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A tiny open source company is lining up to become the latest roadblock to database vendors happily charging enterprises fat software licenses.

High-availability specialist Terracotta is today expected to significantly expand the addressable market for its low-priced software appliance with support for IBM's WebSphere, WebSphere Community Edition and Java Development Kit (JDK). Terracotta will support session replication, virtual heaps and shared POJOs.

Also being added is support for Hibernate's object relational mapping for second-level caching and clustering of Hibernate-generated POJOs. Terracotta is also speeding ability to develop with streamlined grouping of read/write locks.

It's IBM's Java application server WebSphere and the Geronimo-based WebSphere Community Edition, purchased with open source start-up Gluecode in 2005, though, that are the big ones, thanks to IBM's number-one market share. Terracotta claims WebSphere, which follows support for BEA's WebLogic, JBoss and Tomcat, will increase its addressable market by up to 30 per cent.

"I can't tell you how many requests we had for this on the IBM JDK," chief executive Amit Pandey - previously a Network Appliance general manager - told The Register. "This lets you build a more scalable, high-availability application without doing the database abuse and custom coding in the application server itself."

That's a potential problem for database vendors like Oracle that advocate a fast database as a means to high availability, using a relational or in-memory system, and charging customers a beefy database license - Oracle Enterprise Edition starts at $40,000 per CPU. Terracotta costs between $4,000 and $10,000 per node per year and claims it can undercut the database approach by up to a fifth.

One customer subscribed to Terracotta for $200,000 rather than pay $1m in combined hardware and Oracle licensing. Four-year-old Terracotta has 20 customers in financial services (naming Goldman Sachs), telecoms and online gaming.

That could explain why Terracotta is adding support for WebSphere.

Terracotta is walking a fine line. On the one hand, it's appealing to application server and application vendors while potentially miffing those whose business relies on selling databases. That's a particular problem in middleware, as often that's one and the same company. Fortunately for Terracotta, IBM's business units - especially Global Services - are particularly adroit are working with software that competes with home-grown products in order to win business and grow IBM's overall revenue.

Formal partnerships with "unnamed" vendors are in the pipeline.

"The WebSphere guys and other application vendors should be pleased because we are enabling them to scale out more easily," Pandey said. "For the database guys - we are improving performance... it will depend on the relationship we strike up with them."

Terracotta's push follows Oracle purchase of in memory database specialist Tangosol. "The issue is Tangosol sits in the application layer and have an API so they end up slowing the performance of the application server layer," Pandey said.

Terracotta follows a growing line up of open source database start-ups that have tried, with varying degrees of success, to also challenge Oracle by undercutting the giant on price. Terracotta therefore promises to not just save customers money on licensing, but to also be faster on performance and simpler for developers to build high availability systems.

Terracotta runs on the JVM and places objects into a Sleepycat-based object relational - not a traditional data store - while Pandey claims the only limit on Terracotta's performance is allocation of memory in the physical server it's using. Terracotta, meanwhile, does not rely on a single vendor's programming API for applications, and instead uses an XML configuration file to allocate objects and data.®

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