IBM to add native XML storage support to DB2

IBM Corp. last week released the initial open beta of a planned update to its flagship DB2 database that will offer users the ability to natively store unstructured XML data separately from conventional relational data.

The upgrade, code-named Viper, is scheduled to be released in the middle of next year, according to Bernie Spang, director of database marketing at IBM. Spang said that Viper will be able to store data such as multimedia files, Excel spreadsheets and Word documents in an XML repository, which will operate in parallel with IBM's relational data repository under the control of a single DB2 engine.

Typically, relational databases handle XML data either by storing the entire file as an object that isn't relationally indexed, or by "shredding" the file so the unstructured information fits into multiple relational data cells.

"Offering native XML functionality is very essential to delivering improved performance for data access," said Noel Yuhanna, an analyst at Forrester Research Inc. Oracle Corp. had "a head start on XML for many years," he added. "I expect this to become a game of catch-up and leapfrog among the big vendors."

Viper's XML storage capabilities could be of use to CheckFree Corp. in light of its interest in service-oriented architectures (SOA) and Web services, said Robert Catterall, director of engineering at the Norcross, Ga.-based provider of online bill-payment services.

CheckFree uses DB2 to run databases with multiple terabytes or more of information. "We are not today storing XML documents as such in our databases," Catterall said. "But that has partly been because there wasn't an appealing way to do that in a single database."