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8/20/2004
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CA, IBM Open-Source Moves Not Equal

Computer Associates and IBM are relinquishing database products to the open-source community. Which company will benefit more from this "generosity"?

Computer Associates and IBM are turning major products over to the open-source community. CA is letting go of its Ingres r3 database technology, offering it up to the masses under its own CA Trusted Open Source License (CATOSL). IBM intends to donate more than half a million lines of code from Cloudscape, its Java-based database, to the open-source Apache Software Foundation.

IBM is giving up Cloudscape because it wants to encourage more development of Java-based applications. CA, on the other hand, is hoping to harness the power of thousands of open-source developers to breathe new life into its moribund database technology. The CA approach is becoming a popular strategy for software vendors: Release a product with a variant of an open-source license, encourage developers to improve and enhance it, then sell the "commercial" version of the software and reap the benefits of the lower-cost development cycle.

In the big scheme of things, the release of Ingres to the open-source community is hardly earth-shattering. SAP open-sourced its database more than two years ago, and between MySQL and Postgres, the "free" database market is already well-established. But the move brings publicity to CA, as well as a $1 million reward for the development of the best toolkit enabling data migration from other database systems to Ingres r3. That's one way to try to recapture a piece of the market, and it may encourage development that would not otherwise have occurred. These days, Ingres is rarely supported by independent software vendors; its glory days as an enterprise-class RDBMS are long gone, having been supplanted by the likes of Oracle, IBM and Microsoft.

While CA's move is manipulative, IBM's strategy is competitive. Java developers will benefit from the availability of an open-source, embeddable database such as Cloudscape, and IBM's willingness to turn over the code shows a strong commitment to open source. Still, it isn't apparent how IBM thinks this move will encourage development of applications for its WebSphere application server.

Cloudscape, which will become Derby as part of the Apache Software Foundation's growing portfolio of open-source products, will get much wider acceptance and use than Ingres. SAP's experience with SAPDB already has shown us that the open-source community can't be pushed or bribed into embracing a technology it doesn't need. --Lori MacVittie

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