Big Blue Hops on Free-Database Bandwagon

In a move to keep up with the competition, IBM on Monday introduced a free version of its DB2 database product. Big Blue hopes to win the favor of more software developers in smaller companies and projects.

The “express” version provides the same core data server features as DB2 Universal Database Express Edition. That means developers can work from bases including C/C++, Java, .NET, PHP and others to build and deploy all applications.

Dubbed DB2 Express-C, IBM is making the software available to its customers, developers and partners as a free download from its developer community site.

IBM is also making free community support for the database available through a public forum on developerWorks, Big Blue’s resource for developers. Those who purchase IBM’s license-based Express edition get a fully warranted license and 24/7 customer support, along with extra features and extended tools.

A Free DB Trend?

Oracle led the way on the free database trend, releasing a gratis version of its 10g database during October. Microsoft followed suit with complimentary downloads of its SQL Server database in November.

The free-database trend marks a recognition by top-tier vendors that databases are becoming increasingly important at the lower end of the market.

The natural evolution of IT over the last 30 years has seen adoption of cutting-edge solutions at the enterprise level first. Then as hardware and software spurs cost-savings, mid-range and smaller businesses begin to adopt the technology. The same is true with databases, said Charles King,Principal Analyst for Pund-IT.

“Microsoft, through the proliferation of Windows, has been the conventional vendor that most of those businesses turn to. Microsoft has done pretty well at it. New generations of hardware and software are really opening up that market to IBM and to Oracle as well,” King told TechNewsWorld.

Open Source Fueling Trend

What’s more, the growing adoption of open-source databases like MySQL, Postgres and Ingres are helping to fuel the free-database trend. Oracle, IBM and Microsoft are making what some see as necessary moves in the open-source era.

“One way to entice people away from solutions they’ve used is to go to market with a good quality product,” King said. “You also create a low-cost or no-cost system that people can experiment with. More importantly, you offer a platform that offers very low entry-level expenses for developers tostart playing with.”

Catering to Small Businesses

IBM has done all of these things, King said. The goal now is to get developers to experiment with DB2 so they will migrate from open-source or proprietary solutions, or purchase a database system for the first time.

Moving out with the Express line is a smart strategy because it targets the small- to mid-sized market, King said. IBM’s Express offerings have been well received in the marketplace.

“In the last several years IBM has stepped up its focus on the SMB space. There are a lot of natural affinities there with the IBM iSeries platform. It is a very well regarded SMB platform,” King said. “This initiative should also play well with the company’s Linux offerings. I see potentialopportunities there.”

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