IBM and Computer Associates made the best moves they could this week to revitalize the use of relational database technology that would otherwise just languish on the market, according to analysts.
IBM disclosed at LinuxWorld in San Francisco that it is giving the open-source software development community access to its Cloudscape relational database by donating the code to the Apache Software Foundation. This will allow open-source software developers to embed the Cloudscape code into their applications.
On the heels of open-sourcing its Ingres database, Computer Associates International Inc. announced a contest with a $1 million prize to encourage open-source developers to create tools that will enable users to migrate applications off of major enterprise databases and onto Ingres.
Such moves likely represent the only way to keep these high-quality databases from fading entirely from the enterprise software market, analysts said.
Both IBM and CA have presented Cloudscape and Ingres to the open-source community because neither of them were generating a lot of revenue from them as commercial software products, said Noel Yuhanna, a senior analyst with Forrester Research in Cambridge, Mass.
CAs tools contest is basically a “marketing stunt” to remind developers that “Ingres is another relational database that enterprises should seriously look at,” Yuhanna said. “Ingres has been a good database,” but its use has faded in the enterprise market as a result of competition from IBMs DB2, Oracle and Microsoft SQL Server relational databases.
“These are products that have never taken off—products that dont have a very good adoption rate,” he said. “Getting these databases into open source will perhaps trigger some greater adoption of these products.
“Ingres has good features and functionality that give them an edge over MySQL, which is now the dominant player in the open-source community,” Yuhanna said. The contest gives open-source developers incentive to check out these advantages, he said.
IBM will benefit from the Cloudscape donation to the Apache Software Foundation by helping to support and expand the Java database community, said Janet Perna, general manager of IBM Data Management Solutions, in Armonk, N.Y.
The donation of more than 500,000 lines of Cloudscape code “would fill a gap in the applications development area for an embedded database,” which is something the Java community has needed for a long time, Perna said.
This in turn will likely provide business opportunities for WebSphere and DB2 because the Cloudscape code is compatible with DB2, she said. This would allow Java developers to link Cloudscape applications to DB2 whenever they need to access an enterprise-scale relational database, Perna noted.
Cloudscape, donated to Apache under its current product name, “Derby,” is particularly valuable to developers who need to build registries or directories into their applications, Perna said.
Cloudscape also will help provide new incentives for Java enterprise applications development, said Ken Coar, an IBM senior software engineer and an Apache Software Foundation vice president.
“Java is not considered to be the choice in terms of performance” in the database area,” Coar said. “Cloudscape will give the lie to that image” because it is a “very efficient and lightweight environment” that is built as a set of Java classes.
It has all of the features expected in an enterprise database, including support for the SQL 92 standard with support for transaction triggers and two-phase commit functionality, which are essential for reliable transaction processing, Coar said. Cloudscape essentially provides “high-end data processing brought to the low end,” he said.
With Cloudscape, Apache and the open-source community received these blessings: the biggest chunk of code released so far; the first relational, embeddable Java open-source database; and reason for a lot of open-source developers to be very happy.
“Are we excited? Yes,” said Greg Stein, chairman of the Apache Software Foundation. “[Cloudscape] makes it very easy to deploy certain types of applications in the low- to midrange type of database, which is not satisfied by anything else in the open-source community today.
“By donating that code to Apache, a lot of people needing that functionality can now get it, and under the Apache license, which is a very nice license to work with, any user—[be they] hobbyist or commercial entity—can use it.”
Stein said the open-source community has lacked a fully featured Java database and instead has relied on connections to MySQL, IBM DB2 or Oracle Corp. databases.
“Whats interesting in this one is its embeddable into your Java application,” said Stein, in Palo Alto, Calif. “You dont have to connect to a separate server.”
That will make it easier to deploy applications based on a Java code package, Stein said. “It makes it a lot easier to build and deliver systems based on this code, compared to a classic database like Oracle or DB2,” he said.
In particular, the fact that Cloudscape is an embedded relational Java database makes it superior to comparable embedded databases such as the one from Sleepycat Software Inc., Stein said. “This one really brings the full functionality of a relational database embeddable into Java applications,” he said.
Stein foresees Cloudscape being used in small to midrange applications where ease of deployment is of concern. It will be usable both on clients and on servers, since its embeddable and can be incorporated into client applications.
“Theres certainly going to be a lot of hobbyist activity, [plus] some commercial activity around people wanting to incorporate this into some lightweight applications,” he said.
The code will be sequestered in the Apache incubator project until the foundation determines that it has all property rights to the code and that it has been granted the right license to use it, to relicense it and to further develop it.
After that, the incubators role is to build the community around the new code base. Thats to ensure that the project outlives any individual contributor, whether its an individual developer or a group of developers assigned by a corporation such as IBM.
“One thing about Apache Software Foundation is we want to have communities set up around each of our projects,” Stein said. “We want to make sure theres a large group of people actively involved with the project, supporting it and continuing work, so the project has long-term viability.”
IBM pitched Cloudscapes release as an altruistic move, and its high regard in the open-source community helps bolster that pitch, regardless of how IBM might benefit from disrupted market. Specifically, analysts point to potential victims as being Microsoft Corp. with its technology stack and/or Sun Microsystems Inc. in the realm of Java.
“IBM has been quite good about ensuring that they work with the community as opposed to trying to manage it or take over existing communities,” Stein said. “Theyre very much just another developer in the community, which is something we like to see at Apache: a meeting of equals as opposed to a meeting of leaders and underlings. We like everybody to be equal.”