Robert's Blog

Monday, March 30, 2009

A Refreshingly Cloud-y DB2 Forecast

A couple of months ago, I posted an entry to this blog on the topic of cloud computing. I was spurred to write this entry by an article on cloud computing that I'd recently read in InformationWeek magazine. While I found that article to be quite interesting, I was somewhat alarmed at the fact that DB2 was not among the database management systems mentioned therein. "Where is IBM?", I wondered. Sure, I'd noticed bits and pieces of cloud-related DB2 activity, including a ChannelDB2 video by IBM's Bradley Steinfeld that showed how to set up a DB2 Express-C system in Amazon's EC2 cloud computing infrastructure (Express-C is a full-function version of DB2 for Linux, UNIX, and Windows that can be used - even in a production environment - on a no-charge basis), but what I really wanted to see from IBM was a cohesive and comprehensive strategy aimed at making DB2 a leader with respect to cloud-based data-serving.

I'm very pleased to inform that this strategy does exist. It was presented by IBM during a "Chat With The Lab" presentation and conference call conducted on March 25 (and available soon for replay - check the DB2 "lab chats" Web page, and the "DB2 and Cloud Computing" link on that page, for more information and to download the associated presentation). Let me tell you, I liked what I saw and heard during this session. IBM's Leon Katsnelson, Program Director for Data Management Portfolio and Product Management (and the guy behind the FreeDB2 Web site), said during the call that development of the strategy for driving DB2 utilization in the Cloud was guided by this question: "What technologies and business models can we bring to market to help our customers realize the promise of cloud computing?" That "promise" refers to the potential of cloud computing to lower costs, enhance flexibility, and increase agility for organizations large and small, across all industries.

Here are the key elements of IBM's DB2 strategy as it relates to cloud computing:
  • Deliver key technologies to support the private cloud initiatives of DB2-using organizations. Public clouds (those physically based outside of a using enterprise) often come to mind when one thinks about cloud computing, but leaders at many larger organizations are keenly interested in developing and exploiting private (i.e., in-house) clouds that would function as public clouds do in terms of real-time Web, application, and data server instantiation and scaling. To aid these initiatives, IBM is delivering full support for DB2 in virtualized environments, enhancing and standardizing DB2 server provisioning and automation, and providing sub-capacity pricing for cost-effective virtualization (a virtual DB2 "machine" will often use a subset of the processing "cores" available on a physical server, and sub-capacity pricing accommodates this reality).
  • Partner with key public cloud providers to fully integrate DB2 into the ecosystem. Perhaps the best-known of the public clouds is Amazon Web Services (AWS). IBM has partnered with Amazon to provide several options for individuals and organizations seeking to use DB2 in a cloud environment. These include: 1) a pre-built DB2 Amazon Machine Image (AMI) that can be used for development purposes with no associated DB2 software charges (you pay only for the incremental use of Amazon's infrastructure), 2) pre-built DB2 AMIs that can be used for production purposes (pricing for these is expected to be announced in the second quarter of this year), and 3) creating your own DB2 AMI using your existing DB2 licenses. In addition to working with Amazon, IBM has partnered with other leaders in the cloud space to help organizations deploy DB2 in a cloud setting. Representatives of two of these partners - Corent and RightScale - participated in the "Chat With the Lab" call. Corent provides a set of software products, called SaaS Suite, that can enable companies to quickly develop and deploy sophisticated, turnkey, DB2-based "Software as a Service" (SaaS) applications in Amazon's Elastic Compute Cloud (aka EC2, the computer resources utilized by Amazon Web Services users). RightScale provides products and services that help organizations to effectively and efficiently manage their cloud servers (including DB2 servers) and cloud-deployed applications, in Amazon's EC2 and other cloud environments.
  • Provide a robust DBMS for SaaS vendors. Cloud computing is a terrific resource for companies that want to develop and sell "Software as a Service" applications (customers of these companies - is an example of a SaaS vendor - use an application's functionality but don't run the application software in-house), and IBM wants DB2 to be these firms' DBMS of choice. With its combination of attractive pricing, advanced autonomic features (e.g., self-tuning memory management and automated updating of catalog statistics), and industry-leading technologies such as Deep Compression and pureXML, DB2 presents a compelling choice for cloud-based SaaS vendors looking to gain a competitive edge in the marketplace.
  • Offer terms and conditions and pricing to make DB2 the best DBMS for the Cloud. Advanced technology is great, but as mentioned previously, many companies looking to leverage cloud computing resources are aiming for cost savings, improved flexibility, and enhanced agility. If these are your goals, you won't be interested in DBMS software (or any other kind of software) that burdens you financially or overly restricts your deployment options. The folks at IBM get this, and they are determined to make DB2 as attractive to business people as it is to IT pros with respect to running in the Cloud.
Cloud computing is a disruptive technology, and some companies may see it as a threat. IBM's leaders see opportunity in the Cloud, and I believe that they have a strategy in place that will make DB2 a big part of their - and their customers' - success in the cloud computing arena.


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