What is it?
IBM's DB2 was the first relational database system, and it still contests the top slot in the database market with Oracle.
With last year's release of DB2 9, IBM was considered to have taken a big lead, by delivering a hybrid data server with optimised management of both XML and relational data.
The simultaneous release of versions for every level of user, from the enterprise datawarehouse to a free download for developers, showed how pervasive DB2 has become and how close IBM is to fully converging all of its strategic technology platforms.
DB2 9 has enhancements for everything from tighter integration with PHP to online transaction processing for distributed systems, and stored procedure performance on z/OS mainframes.
IBM said the hybrid DB2 9 gives performance gains on queries of 100 times-plus, and four-fold improvements in development time.
Where did it originate?
Ted Codd developed the relational model at IBM in the 1970s. DB2 was released for the mainframe in 1982. In 1996, IBM re-invented it as the DB2 Universal Database (UDB), capable of storing many kinds of electronic data, and able to run on Windows, HP-UX and Sun Solaris as well as IBM's own operating systems.
Following IBM's takeover of Informix, object technologies from Informix databases were incorporated into DB2.
What is it for?
As a hybrid data server, DB2 supports SQL or XQuery access to all data. It also gives access to data stored on MySQL and Oracle databases.
The Eclipse-based DB2 Developer Workbench is used to create, edit, test and debug DB2 stored procedures and user-defined functions. It can be used to develop SQLJ applications, SQL statements and XML queries. Integration with both Java and .net has been tightened, along with enhanced support for Visual Studio 2005.
What makes it special?
DB2 9's pure XML technology lets clients manage both conventional relational data and pure XML data seamlessly and makes it simpler and faster to create applications that can access both relational and XML data.
How difficult is it to master?
Old pros use the command-line interface. For the less experienced, there is a Java-based graphical user interface with lot of wizards.
For would-be database administrators (DBAs) with no experience, there are four classes totalling 17 days, or five days for those with experience of Oracle, Sybase etc. The self-fixing, self-configuring database clearly hasn't made the DBA redundant if they need this much training.
Application programmers with C need two courses totalling five days, and those with Java need one course of three days, with two further days on stored procedures for both languages.
What systems does it run on?
IBM mainframes under z/VSE, z/VM and Linx, other Linux and Unix servers, Windows, and IBM platforms, including iSeries. There are application programming interfaces for .net CLI, Python, Perl, PHP and Ruby, as well as Java, C++, C, Cobol, and legacy languages such as Rexx, PL/I, RPG, and Fortran.
What is coming up?
IBM has released a set of tools for rapid building of web applications using Ruby on Rails, which is downloadable free for DB2 Express-C developers.
Training roadmaps, DB2 9 database associate certification, and links to details of courses, free tutorials and books, can be found at:
Rates of pay
Salaries for database administrators start at £30,000. Developers with Java and Websphere skills can expect £35,000. There are still employers looking for the MVS, Cics/Cobol/DB2 combination, and the rates are good.
Catch up on training advice with Hot Skills