IBM is strengthening its efforts to woe users of rival databases, after it upgraded its flagship DB2 database with the ability to run applications written for other databases, especially Oracle's.

Bernie Spang, director of data management software marketing at IBM, said the version 9.7 update would make it easier for vendors to port their database applications to DB2, and allow companies to port their custom applications from another database to DB2 with minimal effort.

The move could spur companies to migrate their existing databases from Oracle or Microsoft's SQL Server to DB2, the second most popular database by revenue.

"We are growing our user base, but this is aimed at growing it even further," Spang said.

Database analyst Curt Monash said vendors' past efforts to boost migrations in similar ways have tended to "fizzle." That is because no matter how much CIOs would like to cut an enterprise's cost by moving to a single tool, they are rarely able to enforce that to capture the promised licensing and labour savings, he said.

"It's hard to escape 100 percent from heterogeneity, and a partial escape doesn't have much administrative benefit," Monash said.

Spang said that companies only switching some of their databases to DB2 would still benefit because far fewer administrators are required for DB2 databases compared with rival databases.

IBM built some of migration features itself, and also licensed some from EnterpriseDB, which offers an Oracle-compatible database software based on the open-source PostgreSQL technology. IBM is a small investor in EnterpriseDB.

IBM said its latest upgrade can also compress data more tightly than past versions. Enhancements to its pureXML feature allow XML data to be stored in the proper format for data warehouses so that analytics can be easily run on the data.