The last of the database giants is adapting to the demands of all-you-can-eat, no-money-down, open-source code, with IBM set to roll out a freebie DB2 version on Jan. 30.
DB2 Universal Database Express-C (Community Edition) will offer the same core DB2 server, but in a smaller package, designed for application embedding as well as software development, deployment and redistribution.
Consistent with DB2, Express-C will have no limit on number of users and no limit on database size. Its deployable on up to two processing cores and up to two dual-core chips on x86 systems. The memory maximum size is 4GB.
To fan the flames of quick uptake, IBM is setting up a new public forum on developerWorks, with optional for-fee support offered by IBM as well. IBM is also setting up a DB2 Express community team to nurture the community.
Of course, the initial take on IBMs move will be that its got to stay competitive with free offerings from its competitors.
Microsoft was the first of the big-database triumvirate to offer a free version. In June 2004, it introduced SQL Server 2005 Express Edition. SQL Server Express can use only a single CPU, limits database size to 4GB and supports a maximum of only 1GB of memory.
Oracle followed in October with Oracle Database 10g Express. Like Microsofts freebie, Oracles XE version is limited to one processor in a multiprocessor box and can store up to 4GB of physical user data.
Its memory is limited to 1GB, and users are allowed only one instance of XE on any one server.
Up until now, the most comparable IBM offering has been the Personal Edition of DB2 Universal Database V8.2, which has been available for $369.
The freebie versions have multiple aims. The database titans are trying to arm themselves against the growing popularity of cheaper, increasingly more agile and robust open-source databases.
Theyre also out to make developers of low-end applications more familiar with their respective databases, hoping that students and such developers will move up the chain to their meat-and-potatoes editions as their needs, experience and familiarity with the databases grow.
Bernie Spang, director of IBMs Data Servers division, told eWEEK in an interview that IBM isnt playing catch-up with competitors so much as getting in the game to compete with open-source databases.
"Id say that IBM, Microsoft and Oracle are motivated by the same realization," he said.
"And that is the realization that the open-source and free data servers have demonstrated that theres a much higher volume of application developers that will take advantage of a data server as part of their solution.
"Youre seeing us better addressing the needs of that set of developers."
Spang said that DB2 is ideally situated to help the developers out by offering the capabilities theyre looking for, such as security and reliability.
He pointed to DB2s autonomic capabilities and its self-managing and self-optimizing capabilities, which make it easier to operate and maintain and to get greater efficiencies from systems and from application performance.
Spang also said that the coming of Viper, IBMs next-generation hybrid relational/XML database, will give the open-source community even more capabilities than theyve been used to.
"Were making DB2 more accessible to "the LAMP (Linux/Apache/MySQL/PHP-Perl) community of users," Spang said. "This gets exciting as we update DB2 Express later this year with the DB2 Viper update. It will include the industrys first hybrid data server, serving both relational and nonrelational data structures.
"Thats big in a world thats heavily XML-dominated," he said.
What the Viper version of Express-C means is that application developers that are building applications in the new world of services, using XML standards, will experience performance improvements that will set their deployments apart, Spang said, with improved development time, simplicity and cost savings.
The launch of DB2 Express-C will be paired with announcements from four or five partners, Spang said. Novell, for one, was quoted in IBMs release as saying that it plans to bring to market "compelling solutions" based on DB2 Express-C and its distribution of SuSE Linux.