So IBM finally showed some signs of life in the distributed space when it offered DB2 Express-C as a free download.
As I noted in a previous column, IBM desperately needed to shake up the status quo in the Unix, Windows and Linux database market. Bless them if they didnt finally make a move.
Now many will say that this move by IBM is not a big story when you consider that Microsoft (MSDE, SQL Server 2005 Express), Sybase (ASE express), Oracle (10g Express) already beat them to it, in some cases by several years.
By the way, how did every marketing person on the planet come up with the same name? Why did they all chose "express"? How about "free," "cheap" or "crippled"? Its probably because marketing and truth are concepts with only a tangential relationship at best. In any case, I believe this announcement is a very big deal.
While virtually every other commercial database vendor offers a free version today, all of them have some sort of severe limitation. Most are intended solely for developers with the thought that if you win their hearts and minds, you win the database war. All of this is true to a point.
However, what makes the DB2 Express-C announcement so important is that it provides not only a development platform, but also a deployment platform. This in my opinion is a huge differentiator.
With a limitation of two processors or four cores, IBM has touched upon a growing sweet spot for database applications. Consider that a two-processor x86 server today is more powerful than an eight-way RISC server was in 2001.
This means that more and more database applications could easily run their workloads on a current-generation two-processor box. With no limitations on users and database size, DB2 Express-C could realistically fill the production needs of as many as 50 percent of current database workloads. That, my friends, makes this significant.
This move places additional pressure on the other commercial vendors to meet this new standard. Of course they will wait to see if this move pays dividends for IBM in terms of market share. Theres no sense giving it away if DB2 on Windows and Linux remains a distant third.
IBM is pulling out all the stops however. Their DB2 Express-C download site offers some good supporting materials to help people get started. They have done the leg work, getting partners to announce the usage and bundling of DB2 Express-C.
I think the timing is significant as well. Oracle has been struggling to find a licensing model that fits todays multicore world. They have tried 75 percent solutions and 25 percent solutions for certain processors.