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Sun Embraces Derby Database, An IBM-Sponsored Open-Source Initiative

Sun will add Derby to its Java Enterprise System, allowing developers to embed the Java relational database within applications
Sun Microsystems Inc. has looked with a jaundiced eye on IBM's open source initiatives in the past. This time around, it is adopting an open source database system that comes from IBM.

Sun is adding the Apache Software Foundation's Derby, a lightweight, Java relational database system, to its Java Enterprise System. Derby has a small footprint and is easy to embed in applications, allowing it to capture data and keep it readily accessible without relying on an outside database. Key parts of the Java Enterprise System, such as the Directory Server and Identity Manager, would benefit if from an embedded database.

In addition, Derby will be available as a database for developers working on Java applications using the NetBeans integrated development environment 5.0.

Derby "is a great fit for Java developers," says Sun's John Loiacono, senior VP for software. For that reason, Sun has been supporting its ongoing development as an Apache open source project, alongside IBM. Sun counts 30 contributors to Derby from within its developer ranks, Loiacono says.

Sun recently announced it was in the process of making all elements of the Java Enterprise System open source code. Its middleware, unlike IBM's WebSphere or Oracle Corp.s Fusion, lacked a tailored database engine to go with the suite. Sun has previously announced that PostGres, an open source database with transaction processing features, would work with its software. Derby, with Sun support, works inside its enterprise suite.

IBM still sells its own version of Derby's predecessor, Cloudscape, at $499 with a year's support.

Derby began in 1997 as the Java database engine of the Cloudscape start-up. Cloudscape was acquired by the former Informix Software. IBM obtained Cloudscape when it acquired Informix in 2001. In 2004, IBM announced that Cloudscape was finding favor among its own programmers and it was contributing its source code to the Apache Foundation, where an open source project would be started around it.

Sun has stayed apart from another IBM open source initiative, the Eclipse programmers workbench. The workbench accepts Java tools from a variety of vendors and let's them act as workbench plug-ins, exchanging files with each other. Sun fields its own selection of tools from NetBeans and Forte, now known as the Java Enterprise Studio.