Update: IBM donates Cloudscape to the ASF

IBM relational database joins ranks of open source Ingres, MySQL

SAN FRANCISCO -- Hoping to accelerate the delivery of more innovative Java-based applications to market, IBM on Tuesday at LinuxWorld Conference announced along with the Apache Software Foundation (ASF), plans to donate its Cloudscape relational database to the open source community.

Cloudscape, which IBM acquired when it bought Informix Software, has only a 2MB footprint and can be fully deployed in a range of embedded applications. Company officials hope this will result in new applications areas for itself and the open source community at large, particularly among smaller and medium-size businesses.

"The whole idea behind this decision is to help spur innovation around Java which will result in better applications for users, help out our business partners in piecing together open source-based solutions, and help IBM with its software initiatives," said Janet Perna, general manager of IBM's Data Management Software group in a press conference Tuesday morning.

IBM has plans to deliver products targeted at both small and medium size companies as well as corporate accounts but declined to say when such applications would be finished. The company will not charge for the products but will charge for service and support. She said the Cloudscape technology is currently embedded in more than 70 IBM software products.

Once the ASF is formally approved by the ASF and has gained community acceptance, IBM plans to base its IBM Cloudscape offering on the same technology as the Apache code.

IBM has made the code available to ASF under the ASF corporate contributor license grant. The project will begin life under the Apache Incubator for several months or more, which ensures the half million lines of code conforms to its standards for licensing and code integrity. It will also over see the development of a development community.

"At ASF community is very important. We will be responsible for building a large and committed community around Cloudscape. It will be in the Incubator Program for six or eight months and if all goes well will then become an official Apache project," said Greg Stein, chairman of the ASF. "We think this is a big step forward in providing a turnkey data base solution to Java developers," he said.

Present at Tuesday's announcement to show their support were officials from Red Hat and Novell/SuSE. Also showing support were two other ranking Linux distributors, Turbolinux and Red Flag.

Analyst Stephen O'Grady, of RedMonk LLC, said Cloudscape addresses an area of the database market that lacks a clear technology leader. He doesn't see it displacing robust software such as MySQL; rather, he sees Cloudscape as an alternative to lightweight products like HSQL (Hypersonic SQL) and Sleepycat Software Inc.'s Berkeley database.

"I would not anticipate anytime soon that we'll see the traction behind this that we see behind something like MySQL, but on the other hand, I don't think you have to," O'Grady said. "The opportunity is there to pick up some substantial users."

Cloudscape is already in use by several of IBM's business partners, including Akamai Technologies Inc., which incorporates the database in its caching technology.

It also lives on from its Informix days in several customer deployments. Mercy Ships, an Garden Valley, Texas-based charity that operates hospital ships around the world, has used Cloudscape for years as a foundation of its IT infrastructure. Chief Technology Officer Kelvin Burton said he's unsure how IBM's open-sourcing of the software will affect his organization. Mercy Ships is already paying minimal fees for maintenance and support of the software, so having the code available for free is unlikely to affect the organization.

The main development advance Mercy Ships is waiting for on Cloudscape is synchronization functionality, an improvement IBM has been working to build into DB2 Everyplace Sync Server. After IBM acquired Informix, it continued Cloudscape's development but stripped a number of its features, like client/server synchronization, according to Burton. Mercy Ships has been stuck on an older version of Cloudscape while it waits for IBM to rebuild some of that functionality, he said.

"Assuming they finish that project and don't abandon it, we'll jump to the current version of Cloudscape," Burton said. "This move (to open source) is an interesting one. I guess time will tell where it leads."

IBM rival Computer Associates International Inc. also released one of its database products, Ingres, into the open source community earlier this year. Fresh off its SuSE Linux purchase, Novell Inc. is transitioning toward a business model emphasizing open-source products, while even GPL (General Public License) arch-nemesis Microsoft Inc. has quietly released a few of its technologies under open-source licenses.

RedMonk's O'Grady said he sees different motives and circumstances driving the various companies' open-source releases, but one widespread influence is the growing recognition that for a product on which development has stagnated, companies can benefit by tapping community resources.

In the case of Cloudscape, a product that gets heavy use internally at IBM, releasing it as open source can help extend IBM's technology stack throughout the developer community, O'Grady said. He also sees political gain in the move: "IBM needs to keep donating to the community to keep up the goodwill. That's true of any company that wants to make a big commitment to open source."

IBM plans to release a commercial version of Cloudscape later this year, which it said it will base on the Apache code. IBM expects its Cloudscape code to be available at the Apache.org Web site within the next few weeks.

Copyright © 2004 IDG Communications, Inc.

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