IBM Readies Next Volley in Heated Database Market

Despite growing sales, IBM has been losing market share in the relational database arena to Oracle and Microsoft in recent years.

The beta software, code named "Viper 2," is now available online for business partners and customers to try out. Until now beta distribution was limited to a smaller number of customers and partners, although the specific number wasn't disclosed. The commercial version is slated to ship later this year, says Bernie Spang, director of IBM data servers.

Last year's DB2 9 Viper marked a major advance for the relational database, offering the ability to simultaneously manage XML and relational data. Viper 2 appears more of an interim release, providing easier ways to manage the process of granting access to specific information in the database, and adding performance and management enhancements to the system's audit facilities. And while DB2 can perform transactional and analytical tasks at the same time, the new version offers improved management tools for setting priorities between those tasks, according to Spang.

IBM's database software sales increased 8.8 percent in 2006 to just over $3.2 billion, according to Gartner. But that wasn't fast enough to keep up with Oracle's 14.9 percent growth and and Microsoft's 28 percent growth in databases. IBM's share of the $15.2 billion relational database market fell to 21.1 percent in 2006 from 22.1 percent the previous year.

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Spang argues those numbers don't reflect the fact that DB2 9 didn't ship until the third quarter and was unavailable for IBM's System Z mainframes until this year. What's more, IBM just released a major upgrade of its Informix Dynamic Server database, IDS 11, or "Cheetah," that's expected to boost sales of that product. All that has pushed IBM's database sales "well ahead of the market growth," Spang said. He called last year's market share numbers "an interpretation of the data looking in the rearview mirror. We're looking out the windshield and feeling pretty good."