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IBM DB2: Taking the Best Data Server on a Transformational Journey

The IBM database product focuses on continuous delivery to give clients updates quicker

8/17/2016 2:30:15 AM | Business transformation and agility are critical in today’s fast-moving world. Clients demand insights faster, more often and with greater accuracy based on up-to-the-second transactional data that’s frequently housed in mainframe systems. The dependency on technology and the rate at which information is created and consumed continues to grow exponentially. Applications have to rapidly adapt to take account of dynamic digital business models and environments. All this drives the need for flexible IT infrastructures that are built on a rock-solid foundation to deliver consistent dependability, performance and security in the face of rapid change.

The IBM z Systems portfolio is a perfect match for delivering on these needs. Mainframe hardware and software technology deliver unmatched levels of quality, reliability, security and scalability. On top of this, z/OS clients have historically moved their systems forward conservatively, which has further helped to build the mainframe’s reputation for the type of rock solid stability that’s essential for the most demanding business-critical workloads. The mainframe is often perceived as a stagnant platform that cannot move quickly and can’t support the agile or DevOps needs of modern applications. Nothing could be further from the truth. However, challenges do remain.

DB2 for z/OS, the mainframe’s flagship relational database product, is changing to a continuous delivery (CD) model to help further address these challenges. With CD, DB2 will deliver new features to the market faster and in increments that will be much easier for customers to consume. Let’s take a closer look.

New Features

DB2 12 for z/OS Early Support Program is the latest release of DB2. The new version of DB2 for z/OS will deliver many new features for mobile, cloud and analytics applications, while also bringing many new innovations to market to improve performance, availability and security.

New versions of DB2 have followed a historical pattern of about every three years. Customers have grown comfortable with this cadence. However, upgrading to a new DB2 release can be a major effort for customers. In the past, we have introduced innovations such as online rolling version upgrades (for data sharing) and APPLCOMPAT. These features allow IT groups to upgrade in a more streamlined way without having to take outages or involve application groups.

Nonetheless, a DB2 version upgrade can still be a cumbersome project. Couple this issue with the conservative nature of mainframe environments and you see some clients who don’t implement new DB2 versions until several years after general availability of the product. With our traditional three-year delivery cycle along with the version upgrade delays, it can be five to six years or more between the time that we complete the development of a new feature and the point at which that feature actually becomes available on a live system. In today’s fast-changing world, this is no longer sufficient.

Continuous Delivery

With CD, we will deliver new features continuously as they become ready. This will allow application developers and DBAs to access important new features more quickly without having to wait five to six years or more for the next DB2 version.

How will this be done so that it’s consumable and non-disruptive for customer environments?

Our approach to CD must meet or exceed the quality and stability requirements that the z Systems customer base demands while making the delivery of new features consumable. Customers will receive defect fixes and new features in the same stream. They will be able to apply their DB2 maintenance upgrades just like they always have, including the ability to roll in maintenance upgrades across their data sharing groups while keeping the databases continuously available. In fact, this becomes easier because of fewer APARs with ++HOLD actions caused by toleration APARs (the new “function level” concept will ensure that necessary maintenance is applied across the DB2 group, therefore removing the need for many of these existing ++HOLD actions).

The new maintenance will contain features that are initially dormant. The customer can choose when to activate them via a new system activation command. APPLCOMPAT controls will be provided to ensure that applications remain stable and to allow for controlled exposure to the newly activated features. Easy-to-access documentation will be provided on which new features are included in which function levels. Close work with ISVs ensures that upcoming features are effectively communicated ahead of time so that the overall DB2 ecosystem remains stable as DB2 changes are incorporated.

Learn More

The road ahead for DB2 for z/OS is an exciting and rewarding journey for both IBM and its customers. Agile, quality-focused development allows us to continuously deliver robust production-ready features to DB2 users much more rapidly than we could in the past, therefore enhancing the vitality of the DB2 product and greatly easing the task of DB2 upgrades for customers.

To learn more, register for our live webcast with a Q &A on Tuesday, Sept. 27 at 11 a.m. EST. This webcast will be available on replay.

Jeff Josten is an IBM Distinguished Engineer and the lead architect of DB2 for z/OS. He has worked in DB2 Development at the IBM Silicon Valley Lab since 1985. He owns several patents in the area of database technology and is a frequent speaker at user group and customer meetings.

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