Recently, I have had some conversations about the impact of native XML storage in DB2 for administrators of relational databases. You may be interested in the gist of those conversations.

Some DBAs are wary of changes to their relational environments. They have a finely-tuned environment that meets their service level agreements. I understand and appreciate their apprehension regarding “new features”. After all, its good to exercise caution when vitally important parts of the business depend upon your systems. However, you should be aware that, sometimes, you can reduce server load, improve query performance, or increase throughput by using native XML storage.

I cannot unequivocally tell you that using native XML storage will improve application performance in your environment, because your performance depends on many factors, both within the realm of the database and beyond. The one thing that I can unequivocally state is that a DBA who uses native XML storage can configure the storage of native XML data (tablespace, page sizes, buffers, etc) separately from the storage settings for other relational data and often improve performance.

For a good technical article on various aspects of performance for different approaches to storing XML data in DB2, see A performance comparison of DB2 9 pureXML and CLOB or shredded XML storage.

Some DBAs have expressed a fear that native XML storage may jeopardize their jobs. This fear stems from the perception that native XML storage eliminates tasks that currently occupy large amounts of time. For instance, there may no longer be a need to shred XML schemas into relational tables, to manage the many tables that may result from shredding a complex XML format, to update database table definitions after XML schema changes, and so on. It is true that these tedious tasks may be eliminated. However, many of the administrative tasks that are needed for relational data are still needed for native XML data. For instance, administrators must:

  • Determine optimal page size for XML data
  • Determine whether to set up separate table spaces
  • Assess and set up buffer pools for XML
  • Determine and implement an XML indexing strategy
  • And so on

As you can see, the move to storing XML data in XML columns doesn’t eliminate the need for database administration. The need for fine-tuning the database remains as important as ever. The move to native XML storage does free DBAs from some of the tedium associated with setting up and updating shredding environments. Time that can possibly be spent on other tasks, or on tuning the system.

XML is here to stay. The amount of XML data that DBAs will need to manage will undoubtedly increase. After all, XML standards are increasingly emerging and being adopted. As such, it is in the best interests of DBAs to know and use the best way to manage that XML data. Native XML storage will not always be the answer to every XML storage question. Sometimes traditional relational storage methods will be best. However, one thing is certain: being able to determine the best option for XML data and being able to tune an environment with XML data for optimum performance is an increasingly valuable skill for DBAs.

My advice is… don’t be wary of native XML storage. Learn about it and know when to use it for your professional advantage.

Andrew Eisenberg is co-chair of the W3C XML Query Working Group. Andrew and I are delivering a free Webcast about XQuery. We will discuss XQuery, provide some tips for working with XQuery, and also talk about the future direction of XQuery. Make sure to sign up for this Webcast today.

Here are 10 reasons why relational database administrators need to understand and possibly use native XML storage…

I recently blogged about the Search for an XML Superstar contest. I’m happy to say that the Web site is now live at www.xmlchallenge.com.

The XML challange actually consists of five separate contests, so there is a good chance you will find a contest you can enter, regardless of your level of technical ability:

  • Video contest
  • Gadget contest
  • Query contest
  • Ported application contest
  • XML contest

The contest is open to both students and professionals. You can enter as many of the contests as you like. In the US, prizes include Laptops, Wii consoles, Zune players, iPod Touches, iPod Nanos, USB keys, and T-shirts. Good luck with your entries…