DB2 Version 8, launched on Monday, also adds enhanced support for Web services, the technologies that link disparate business applications over the Internet, and improved capabilities for integrating data stored in a variety of sources across an enterprise.
A beta version of DB2 Version 8 will be available for download from IBM's Web site. Details of pricing and availability will be released later this year.
IBM highlighted the self-healing, or "autonomic" capabilities, which are being added to its hardware. One feature, called the Health Center, automatically updates a database administrator (DBA) on system performance, offers advice about problems with the database or applications running on it and sends alerts when a fix has been generated, IBM said.
For example, if a database system runs short of memory or if a query is taking too much time to run, alerts are sent via email, pager or personal digital assistant. DBAs can then make the required adjustments to their database through a Web browser.
The upgrade also adds a "configuration advisor" that is intended to cut the time it takes to configure a database and reduce the need for frequent manual tuning. Administrators typically need to configure as many as 100 parameters for their database, according to IBM. DBS will set some of those parameters automatically, based on responses to questions about how the database will be used.
Addressing the difficulties of integrating data from multiple sources, IBM said it had improved DB2's "federation capabilities", making it easier to pull together information stored in databases from rivals such as Oracle and Microsoft. It also claimed that developers can create a single SQL query that will allow DB2 to access information offered in the form of Web services, which use XML to link business applications from different vendors.
Other new features aim to boost query response times and make it easier to manage and retrieve data stored in the XML format, IBM said. DB2 version 8 also adds support for the 64-bit versions of Microsoft Windows and Linux.
Taken as a whole, the improvements should help customers address two of the biggest challenges they face, according to IBM: managing increasing amounts of data at a time when skilled DBAs are in short supply, and tying together business data that is stored in an array of formats and a variety of computer systems.
IBM hopes the upgrade will help it capture business from Oracle, which last year narrowly held its lead in the £4.4bn market for relational database management software, according to research company Gartner.
Oracle released an upgrade to its own database, Oracle 9i, in June. Release 2 of the product added enhanced support for Extensible Markup language (XML) documents, as well as a list of tweaks designed to improve performance and reliability.