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IBM offers annual support for free DB2

Contracts buy you clustering and replication too

High performance access to file storage

IBM is offering "low cost" 24x7 support contracts to users of the free version of DB2, called DB2 Express-C. As well as tech support, coughing up the readies allows users to hook up a second server for high-availability clustering or remote database replication.

The support contracts are available online at $2995 (around £1500) for 12 months. They also include upgrades, maintenance and quarterly service packs, called FixPaks.

Microsoft, Oracle and IBM all now offer free versions of their databases, as they attempt to stave off competition from open source offerings such as MySQL, which also offers optional support contracts (which IBM resells).

But all three come with usage limitations, as the vendors attempt to avoid cannibalising the sales of their full-fat products - for example, DB2 Express-C supports up to 4GB of main memory and two dual-core processors.

Once users and applications grow beyond those limitations, IBM hopes to move them onto DB2 9 Viper, its mainstream commercial data server which it touts as a seamless upgrade from the free version.

However, IBM does not limit the amount of data DB2 Express-C can store, and it claims that its freeware is more generous than either of its commercial rivals. "DB2 Express-C allows customers to take advantage of twice the processing power and four times the memory capacity allowed by Oracle and Microsoft for their no-charge offerings," the company said.

DB2 Express-C runs on both Windows and Linux, and on 32 and 64-bit systems, and in effect replaces IBM's open source Cloudscape database.

The company added that DB2 Express-C is now part of many Linux distributions, including Novell SUSE Linux and Red Hat Enterprise Linux, and claimed that over 300 software partners have begun integrating it into their open source-based solutions. ®

High performance access to file storage

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