DB2 Web Query Goes Multiplatform
February 10, 2009 Alex Woodie
Information Builders and IBM announced last week that they are collaborating to build an adapter that allows the DB2 Web Query for i business intelligence product to process data from non-DB2/400 databases. The first database adapter, expected later this year from Info Builders, will target SQL Server, with more database adapters expected in the future.
DB2 Web Query is a special version of Information Builder’s WebFOCUS software that IBM announced almost two years ago. The software enables users to write queries for the DB2 for i (DB2/400) database and view the results in a Web browser. It’s designed primarily to be a more graphical and feature-rich replacement for IBM’s Query for i (Query/400), which has been a reliable (if aging) member of the i OS (OS/400) middleware stack for years.
Since IBM launched DB2 Web Query 18 months ago, it has sold more than 20,000 licenses, with more than half of those coming in just the last six months, according to IBM (although the current number is probably closer to 25,000). That success is partially attributable to the fact that IBM lowered license fees on the product a year ago in response to customer requests to separate the development and user licenses.
With the upcoming launch of the database connectors later this year, IBM and Info Builders are showing that they are still listening to their DB2 Web Query customers. “From the very beginning when we first brought out the product, within the first three months we heard customers saying ‘Gee can’t we use this to talk to SQL Server’?” says Gary Goldberg, vice president of WebFOCUS System i for Info Builders. “It was always the number one database that people asked for.”
The new SQL Server database adapter is largely built on an existing JDBC-based adapter developed by Information Builders for its WebFOCUS product line, Goldberg says. “What?” you might be saying to yourself. “It’s just a plain old JDBC driver?” That would be incorrect. In fact, Information Builder’s SQL Server adapter is no ordinary JDBC driver.
Goldberg explains: “We always try to go for the most native, the most functional interface that we can find,” he says. “So for example, we don’t use ODBC or JDBC to go after Oracle–we use Oracle’s native API. We don’t use any kind of JDBC or ODBC driver to get to a VSAM file on a mainframe. We use native VSAM calls.
“With SQL Server, it happens to be JDBC. Because, guess what, Microsoft only supports ODBC and JDBC, so we don’t have an option. And we do use the JDBC driver that Microsoft offers to the maximum extent,” Goldberg continues. “We have a separate interface that we’ve created, a separate adapter for Microsoft SQL Server, because we maximize all the extensions that we can pass to that JDBC adapter, and the way we interact with SQL Server. So IBM will get the benefit of all that extra work that we do.”
The SQL Server adapter will allow customers to join data from DB2/400 and SQL Server with a single request. Once developers build the reports, users will be able to view reports based on data originating on i OS and Windows applications, from the same environment.
That’s a big time saver for System i shops that want to keep users in the System i environment, Goldberg says. “Oracle may have a great [BI] solution, but it’s going to require you run it on a Windows or a Unix platform. And there are still a fair number of i customers that don’t want to do that,” he says.
Next to SQL Server, JD Edwards was the next most requested adapter, Goldberg says. Information Builders already sells adapters for Oracle’s World and EnterpriseOne ERP suites, but there are no concrete plans for IBM to offer them. Customers can move to the WebFOCUS product and license these adapters directly from Information Builders. But IBM says it will offer new adapters for DB2 Web Query in the future. Nothing has been decided, but other possibilities include Lotus Domino, Oracle database, and Essbase, as well as JDE.
Goldberg–who was the Info Builders executive primarily responsible for brokering the DB2 Web Query deal–is bullish on the System i’s BI capability, particularly with the new line of entry-level Power Systems servers.
“When they were trying to limit capacity through the CPW and at the same time promoting the use of modern languages and tools like Java, it was a losing situation, because that just didn’t work technically,” he says. “But the new CPW capacity is quite high. And you can run Web Query on any of those boxes without blinking an eye.”
IBM says the beta for the new SQL Server adapter will start this quarter, with general availability during the first half of the year. Pricing has yet to be set, but Goldberg says to expect server-based pricing that’s inline with the other add-on products for DB2 Web Query from IBM.
Info Builders develops and sells several add-ons for DB2 Web Query, in addition to the upcoming database adapters, including: the OLAP Module, for drill-down and multidimensional database reporting; Active Reports, for accessing reports while disconnected from the server; and a Developer Workbench for creating more advanced reports and dashboards.
IBM also recently added a new Report Broker and a software development kit (SDK) to the DB2 Web Query lineup, and Information Builders and IBM are working on bringing some Excel functionality into the product, which hopefully will be available, along with the SQL Server adapter, by the end of June.