Databases

IBM Enterprise-Class RDBMS Gets Even Better

Announcing Informix 12.1

Two years after its hugely successful release of IBM® Informix® 11.7, IBM continues to deliver significant new versions of the Informix data server. Building on 11.7, the Informix 12.1 release focuses on its core online transaction processing (OLTP) strengths of high availability, performance, ease of use, and enterprise-class embeddability. It also delivers compelling new capabilities across several key areas.

Informix 12.1 boasts major enhancements in its warehousing and analytics capabilities, plus better integration of TimeSeries and other smart data. In addition, new Flexible Grid and cloud functionality extends Informix data availability by providing a variety of options for deployment topographies.

Improvements to the Open Admin Tool, the Informix web-based graphical administration utility, help make administrative tasks, if needed, easier to visualize and perform. Informix continues to be recognized as one of the best database solutions for embedded applications. Enhancements to its hands-free approach to administration will strengthen that reputation.

Let’s review some of the capabilities of Informix 12.1 that deliver exceptional value to the Informix customer base.

 

Real-time analytics

Informix 11.7 added significant data warehousing enhancements to the core Informix server, allowing users to build, deploy, operate, and maintain a robust data warehousing infrastructure to quickly deliver time-sensitive data to business decision makers. With 11.7, Informix was no longer just for OLTP applications. Key to this success was the support for standard data warehousing schemas, joins, and analytics, plus the introduction of the ultrafast in-memory, compressed, columnar database technology with Informix Warehouse Accelerator (IWA) to maximize parallelism and scan speed.

Informix 12.1 introduces new techniques to allow better synchronization of the IWA in-memory snapshot with the underlying data on disk, which keeps the snapshot current. Rather than using the common approach of refreshing all data daily or on a regular basis, Informix 12.1 supports Partition Refresh, which focuses refreshes on selected fact or dimension tables, and Automatic Partition Refresh, where Informix determines which records have changed in any of the defined partitions and refreshes the data in IWA with a single user command. Informix 12.1 also adds support for a Trickle Feed update, where selected data is buffered and passed to IWA in a continuous stream. The ability to continually refresh the in-memory snapshot propels Informix 12.1 and IWA into the category of real-time data warehousing.

While IWA supports a large percentage of the commonly used SQL constructs for data warehousing, Informix 12.1 adds a whole class of ANSI SQL online analytical processing (SQL/OLAP) functions, which are also accelerated in IWA. These functions can help greatly simplify the writing of common business analytical queries such as running totals and ranking.

The OpenAdmin Tool is now enhanced to support IWA and includes a simple dashboard for users to administer and monitor their warehouses, allowing data warehouse administration and general Informix server administration within a single environment.

 

A solution to the big data challenge of sensor data

The use of sensors and devices such as smart utility meters, smartphones, and SCADA systems has become common in many industries. Often these sensors generate an enormous amount of data. For instance, an energy utility that records 15-minute readings on 10 million smart meters will generate over one trillion rows of data in three years. Sensors in manufacturing and other plants can generate even higher volumes of data.

The enhancements to TimeSeries in the 12.1 release optimize the real-time capture and analysis of this big data. In comparison to other relational database management system (RDBMS) solutions, Informix TimeSeries runs queries orders of magnitude faster and uses just a fraction of the storage required by a relational database working with this big data. This is why Informix TimeSeries is the perfect fit for energy and utilities companies, as well as other organizations using sensor-based applications.

In addition to the improved TimeSeries feature set, the TimeSeries data type has become better integrated with other Informix features. For instance, Informix 12.1 now supports the processing of time-series data within IWA, where data residing in TimeSeries on disk can be managed by IWA in memory. While Informix TimeSeries is the perfect solution for time-series processing in real-time and near real-time, IWA is able to run extremely complex analytics at memory speed, giving TimeSeries queries a huge performance boost.

Informix TimeSeries is also integrated with Informix Spatial Data capabilities. Informix Spatial Data and Informix TimeSeries can work together to analyze objects that move or change over time.

Beyond IWA integration, there are a number of usability enhancements for Informix TimeSeries in 12.1. Most notably, Informix 12.1 includes a graphical tool for loading large amounts of time-series data in parallel.

 

Cloud readiness

As a software-only solution that does not require expensive hardware components, Informix is ideal for private cloud deployments. IBM introduced Informix Flexible Grid in the Informix 11.7 release, allowing heterogeneous hardware and operating systems to work together in a globally distributed, clustered environment for continuous data availability and on-demand scalability.

Informix 12.1 extends Informix high availability and flexible grid capabilities with the introduction of sharded queries. Sharded queries adds a level of virtualization between the query and the sources of the result set by automatically converting the simple query into a broader query that automatically searches the configured sharded data within the nodes of the grid. You can define the target nodes for the sharded query as the whole grid or a subregion within a grid.

In addition, Informix 12.1 allows alternative communication for shared disk secondary (SDS) servers in the event of a network failure, for automated storage provisioning, and for more solid replication command execution based on the addition of commands to monitor the various data replication queues.

Informix 12.1 also introduces send-only replicates, which can greatly simplify enterprise replication by eliminating the need for intermediate nodes to store and process each set of replicated data. Send-only replicates forward the replicated data to the terminal node, which is defined to receive and process the data.

Informix 12.1 Hypervisor Edition delivers Informix capabilities as a system pattern to IBM PureApplication™ System for an expert integrated environment.

 

Ideal for ISVs and OEMs

Informix offers a small footprint, ease of use, and ease of administration, as well as self-tuning and configuration capabilities that make it a preferred database for independent software vendors (ISVs), original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), and application developers who need to embed a database into applications that must run without user intervention. These were the capabilities that led Cisco Systems to embed Informix into many of the company’s telecom products.

Informix 12.1 adds several ways to make configuring and tuning even simpler. The Informix 12.1 server accelerates setup by allowing more dynamic tuning of configuration parameters and by accepting any environment variables through file input. Application portability and SQL compatibility have been significantly improved by new and enhanced SQL and OLAP functions.

Informix 12.1 has further extended deep compression capabilities to B-tree indexes and simple large objects (BLOB data types) along with the table (in-row) data sets. The auto-compression feature ensures all four steps of storage optimization (create the compression dictionary, compress the rows, coalesce the rows, and reclaim the free space) are performed automatically, if configured.

The Primary Storage Manager (PSM), which replaces Informix Storage Manager (ISM), helps simplify backup and restore operations, and support parallel backup/recovery solutions in embedded environments with much less configuration.

 

Ease of use and administration

Informix is well known for enabling virtually hands-free administration that helps reduce its total cost of ownership (TCO). Informix 12.1 enhances the OpenAdmin Tool (OAT) to help further simplify administration.

Developed in parallel with the Informix data server, OAT is a full-functioning, web-based administration tool designed exclusively for Informix data servers. OAT has a range of features catering to a variety of database-accessing roles, including application developers, administrators, and end users. OAT can be used to easily monitor vital server information remotely from around the globe, making it an integrated administration interface for all Informix operations.

Informix 12.1 includes OAT 3.11, which is designed for and intended to work together with the new Informix 12.1 functionality. OAT incorporates support for IWA, providing management of the accelerators and data marts. OAT 3.11 features a new dashboard that lets users create and customize OAT home screens to graphically display the status of single or multiple servers defined together as an OAT group. OAT also provides additional graphical status information in the form of “heat” maps showing usage of the server’s extents and buffer pool consumption. In addition, OAT now supports user access beyond the restricted informix userid, which aids enterprise security management and auditing.

OAT 3.11 also includes a free application that provides database status and alert information to smartphones. DBAs who are on the go can access important data to help keep their enterprises running smoothly.

Informix 12.1 continues the long Informix tradition of high performance, rock-solid reliability, increased availability, and extremely low maintenance. This release shows once again that Informix is a database that can provide significant TCO benefits. It should be a strong option for your enterprise.

Please let us know in the comments if you have any questions about this new release!

 

Resources

Please visit ibm.com/informix  for more information about Informix 12.1—including feature highlights, trials and downloads, and kickoff video presentations.

To read the full Informix 12.1 product announcement, click here.

For Informix 12.1 Information Center product documentation, click here.

For Informix 12.1 system requirements, click here.

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Joseph Veleeparambil

Joseph Veleeparambil is a senior manager with IBM Informix development organization. For more information, go to ibm.com/software/data/informix.

Shawn Moe

Shawn Moe is a software architect at IBM, focusing on user interface modernization, SQL compatibility, application development, and tooling support for the Informix database servers. For more information, go to ibm.com/software/data/informix.