IBM has launched the latest version of its DB2 database, codenamed Viper.

Unlike earlier versions, DB2 9.1 retains XML documents in their native format rather than breaking them up and storing them in relational tables, reducing storage costs. Any data stored in the server - whether relational or XML - can be retrieved using either SQL or XQuery.

This "hybrid" capability allows users to save up to 75 percent due to reduction in lines of code, said sales manager Alyse Pasarelli. IBM took almost five years to develop the new version and is betting on an explosion in XML data due to new computing principles such as service-oriented architecture (SOA).

"XML is that next inflection point," said Pasarelli, claiming it will outgrow other data formats as much as 200 percent. In contrast, IBM’s rivals like Oracle and the Microsoft derive bulk of revenues from relational database. IBM also added new data compression and security features. Pasarelli touched on Viper’s virtualisation capabilities and ability to connect to independent storage systems, whether handling XML or relational data but noted additional DB2 licenses for added storage nodes.

IBM launched a free version of DB2 in January, called DB2 Express C, which can run on limited computing resources. It carries some of the new features in Viper, Pasarelli said. Pricing has not be announced, but according to IDG reports, Viper starts at $165 per user or $4,874 per processor, including first year of support and service.