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In planning a data warehouse, what are the possible disadvantages or advantages of choosing either DB2 or Oracle as the database structure?

    Ask The Experts published in DMReview.com
March 6, 2001
  By Sid Adelman and David Marco and Clay Rehm


In planning a data warehouse, what are the possible disadvantages or advantages of choosing either DB2 or Oracle as the database structure?


Sid Adelman's Answer: More tools support Oracle than DB2. Data warehouse tool vendors usually support Oracle first, and these vendors usually have more experience with Oracle than with DB2. Oracle has a larger pool of DBA talent than DB2, and there are certainly more books written for Oracle than for DB2.

Oracle is more expensive than DB2; DB2 software goes for significantly less. It usually takes fewer DB2 DBAs to support a database of comparable size and complexity. DB2 monitoring tools seem more mature and available than those for Oracle. IBM can provide more very large database references than Oracle can. I've heard better stories of IBM support than support for Oracle but you should definitely check this out for yourself.

David Marco's Answer: The first question is (obviously) are you a mainframe or a Unix shop today? If you are mainframe then it's DB2, if you are Unix then Oracle or Informix. If you can go with either a mainframe or Unix, then you need to consider cost (Unix tends to be a little stronger), uptime (mainframe tends to be stronger), resource availability (Unix), level of comfort locking into one vendor (if you go mainframe you are stuck with IBM), etc.

Clay Rehm's Answer: Every major relational database vendor has it's own advantages and disadvantages. I am assuming you are looking to select a RDBMS for your project. Before you narrow the list, make sure you also look at NCR TeraData, Microsoft SQL Server and the UDB version of IBM DB2.

The upside is that every one of these RDBMS's will work just fine. Here is a list of things to consider:

  • Is there the support staff (DBAs) available?
  • Can you hire the specific DBA for the specific vendor database easily in your region?
  • Is there certain functionality you really need, such as triggers, stored procedures, etc., which would rule out a specific database?
  • Look at the platform. Some databases may run better on one specific platform (i.e., Unix, MVS, Windows, and hardware - Sun, HP, IBM, etc)
  • How automated are the administrative tasks such as backup, recovery, partitioning, etc.

Before I select a database, I look to see what is already in house. I research to see if there is a qualified support staff, how stable the database is, and if the users are happy with it. I find it much easier to use an existing RDBMS on a DW project. The only big challenge with this scenario is usually changing the OLTP mindset of the DBAs to be more OLAP oriented.

Chuck Kelley's answer: Both of these database vendors are top-notch data warehousing database vendors. Regardless of which structure you choose, you will be fine. If I were going to the multi-tens of terabytes starting tomorrow, I would most likely go with DB2/UDB. If I were going to be there in the next 5 to 10 years, it probably will not matter. Of course, someone might say that not using Microsoft SQL Server would be a mistake, that that someone is not me (at least for the near term)!


For more information on related topics visit the following related portals...
DW Design, Methodology.

Sid Adelman is a principal in Sid Adelman & Associates, an organization specializing in planning and implementing data warehouses, in data warehouse and BI assessments, and in establishing effective data architectures and strategies. He is a regular speaker at DW conferences. Adelman chairs the "Ask the Experts" column on www.dmreview.com. He is a frequent contributor to journals that focus on data warehousing. He co-authored Data Warehouse Project Management and is the principal author on Impossible Data Warehouse Situations with Solutions from the Experts. His new book, Data Strategy, is scheduled for publication this year. He can be reached at 818-783-9634 or sidadelman@aol.com.  Visit his Web site at www.sidadelman.com.

David Marco is an internationally recognized expert in the fields of enterprise architecture, data warehousing and business intelligence and is the world's foremost authority on meta data. He is the author of Universal Meta Data Models (Wiley, 2004) and Building and Managing the Meta Data Repository: A Full Life-Cycle Guide (Wiley, 2000). Marco has taught at the University of Chicago and DePaul University, and in 2004 he was selected to the prestigious Crain's Chicago Business "Top 40 Under 40."  He is the founder and president of Enterprise Warehousing Solutions, Inc., a GSA schedule and Chicago-headquartered strategic partner and systems integrator dedicated to providing companies and large government agencies with best-in-class business intelligence solutions using data warehousing and meta data repository technologies. He may be reached at (866) EWS-1100 or via e-mail at DMarco@EWSolutions.com.

Clay Rehm, CCP, PMP, is president of Rehm Technology (www.rehmtech.com), a consulting firm specializing in data integration solutions. Rehm provides hands-on expertise in project management, assessments, methodologies, data modeling, database design, meta data and systems analysis, design and development. He has worked in multiple platforms and his experience spans operational and data warehouse environments. Rehm is a technical book editor and is a coauthor of the book Impossible Data Warehouse Situations with Solutions from the Experts. In addition, he is a Certified Computing Professional (CCP), a certified Project Management Professional (PMP), holds a Bachelors of Science degree in Computer Science from Carroll College and is currently working on his Masters degree in Software Engineering. He can be reached at clay.rehm@rehmtech.com.

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