With regard to ease of use, functionality, and versatility, how does DB2 rate compared to SQL Server and Oracle?
All three of these DBMS products rate very good in each of these categories. DB2 for OS/390 probably is a little more difficult to use than Oracle and SQL Server because of the interfaces (mainframe, ISPF, JCL versus drag-and-drop, GUI). However, there are more administrative products on the market for DB2 for OS/390 than the other two (though there are a lot for Oracle, too), making DB2 easier to manage if you have a budget for the DBA tools. For non-mainframe DB2, this is not the same issue since it is managed similarly to Oracle and SQL Server.
The functionality of all three is similar with new features and functions coming out so rapidly that it is hard to say just what features each currently supports.
In terms of performance, though, I suspect that DB2 is at the top of the class. This is hard to back up with solid evidence though because Oracle's software license specifically prohibits publishing performance benchmarks of their software. But IBM's research division has been at the forefront of things such as optimizer technology (Starburst) for a long time and the benefits of this research are showing up in DB2. With regard to SQL Server, it has advanced by leaps and bounds in the past few years in terms of performance. However, it is still somewhat hampered by its operating platform--it has to run on a Windows server. OS/390 (mainframe) and Unix based servers have proven themselves to be more reliable and scalable over the years. SQL Server can only advance in these categories as fast as Windows advances.
Another consideration should be the availability of talented IT professionals who can program and administer the DBMS in question. There are probably more Oracle programmers and DBAs available than for any other platform. That can make the difference in choosing one DBMS over another. But it shouldn't necessarily be a show-stopper. A good programmer or DBA can learn another DBMS quite rapidly if given the opportunity.
As you can see, there is really no straightforward answer to your question. All three are useful. All three provide benefit. You just need to match your need to the DBMS.
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