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IBM aims new database squarely at Oracle users

The latest version of IBM's flagship DB2 database offers several features designed to coax Oracle customers out of their software comfort zones.

The latest version of Big Blue's flagship database management system -- IBM DB2 10 -- offers several new and enhanced features designed in part to get Oracle customers to think twice about renewing their Oracle Database licenses.

IBM is hoping that DB2 10's performance improvements, licensing policies and new features like Time Travel Query and enhanced compression will go a long way toward convincing Oracle Database users to make a change.

"We are hearing from more Oracle Database clients that they want to escape rising license and maintenance costs," said Bernie Spang, IBM's director of strategy and marketing for database software. "IBM has made it easier to switch with typically 98% code compatibility for Oracle Database applications."

IBM is not alone. SAP has also taken aim at Oracle's database customers. The company hopes to prevail by selling its HANA in-memory database appliance to Oracle customers.

Oracle, which did not respond to an email requesting a response to Spang's comments, unveiled the last major update to its flagship database product -- Oracle Database 11g Release 2 -- in 2009. The release is focused on providing users with improved server consolidation,storage-related capabilities and enhanced support for data warehouse initiatives.

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IBM, which earlier this month released DB2 10 along with IBM InfoSphere Warehouse 10, says the new database package also includes several features aimed at helping the relational database platform integrate more easily with "big data" management systems like the Hadoop distributed file system and related tools.

IBM has been working to battle the perception that switching database platforms is prohibitively expensive. In DB2 9, the company increased compatibility with applications that are often run on the Oracle Database platform. For example, IBM optimized DB2 9 to run SAP AG's enterprise resource planning (ERP) workloads and has worked to enhance those optimizations in DB2 10, according to Spang.

Coca-Cola bottler migrates from Oracle to IBM …
To illustrate its point about the increased ease of migrating from one platform to another, IBM executives pointed to the case of Coca-Cola Bottling Company Consolidated, an IBM reference customer that made the switch from Oracle Database to IBM DB2 9. 

The Charlotte, N.C.-based beverage manufacturer and distributor had been running its SAP ERP applications on Oracle Database but decided to make the switch to DB2  in 2008 when a deal between Coca-Cola's corporate leadership and SAP made the migration financially attractive, according to published reports. The company still runs some applications – such as JDA Software's Manugistics supply chain management software -- on Oracle, because those products do not offer support for DB2.

The Coca-Cola bottler's decision to switch to IBM was also the result of rising licensing costs associated with Oracle deployments, according to Andrew Juarez, the bottling company's lead SAP Basis and database administrator.

"[Oracle has] got this licensing model which, if you're trying to virtualize stuff, you get penalized," Juarez said. "You basically have to pay for all the CPUs, even though your virtual partition may not be using all those CPUs and they may be allocated to other applications."

Oracle's licensing policies prompted the Coca-Cola bottling company to avoid running Oracle in a virtual environment, despite the fact that "everything is going virtual," according to Juraez.

… and offers a glimpse inside the new IBM database
The IT team at Coca-Cola Bottling Company Consolidated became beta testers of IBM DB2 10 beginning in May of last year and has been impressed with the software's improved data compression capabilities, Juarez said.

Juarez's team tested the compression capability on a copy of its SAP ERP production data and found that it can decrease the size of a database table by about 20% over previous versions. The team encountered some bugs and installation errors early on in the beta testing process, Juarez said, but those were later corrected.

The company also saw that DB2 10 offered a significant improvement in overall system performance over DB2 9. The company plans to upgrade to the commercial version of DB2 10 after it is certified to run SAP applications.

Other new features in IBM DB2 10 include Time Travel, which allows users to query temporal data, and enhancements that increase the speed of backup and accelerate I/O, according to IBM. The IBM database software also offers a new feature that allows administrators to more easily designate specific storage devices to certain forms of data.

Database migrations require plenty of testing
Organizations considering an upgrade to IBM DB2 10 -- or a migration from one database platform to another -- should remember to emphasize the importance of testing, according to experts.

And at  Coca-Cola Bottling Company Consolidated, the testing process begins largely in sandbox environments, according to Juraez. During the testing process, the team also works with business representatives to determine the optimal time to update production systems to the new database management system.

"What we normally will do is get our sandbox systems all upgraded, just make sure that everything seems to be running okay," he said. "Then we go through all of our development systems, followed by all of our test systems, and then leave them running for at least a month to two months."

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