Product Review: IBM DB2, a Strong Push for Linux

Linux has entered the new year on a hot streak. It was one of the big stories of 1998 -- as many IT professionals realized its potential for corporate use. The operating system has continued to prove itself as a solid and reliable platform for enterprise data and applications.

The beta version of IBM Corp.'s DB2 Universal Database 5.2 for Linux, which I just tested, adds yet another highly viable choice for sites seeking a database management solution.

This port of IBM's DB2 engine to Linux makes a strong showing against those rivals that also supply database management solutions for Linux, such as Oracle, Sybase, and Informix. Like its product cousins, DB2 for Linux sports features you would expect, such as row-level locking and parallel queries.

However, the DB2 for Linux beta version that I tested had some bugs, and some features were incomplete. In particular, I found the browser-based administration tools unstable, and support for replication was missing. Both are expected in the production version of the product, which is due to ship in the first half of the year.

DB2 for Linux's administration tool, the Control Center, caused my browser to hang with regularity. However, I was able to access the Control Center via an applet viewer. IBM needs to cure these administration-tool woes and implement core features, such as replication, that its Linux competitors already have.

These beta issues aside, IBM has provided some useful tools and functionality for both administrators and developers. In particular, wizard-like interfaces, called SmartGuides, have been carried over from IBM's DB2 implementations on other platforms.

The SmartGuides provide a graphical step-by-step approach to completing common database tasks. For example, I used a SmartGuide to create some test databases; it was a real time-saver compared with traditional methods.

Those creating database applications will appreciate IBM's support for the SQL for Java standard. I found this embedded SQLJ approach to be an improvement vs. using Java Database Connectivity.

Like its database rivals, IBM has not yet ported some of its high-end functions to Linux. Enterprise features, such as IBM's multimedia extenders and mainframe connectivity, will not arrive until a significant number of Linux customers requests them. This mirrors the position taken by other database vendors, such as Oracle.

Database support and pricing also differs among Linux providers. IBM has not yet set pricing or defined how it will support DB2 for Linux. For now, support for DB2 is available via the following newsgroup (

With its beta issues resolved, IBM DB2 Universal Database 5.2 for Linux -- together with the Linux kernel update Version 2.2 -- looks promising as an enterprise-grade database solution. IT sites keen to implement database services on Linux should keep IBM's DB2 Universal Database 5.2 for Linux on the radar.

(Senior Analyst Maggie Biggs evaluates development and data-base technologies at the InfoWorld Test Center. Send her e-mail at BOTTOM LINEIBM DB2 Universal Database 5.2 for Linux, betaThose considering Linux as a platform for database management will find IBM's DB2 a highly viable option that is well worth investigating.

Pros: Solid port of the DB2 engine to Linux; browser-based administration tools; supports the new embedded SQL for Java standard; graphical wizards speed up common tasks.

Cons: Administration tools in this beta release show some instability; replication; some other features not implemented in this beta release.

IBM Corp., Armonk, New York; (800) 426-3333;

Price: Not yet announced.

Platforms: Any Linux distribution (kernel 2.0.35 and later); DB2 also available for other platforms.

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