Db2 13 makes z/OS debut, promises AI, hybrid cloud features

Long-awaited major release welcomed by users who wish IBM would promote it a little more

In the first major upgrade since 2016, IBM is releasing a basket of updates for the edition of its well-established Db2 relational database for the z/OS mainframe operating system. The latest tweaks are designed to use machine learning to make systems more efficient to manage and operate.

One consultant with long-standing experience with the system said customers would welcome the upgrades, but hoped IBM would publicise its Db2 development more broadly.

New features come in three groups addressing hybrid cloud; AI support for operations and transactions, and applications; and a database-integrated approach to developing large-scale AI insights.

The hybrid cloud update extends data source support for MongoDB, Athena, and Amazon RedShift, as well as hybrid cloud deployment of Db2's Query Management Faculty on IBM Cloud and Microsoft Azure. It also promises to collect real-time and historical information about Db2 utility executions to improve usage and optimization.

New support for operations, transactions, and applications comes in the form of Db2 13 for z/OS VUE, which promises AI-based operational efficiency and costs reduction as well as enhanced resiliency, and application stability for unparalleled availability. Db2 AI for z/OS 1.5 is a separately licensed product that uses machine learning and AI to help improve operational performance and maintain the health of Db2 systems.

IBM said that putting AI into Db2 to would help uncover insights based on hidden relationships and inferred meaning of Db2 data. It promises AI-related built-in functions in SQL Data Insights and AI to help improve operational efficiency, reduce costs, and increase DBA productivity.

Craig Mullins, president and principal of Mullins Consulting, a Db2 specialist, pointed out the update is the first major release in more than six years for Db2, which counts Bank of America and Natwest Group among its customers.

"But the install base was prepared for that because when version 12 came out IBM announced they were going to do continuous improvement through functionality more of like a DevOps approach," he said.

"Users were thinking: 'Maybe there won't be a new version.' But all along IBM has been saying 'Yes, when things get to a certain point, we will do a new version.' [The new release] has been greeted with some relief in the install base which now sees what IBM said is true," Mullins said.

Many of the new features would be welcomed by users, he said but singled out the ability to partition-by-range tablespaces with minimal impact to applications. This gives users the ability to quickly change between different tablespace types, Mullins explains.

He said: "There is the ability to partition it by range, or partition it by growth. [In Db2 12] there's been no easy way to convert from one to the other. In this release [Db2 13] is a simple mechanism to make the change and do the online reorganisation.

Customers may make the decision upfront to partition by range but at some point down the line they may decide that growth would be a better option. Now they can avoid a complex series of DDL or potential outages, Mullins claimed.

The Db2 13 upgrade is currently only available for the z/OS iteration. Those using the database on Windows, Linux and IBM i (formerly OS/400) will have to wait.

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You kept that quiet

Db2 has earned a reputation as the database IBM doesn't want to talk about, while other so-called cloud-native database vendors attract a lot of investor and media attention, although there have been recent improvements in the way IBN's relationasl database works with Kubernetes.

"I understand why IBM has to pivot and everything is about the hybrid cloud and trying to remake the company in that image," Mullins said.

"IBM has got a different problem set than a lot of other companies. Newer database vendors: that's all they do. IBM has been around for 100 years. Its challenge is remaining relevant to the marketplace and keeping everybody who uses their technology happy. I'm a Db2 guy.

"Am I happy with how they are promoting Db2? Not at all. I think they should be out banging the drums and saying how great the DBMS — and all the things they put into it — is," he said.

IBM has declined the opportunity to offer a briefing for this piece and has yet to respond to questions about Db2 13's release on platforms other than z/OS. ®

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