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IBM picks open-source in Oracle database fight

Compatibility is a company called EnterpriseDB

hands waving dollar bills in the air

IBM is licensing technology from an open-source database company it's invested in, hoping to convince Oracle customers they should switch to its next DB2.

The giant has licensed capabilities in five-year-old EnterpriseDB's Postgres Plus Advanced Server, which EnterpriseDB claims will cut by 90 per cent the cost of moving off Oracle. The technology is expected to appear in the next version of DB2, version 9.7, to be announced today.

EnterpriseDB's Postgres Plus Advanced Server provides compatibility with Oracle's PL/SQL on Postgres, simplifying the migrations of application and customer data off of Oracle and on to the open-source database.

IBM's licensing reveals a subtle shift in tactics by the company. It is moving from competing outright for Postgres and MySQL customers, to working with EnterpriseDB to harness Postgres in a way that can help erode the market share of leader - Oracle.

Until now, IBM has used cut-down or free versions of DB2 - DB2 Express and Express-C on Windows and Linux - to woo potential Postgres customers and users of Sun Microsystems' MySQL.

The news, or course, comes as Oracle is set to ramp up the database competition on all fronts with its planned purchase of MySQL through the Sun deal.

EnterpriseDB's chief executive Ed Boyajian told The Register the joint IBM announcement was not timed to coincide with the Sun/Oracle news, but that the companies have a long-running history of partnership and investment. IBM has previously participated in a $10m round of Series-C venture-capital funding for EntepriseDB.

Boyajian would not reveal precisely what parts of Postgres Plus Advanced Server IBM licensed or whether EnterpriseDB licensed any DB2 technologies. Neither is it clear if the licensing was a condition of the $10m funding.

Timing and terms aside, Boyajian is optimistic about the potential for success for IBM and EnterpriseDB in winning database business from current and prospective MySQL customers and also Oracle database customers in the wake of Oracle's purchase of Sun.

A former Red Hat executive, Boyajian said he'd had a surge in interest from Red Hat channel partners in the 24 hours since the deal was announced. Oracle has tried to break Red Hat through its Unbreakable Linux support service. Channel partners that would have used MySQL will now be looking for alternatives.

One of the primary drivers for customers in moving from Oracle has been the price. It's considered expensive. Also customers are worried about relying on a single vendor for their IT needs. The battle among developers over which database is better - MySQL versus Postgres - is timeless.

The IBM licensing agreement at least means customers get the ability to start with Postgres and move to DB2 for mission-critical apps in the data center where you or your organization uses - or has considered using - Oracle and where EnterpriseDB has still to prove itself.

EnterpriseDB does have some large users, and IBM cites Sony's Freerealms.com as supporting "very large" databases and thousands of transactions. Like other database start-ups, though, it's faced the predictable hurdle in breaking into enterprise computing, as customers query its scalability, performance, reliability and portability of applications and data.

"For existing MySQL and prospective MySQL customers if there's any hesitation about getting caught up in the Oracle vortex, it's a perfect time to consider Postgres," Boyajian said of Oracle's proposed Sun purchase.

EnterpriseDB claims it can save customers money through the re-use of existing skills and applications and data and by providing flexibility on deployment. Postgres Plus Advanced Server supports Oracle Database data types, SQL syntax and semantics, functions, and built-in packages, Oracle's PL/SQL stored procedure language and packages, and the Oracle Database call interface for application developers. ®

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