DB2 for i: The Beating Heart of the IBM i Platform
June 20, 2011 Timothy Prickett Morgan
One of the things I like about Steve Will, the new chief IBM i architect, is that he likes data as much as the rest of us do. When he gives a presentation about the IBM i platform and the Power Systems servers that it runs upon, he isn’t afraid to give you arts and charts and actual information to make a point. And so it is in a recent series of presentations that Will has been giving to the AS/400 faithful regarding IBM i roadmaps and other things.
We’ve gone through the roadmaps and the new process for updating the operating system with new features that IBM has instituted to bring some regularity to the process as well as consistency with the way AIX is updated. Today, I wanted to share some information that Will is sharing about DB2 for i, the integrated relation database management system at the heart of the IBM i platform.
As you all know, IBM has three different DB2 database management systems: DB2 for the System z mainframe running z/OS, DB2 for i for the Power Systems server running IBM i, and DB2 for Linux, Unix, and Windows (shortened to DB2 LUW) for systems using X64, Power, Sparc, and Itanium processors. It is a very wide base of servers providing relational database functionality, but the code bases for these three DB2s are very different. But over time, the Rochester Lab where the AS/400 was created and the Toronto Lab where the mainframe and LUW DB2s eventually found a home, have collaborated and shared technologies–much as IBM’s hardware divisions have done–without losing what makes them unique.
The interesting thing that you might not be aware of is that DB2 LUW does not always get the good features first. In fact, sometimes it gets them third. Check out this pretty little chart Wills created:
Will says that the three DB2s get new features as customers require them, not based on any preference for one operating system over another. IBM’s DB2 development has differences over the short term based on the different release dates for the DB2 versions and releases and long term differences based on the capabilities of the underlying operating systems that these DB2s run upon; this includes database configuration, management, and related database utilities that are available for these operating systems. Obviously, IBM controls z/OS and IBM i, so this job is somewhat easier, and it also controls AIX, but Windows, Linux, Solaris, and HP-UX are absolutely beyond IBM’s control, and more importantly with regard to Windows and Solaris, these are two operating where their vendors, Microsoft and Oracle, are fundamentally hostile to Big Blue’s system business.
The important thing is that DB2 for i 7.1 is holding its own in terms of feature enhancements against DB2 for z/OS 10.1 and DB2 LUW 9.7. I personally wish that IBM would update DB2 Multisystem to be a PureScale cluster environment as it announced in September 2009 for AIX and started delivering last year. This clustering is akin to Parallel Sysplex clustering on System z mainframes.
Also on my wish list is a return to the past, of sorts. Back when the AS/400 was launched, the database was the file system and everything, and I mean everything, went into it and was therefore indexable and usable by applications. The AS/400 didn’t have enough oomph to make this practical for big media files, but with the oomph of Power7 machines, IBM could get a real edge by returning to these roots and creating a true object store all kinds of data. IBM had the right idea, it was just about 20 years ahead of its time.
As Will points out, when you get an IBM i machine, you don’t have to install a database–it’s already there, ready for you to pour information into and smack it around using applications. A lot of the tasks that require database administrators are automatically done by the operating system and the DB2 for i database working in concert, under the covers. This includes:
All of the DB2s support a variety of interoperability features for sharing information across their various server platforms. All DB2s running on Linux, Unix, Windows, and IBM i support IBM’s own DRDA protocol as well as the Java JDBC protocol. The DB2 for i database supports its native DDM and CLI protocols, which are not supported on DB2 LUW. The Linux and Windows variants of DB2 support Microsoft’s ODBC protocol, and the Windows version supports .NET and OLE DB protocols. DB2 for i has direct interfaces for RPG, COBOL, C, and C++ as well.
Perhaps most indicative of how seriously IBM takes DB2 for i, of the 93 features required for conformance to the core SQL standard administered by ISO/ANSI, all of these features–100 percent–are implemented in the database at the heart of IBM i 7.1. DB2 for LUW 9.7 supports only 75 of these core SQL features, and Oracle 11g, Microsoft SQL Server 2008, and DB2 for z/OS 10.1 support even fewer features.
DB2 for i is a real, serious, and valuable database management system. It’s a pity IBM won’t make it compete on price, too, at the low end and midrange part of the line.