IBM plans to release the final version of DB2 Viper 2, a major upgrade to its DB2 9 database software, before the end of this year, a company spokesman said this week.

DB2 Viper 2 went into open beta last week, and is the first major refresh of IBM's DB2 9 database since its release in July last year. The beta program is open to DB2 customers willing to test the software and provide feedback to IBM to help it hone the product, said Bernie Spang, director of IBM data servers.

IBM highlighted some of the new features in Viper 2 in a posting about the beta release last week. Among the features are new workload management tools that should give better query performance from data warehouses, and better handling of XML data within the database, IBM said.

The update will also make it easier to manage new security features introduced with the first version of DB2 9, Spang said. The first version introduced label-based access control, which allows customers to set access privileges for individual columns of data depending on what role people have in a company.

DB2 Viper 2 will make it simpler to manage and administer those role-based privileges, Spang said. He wouldn't go into detail but said the improvements "do things in software that save the administrator from having to deal with it."

IBM will be looking for Viper 2 to strengthen its position against database rivals Oracle and Microsoft, both of which grew their 2006 database revenue more quickly than IBM, according to recent figures from analyst Gartner.

Oracle grew its database business by 14.9 percent last year to give it 47.1-percent of the market, Gartner said. Microsoft grew its business by 28 percent for a 17.4 percent share, while IBM grew by 8.8 percent to give it 21.1-percent of the market, Gartner said.

The overall market in 2006 was worth $15.2bn (£7.1bn), up 14.2 percent from 2005, Gartner said. The research company counts revenue from new licenses, updates, subscriptions and hosting, technical support and maintenance. It does not include professional services or hardware revenue.