Free DBs Put SQL '05 in 'Check'

The latest moves and counter moves among the three major database players--IBM, Oracle and Microsoft--look like a three-way game of chess.

The latest moves and counter moves among the three major database players — IBM, Oracle and Microsoft — look like a three-way game of chess. The most recent plays have been by IBM and Oracle. IBM has released for deployment DB2 UDB Express-C. This free version is DB2 minus five top-end features, including Query Patrol and NetSearch Extender. IBM is serious about this edition, allowing unlimited users up to 4 GB of memory and two dual-core chips in 32- or 64-bit editions, running on Windows and Linux distributions. IBM has a free developers' support forum plus fee-based support services for Express-C. And when DB2 Viper edition debuts this summer with native XML and performance-tuning capabilities, there will be an Express-C version. In chess terms, this is IBM saying "Check!" to Oracle's open-source acquisitions, InnoDB and Sleepy Cat, and Microsoft's free BI stack for SQL Server 2005.

Oracle is betting that free distribution of its database and application server development stack through the Oracle Technical Network will stalemate IBM's freebies. Both IBM and Oracle are wary of the power of open-source databases such as MySQL and Postgres, so they are assiduously courting the open-source constituency with strong support for PHP, Perl, Python and most Linux flavors for their free databases.

Both vendors are putting pressure on Microsoft's SQL Server 2005. With Microsoft giving away a complete BI stack (ETL, Data Mining, OLAP Server, and so on), Redmond has to recoup its costs with SQL Server licensing fees, which are competitive with fees for IBM and Oracle DBs on Windows. IBM and Oracle also have added BI giveaways to their free databases, so Microsoft appears to have little room to move. Or, is there wiggle room with the free database to be offered in the new Vista OS? Perhaps Microsoft will be the next player to call "Check!"

— Jacques Surveyer