IBM will start selling the first major upgrade to its DB2 platform in nearly two years from next week, the company has announced.

Focusing on automating functions, advanced clustering, and Web services, version 8.2 of the database, codenamed Stinger, features "autonomic" capabilities for self-managing and tuning, reducing admin time by as much as 65 percent, it claimed.

IBM Learning Optimizer, which allows the database to "learn" from past experiences and accelerates searches by uncovering the fastest route to information, is featured as part of IBM's autonomic efforts.

Another tool in the database, DB2 Design Advisor, automatically designs and optimises databases. With the tool, query jobs in Version 8.2 can be completed nearly seven times faster than if done manually, IBM said.

"It's a major release focusing on automation and cost savings," said Jeff Jones, IBM director of strategy for DB2. IBM's last release of DB2 Universal Database, 8.1, shipped in November 2002.

The autonomic features will enable faster retrieval and management of information such as customer history, product pricing, and product availability. Automated maintenance within the database performs administration and maintenance such as table maintenance or data backups. "I am excited about the DB2 Advisor enhancements," said DB2 user Bruce Moore, director of business intelligence at the Credit Union of Texas. "We've got one table that has 42 indexes on it and it takes five hours to build the indexes as part of our month-end data load.

"I'm fairly certain that some of those indexes are redundant, but I don’t know which ones. The enhancements in DB2 Design Advisor I think will allow me to get rid of some of those indexes and come up with an appropriate design for multi-dimensional clustering and perhaps even some summary tables," Moore said.

With Stinger, IBM is continuing its feature war with Oracle, said Gartner analyst Donald Feinberg: "I think IBM with Stinger is making a great stride forward with reducing the amount of database administration time."

For clustered environments, the new release offers disaster recovery. "It provides automatic failover and rerouting of applications to a backup DB2 database in the event of a problem with the primary, so this is an automated way to keep systems up and running," IBM's Jones said.

When used with the Tivoli system automation platform and Linux, DB2 will transfer information to a backup server within 20 seconds of the initial system shutting down. The database also supports clustering on 1,000 nodes.

The new version will cost the same as the prior release, Jones said. The DB2 Express product, for small workgroups starts at $500, while DB2 Enterprise, for thousands of users, costs $25,000 per processor. The database runs on Windows, Unix, and Linux.