Celebrating Db2’s 25 years of awesome

IBM Fellow, Analytics, IBM

Today, March 16, 2018 is the 25th anniversary of the Db2 relational database product on Linux UNIX and Windows. Over the past 25 years, this team has built the Db2 brand for the distributed product, complementing IBM’s Db2 mainframe offering and creating a market force. Db2 is a powerful product line that consistently generates strong value for our customers and excellent revenue for our business. An amazing accomplishment. 

Few tech products in the world grow to this kind of success. The world runs on the back of Db2 — stock markets, investment banks, hospitals, insurance firms, pension funds, manufacturers, retailers, railways, shipping and logistics companies, airlines, schools, and governments. A talented team of business leaders, strategists, engineers, researchers and innovators, support staff, and sales professionals has made it happen. 

Today we celebrate and tip our hats to a remarkable technology and the team that created it.


Above, the original product announcement letter from March 16, 1993 signed by IBM business leaders Janet Perna, Hershel Harris and Brett MacIntrye.

How it all began 

The first 1993 version of Db2 ran on OS/2 and AIX on RS/6000. It was a collaborative effort involving IBM product development teams and the IBM Research division, which had been working on disruptive new technology for SQL compilation, and recovery processing. In fact, the research paper from retired IBM Fellow Pat Selinger et al. (“Access Path Selection in a Relational Database Management System”) and the ARIES paper on write-ahead logging by current IBM Fellow C. Mohan et al (“ARIES: a transaction recovery method supporting fine-granularity locking and partial rollbacks using write-ahead logging”) are two of the most highly cited papers in the history of data management. This research formed the core of the 1993 product, and its subsequent success.

Above: Pat Selinger’s 1979 paper on access path selection and query compilation

The product has been a pillar of the IBM software portfolio and the existing IBM Analytics division ever since. Even within the massive company that is IBM, Db2 represents an impressive contributor to IBM’s overall corporate revenue. And the evolution of Db2’s technology and innovation has been breathtaking. 

  • Built for the enterprise. While many database players have focused on low-end features to attract startups and hackers, IBM has always turned its attention to the enterprise. IBM understands the needs of the enterprise and is deeply connected with the challenges of the Fortune 500. The technology in Db2 has consistently followed that path, with a focus on security, scalability, speed and availability. Today Db2 scales to unprecedented levels of cores and storage volumes to meet the needs of incredibly intense workloads.
  • Speed is king. From its humble beginnings with the first prototype of 6 transactions per second, Db2 now boasts some of the most impressive performance metrics per core and superb scaling across a cluster. The result is massive throughput for both transaction processing and analytics alike.
  • Cloud and Hybrid Cloud.  Db2 launched fully managed (load and go simple) cloud services for warehouse in 2014 and transaction processing in 2015. These services have grown at a phenomenal rate. Yet, to ensure that customers can move to the cloud incrementally when they want, Db2 has taken extreme efforts to ensure that these cloud services use exactly the same SQL engine as Db2’s software and private cloud products. These aren't just compatible products — they actually share the same source code for SQL processing to ensure the highest rates of compatibility for applications: “Write once, run anywhere.” 
  • Operating systems expanded. The product has expanded again and again to embrace additional platforms, including Linux, Windows, and Solaris on top of the original OS/2 and AIX operating systems. 
  • Simplicity. In the early 2000s Db2 introduced industry-leading features for autonomous computing (autonomic), automating most mundane administrative tasks, automatically adapting Db2 to any size of server or cluster, and providing advanced data compression. The result was load-and-go simplicity for most workload types. 
  • Data formats. While Db2 started with relational data (storing data in rows and columns in multiple tables), it expanded to support large binary objects (LOBs), XML and JSON. 
  • Polyglot language support. The initial thrust of Db2 was to provide language compatibility with the Db2 mainframe product, giving customers the flexibility to develop and move applications easily between mainframe and distributed systems. This worked well and expanded over time to support a wide range of SQL language variations beyond the official ISO standards and IBM de facto language elements. Indeed, Db2 today supports the world’s widest range of SQL and stored procedure dialects of any commercial or open source product with SQL language compatibility for dialects made popular by Oracle, Db2, Netezza, and PostgreSQL. 
  • In-memory optimization. Db2 invested heavily in in-memory optimizations, building a vector processing engine with CPU-cache-optimized algorithms for complex query processing, which forms the basis of its warehouse strategy today. 

Through all of this, IBM has worked to provide the best possible flexibility for its customers by ensuring applications will run where customers want them. To that end, the exact same SQL engine is used in the cloud, in software, in private cloud, and appliances for transaction processing and analytics alike. 

What I've always found most remarkable about the Db2 team is the passion we’ve show for our customers. When the phone rings, we drop everything to help. Engineers will work through the night and over weekends to ensure customers are successful because we know it matters. That passion and commitment to every customer has set us apart and made IBM a valued partner for many clients.  

As we look back on the past 25 years and celebrate our technical accomplishments and the huge success we’ve had providing data management to the largest companies in the world, I am optimistic about the next 25. Db2 is evolving, thriving and leading. 

Congratulations to everyone who has been a part of this spectacular journey. 

To learn more about Db2 and what it makes possible, visit us here.