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IBM's new A-Z database strategy: Ascential, Apache & Zend

The proverbial needle in the heterogeneous IT haystack will soon be easier to find for users of IBM's DB2 database.

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The needle, or data, in the heterogeneous IT haystack will soon be easier to find for users of IBM's DB2 database. Thanks to the very recent acquisition of Ascential Software, IBM is giving its database advanced query powers, according to Jeff Jones, director of strategy, IBM Information Management Solutions. Joes says that two partnerships with Zend Technologies and The Apache Foundation will make it easier for developers to create and for SMBs to find IBM-flavored open source databases. In this interview, Jones discusses the capabilities that Ascential and Zend bring to the table, as well as the initiative aimed at developing IBM/Apache Derby database code

Why was this the right time for IBM to acquire Ascential Software?

Jeff Jones: Information integration is a very hot topic with our customers. Feedback we get from IT professionals indicates that it's more and more crucial to get to information wherever it might be, as opposed to figuring out a way to move it to some central place before applications can get to it. As a result, IBM has been investing heavily in information integration since the mid-90s, when we came out with the product that is now Websphere Information Integrator.

Ascential allows us to jump a huge distance ahead. Ascential's technology focuses on high-volume, high-speed data movement and data transformation, as well as data profiling, quality improvement and data cleansing. Ascential leads in that field, and that's why we have been close development partners since Ascential was the part of Informix left after IBM acquired that company in 2001.

Could you elaborate on the capabilities that Ascential's technologies will add to IBM databases?

Jones: With the combination of essential tooling and Websphere Information Integrator, we are able to focus on data movement, metadata management profiling and so on. Information Integrator provides heterogeneous access and an enterprise search capability, too. With all this together, Information Integrator provides access to any form of information that any application might need to use. It enables customers to ask one question and to get all of the information back in one batch. In the past you had to pose a slightly different question to each of the data sources that you knew had a part of the complete answer that you were seeking. Today, with the capabilities that we are bringing to bear, you can ask one question and get all of the answers back, whether it is structured database data or XML or content such as e-mail, electronic documents, images and so on.

What type of businesses will benefit the most from these information access technologies?

Jones: The early adopters of this technology are data warehouse users looking for the high speed high volume ETL (extract, transform and load) analytics. These folks want a single place to go for metadata. Next in line are businesses that need to move data from one place to another for any purpose and want integrity, security and performance.

Ascential's software also brings a metadata management flavor to things, and that is really ahead of what competing products do. Metadata management is the idea that you need a good solid place to look to determine exactly what you have in that warehouse. You need a card catalog with some depth and some integrity that will help tools appropriately use the information in the warehouse. It can be a common place to go for definition and meaning behind the raw data in the warehouse.

What's happened with the Cloudscape database since IBM released its source code to The Apache Software Foundation?

Jones: Derby is the code managed by Apache, while Cloudscape is the code plus support that we provide. There is only a charge for support, if the organization wants support, and there are no license charges under any circumstances. For instance, there is not a license fee if you are a software developer turning around and reselling something built on Derby code, as is the case with one of our competitors. Derby has a very active sponsor, Gluecode Software. More supporters and sponsors are needed for Derby to graduate to a full-fledged project in Apache. That is coming along.

What role will Zend Technologies play in making Derby stronger?

Jones: That's one of the big happenings around Derby and open source. A few weeks ago, IBM announced a partnership with Zend, the inventor of the open source language called PHP. PHP is a very popular language and toolset for quickly building Web applications.

ZEND has developed ZEND Core for IBM. It is open source and provides a way to build Derby-based Web applications that use Derby and also support DB2. Zend Core should ship by the end of March. It will give developers a tool that integrates the Cloudscape database based on Apache Software Foundation Derby and Zend's open source PHP environment.

What types of businesses will be the primary users of Cloudscape/Derby?

Jones: Derby aims at departmental and SMB use. It is for people that have a Java commitment, because this is a Java database. It's for those who want very robust, but quick database functionality. Cloudscape and Derby support SQL 92 and almost the entire SQL 99 standard. That is pretty cool for a two-megabyte, jar file, downloadable database system. Also, much of the Derby code is a very tight, very concise Java Archive file that delivers pure relational database functionality. So, we have done quite a bit in a very compact format.

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