of use.
Universal Database will have a number of special features, which IBM hopes will differentiate it from the rival offerings. Among them is the Control Centre facility, a graphical database management toolkit for managing, maintaining and modifying database objects. Control Centre can also be programmed to carry out ongoing projects automatically. The Journal is an online ?filofax? system that enables users to pull together disparate sources of personal information to create a fully personalised agenda.
Ease of use will be made into a major selling point, with the company boasting that installation can take place within a few minutes. A feature called Smartguides will then take users through specific tasks by posing questions and offering suggested ways of managing and organising information.
Universal Database comes with multimedia extensions - DB2 Extenders - which enable the database to handle data types that are too complex for the traditional relational model, such as image and audio. Extenders are comparable to the Data Cartridges used by Oracle and Datablades used by Informix.
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