Open Source database has gotten a real jolt in the past few days and months with IBM releasing to the Apache Foundation its pure Java, embeddable database – Cloudscape – while CA has open sourced its Ingres database and has added a kicker of $1.0 million in total prizes for creating migration software that gets users from each one of Oracle, DB2, SQL Server, Sybase and MySQL databases to Ingres.

And earlier this year, Sleepycat software made available a pure Java version of its embeddable database while the Firebird open source version of Interbase saw major updates. Finally, MySQL added the old SAP DB to its Open Source database portfolio while releasing clustering capabilities and taking on $16 million in venture capital financing.

Lots happening in the Open Source database world. And funny enough, its not all altruistic. We have argued before here that there are database applications just waiting to burst out all over the place and be harvested. Three problems for the traditional solutions like Oracle, DB2, and SQLServer are that the footprint is too large, the enterprise level features too cumbersome, and the costs per seat too high. Open Source databases change that dramatically as the success of MySQL as the “M” in LAMP has proven. Low cost, low footprint but SQL standard, robust, but lightweight databases have a real attraction not just in Open Source but broad IT development.

Hence, the more than altruism. IBM stands to gain from releasing Cloudscape because it was a non-starter against MySQL, SQLAnywhere, SleepyCat and others in the lite database markets. But as Java Open Source from Apache it has instant credibility. And IBM has insured that Cloudscape is highly compatible/interoperable with DB2. So when Clouscape becomes too small, the logical upgrade move is to DB2. Ditto for Ingres except the beneficiary is the range of CA database support utilities.

And so this is a large part of the motivation behind the altruism. Let the limited capability/obsolete code Open Sourcers harvest the database apps. Then those DBMS that matter – those that get big and/or demand high reliability/security and/or require complex transactions/messaging – those are the bread and butter database apps which IBM, Oracle, Sybase will be only to happy to provide an enterprise-caliber upgrade path to.

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