IBM Sends 'Hybrid' Database To Alpha Test
"The intention here is to really build a hybrid database that handles both native relational and native XML [data]," Janet Perna, general manager of IBM Software's Information Management Group, told CRN in an interview Friday.
The current plan is to send the database to a more general beta in the second half of next year. The database has no code name and it hasn't been decided if it will carry IBM's DB2 moniker, Perna said.
Current-generation databases from all the major players offer some support for XML data, but they typically store it as if it were relational, in a row-and-column type format. XML data more naturally fits into a hierarchical or tree structure, Perna said.
The goal is to have data "co-reside in native form, to be able to mix and match that information," Perna said. "Imagine being able to write an XML statement to query native XML [information] interspersed with relational data."
In that realm, the management tools and security that apply to DB2 databases would also pertain to the other native data.
Perna characterized the upcoming shift as being just as important as the past transformations from file systems to hierarchical databases to relational databases. "The requirement now is to really be able to store structured and unstructured information together and that's where XML comes together," she said.
The goal is to convert huge amounts of paper documents, as well as those in "stovepiped" applications, to electronic forms and store them as XML format in DB2 Content Manager. The deal covers more than 100,000 forms used by over a million people, Perna said.
Silanis Technologies, St-Laurent, Quebec, is providing the digital signature capabilities and Victoria, British Columbia-based PureEdge is furnishing the routing technology that sends XML data to its proper destination.
As described by IBM, the application is a showcase for that company's information integration worldview. The goal is to allow companies to continue using myriad data sources that then feed relevant information to applications in need of it. The Army, for example, uses many Oracle databases, and those repositories will work with this content management system, Perna said.
As for Oracle's blockbuster acquisition of PeopleSoft, Perna said IBM must reassure current PeopleSoft customers that IBM will continue to support their existing infrastructures comprising IBM DB2 databases and WebSphere middleware.
Though the bulk of PeopleSoft's applications probably still run on Oracle databases, the vendor became more closely tied to IBM in recent years. That, plus PeopleSoft's acquisition of J.D. Edwards two years ago, means that a good chunk of PeopleSoft customers run IBM software. Many J.D. Edwards applications also continue to run on IBM iSeries or old AS/400 machines.
Perna estimated that at least 20 percent of PeopleSoft customers run on IBM platforms, but the J.D. Edwards merger may put that number higher.