IBM: Refocused Emphasis on Spatial Information and Business Intelligence

By Joe Francica

With years of experience in the spatial information market, IBM is emerging from the shadow of Oracle in developing DB2® Universal Database™ to compete for the leadership role in spatial database functionality. Not that it ever left the market, but in recent years, Oracle has certainly exerted their marketing muscle and reached a higher level of brand awareness. But IBM has developed a strong partnership with ESRI, which it counts as one of its 25 key business partnerships, testament to the focus that the company is placing on location technology and business intelligence.

A "Middle Ground" Approach
As such, IBM has staked a "middle ground" in terms of its architectural philosophy for processing spatial data.IBM believes that you should run the business logic and data analysis closest to the data in the tier that is most appropriate to load balancing.That is, you should run the spatial tier where it makes the most sense, and you should support spatial at whatever tier the architects deem most appropriate.This is the combined opinion of David Beddoe, Ed Katibah, and Robert Uleman, the IBM team that I recently interviewed.They believe that spatial processing in the database is appropriate for reducing large volumes of transactions, but that offloading the processing to the mid-tier or client becomes necessary when specialized spatial functions are better handled by those applications.

The extremes of this middle ground are proposed by Oracle, which leans toward processing a majority of spatial data in the database, and ESRI, which leans toward a mid-tier solution for optimum performance.IBM's position is quite clear: certain solutions call for different implementations.A key element to their approach is to support spatial functions that let you express the kinds of searches you want to do and support them with an efficient index."IBM wants to be flexible to the continuing spatial demands.It comes down to solving the business problem," said Beddoe.

DB2 "Stinger" Release
IBM has announced DB2 version 8, called the "Stinger" release, that will be available this month.It will include DB2 Spatial Extender that supports ESRI's ArcSDE and is now included with all database editions at no additional cost to the user.DB2 Spatial Extender is compliant with the OGC's Simple Features Specifications for SQL.According to IBM, "In support of creating next-generation geospatial applications, Stinger customers will also have access to the new DB2 Geodetic Extender, which supports the same data types and functions as Spatial Extender but treats the Earth as a globe, not a flat map.As a result, organizations can more easily build powerful and accurate spatially enabled applications for land management, asset management or business processes that have worldwide geographical data requirements." [See additional information below (What's New in DB2 Spatial Extender) for more details]

Industry Focus

IBM is delivering solutions in twelve industry areas.The focus is primarily in the public sector for

  • Emergency response
  • Public Safety
  • Homeland Security
  • Defense
  • Health Care
  • Finance
A significant emphasis in delivering solutions is the deployment of IBM's WebSphere, a mid-tier processing platform for web services applications that can support java servlets, J2ME, SOAP, XML, and other internet protocols. WebSphere provides a family of tools in the business logic tier to create web services.WebSphere supports messaging and is a very flexible platform for system integration.

IBM employs approximately eighty people that are dedicated to the spatial information market.

What's New in DB2 Spatial Extender
[Source: IBM]
  • Leverages the power of SQL for spatial data analysis.
  • Provides functions and methods that allow you to query spatial data.
  • Enhances the intelligence of existing applications by allowing you to use spatial data and functions in queries.
  • Conforms to the ISO SQL/MM Spatial Standard and the OpenGIS Consortium's (OGC's) Simple Feature Specification for SQL.
  • Supports powerful visualization tools, such as ESRI's ArcView® GIS, ArcInfo™, ArcView BusinessAnalyst, and ArcIMS.
IBM also offers ArcExplorer for DB2 Version 3.0 which can be downloaded at no-charge from this Web site.

DB2 Spatial Extender Version 8 includes the following enhancements:

  • Support for additional operating systems.In addition to AIX and Windows, DB2 Spatial Extender Version 8 now runs on Solaris, Linux/Intel, Linux for S/390, and HP-UX.As of FixPak 2, Spatial Extender supports 64-bit processing capabilities for all platforms except Linux for zSeries.
  • Support for DB2 Personal Edition and DB2 Workgroup Edition (and continued support for DB2 Enterprise Server Edition).Spatial Extender is included with PE and WSE (up to 5 users) and as a priced feature of Workgroup Unlimited and Enterprise Server Editions.
  • Indexing guidance tool that provides help with performance and tuning considerations.
  • Improved import and export capabilities for shape files.These capabilities allow more precision and control over where and how spatial data is stored
  • Improved set of administrative stored procedures.
  • Enhancements to the Spatial Extender functions within the Control Center. These enhancements include support for Spatial Extender enhanced stored procedures as well as a more consistent look and feel with the rest of the Control Center, including support for features like sort, filter and find (for lists).
  • Dynamic query support for units of measure, allowing you to specify the unit that is to be used to measure lengths, distances, and areas.For example, you can ask for the distance between New York and London in kilometers or miles.
  • Capability for users to define their own specialized spatial types, methods, and functions to further customize Spatial Extender to their business needs.
  • New command-line processor that mirrors the Spatial Extender functions provided in the Control Center and also provides support for migration
  • Automated, streamlined migration from Version

Published Tuesday, August 10th, 2004

Written by Joe Francica

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