Db2 goes 'cloud-first' as IBM struggles to lift database dinosaur

One foot firmly in the mainframe for pre-loved system dating back to the 1970s

IBM plans to launch a database-as-a-service version of its Db2 database on hyperscaler clouds as it attempts to execute a "cloud-first" strategy with the relational behemoth.

Speaking to the IDUG Db2 user group conference in Edinburgh this week, Michael Kwok, executive director for Db2 in IBM's Data and AI division, said his group was now "organizationally aligned under single leadership structure fully dedicated to cloud-first."

Db2's journey to the cloud has been protracted. Big Blue first launched the universal container Db2u to get a more or less cloud-native version of the database, but it was only available on RedHat OpenShift. In July, IBM announced that the container would be available for Amazon Elastic Kubernetes Service (EKS) with Azure AKS soon to follow.

Kwok told conference attendees IBM was planning to "deploy fully managed services to IBM Cloud as the primary cloud of choice with self-managed reference architectures for others."

He said all new Db2 releases would be coming to the cloud first, followed by the "traditional" software release.

Meanwhile, IBM was "engaging partnership opportunities to accelerate the delivery of fully managed DBaaS to hyperscalers" such as AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud, Kwok said.

The Register has asked the company for more details. Numerous requests for an interview with an IBM Db2 expert over the last two years have fallen on deaf ears.

The technology is relied on by a string of the world's largest banks and retailers including JP Morgan Chase, HSBC, Bank of America, and Tesco.

Db2 was modelled on the ideas of IBM researcher Edgar Frank "Ted" Codd, who first described the theory of relational databases in 1970. The first products became available on IBM mainframes in 1983 and later on Unix, Linux, and Windows. The product has been styled as "DB/2", then "DB2" before settling on the current "Db2" in 2017. It comes in two flavors: one for Linux, Unix, and Windows, and one for z/OS, IBM's mainframe operating system.

In recent years there has been a flurry of innovation with startups entering the database market – including MongoDB, MariaDB, Redis, Elastic Search, CockroachDB, Apache Cassandra, Splunk, and so on. In the last year, Db2 has fallen from seventh to eighth in the DB-Engines ranking but it is still higher than Snowflake, which was once valued at $120 billion, more than the whole of IBM – hardware, IP, services and all.

Debate is bound to rage when IBM finally reveals its "cloud-first Db2" since some are likely to question whether it benefits from cloud architecture and is truly distributed. ®

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