September 9, 2004

Sybase releases free top-of-the-line database for Linux systems

Author: Chris Preimesberger

Dublin, Calif.-based Sybase, the veteran IT company best known for PowerBuilder and a score of middleware products, has joined a growing list of companies in releasing open source databases and other software to lure more customers to their premium products. To the company's credit, it is not releasing a second-hand piece of software, as IBM did last month with Cloudscape, a leftover from the Informix catalog.

The download of Adaptive Server Enterprise (ASE) Express Edition for Linux is actual free software -- not a limited trial version or a donation to the open source community. It is simply designed to bring attention to Sybase (which hasn't made a lot of news lately) and to entice users to consider upgrading to a more powerful product sometime in the future. ASE is a full-featured version of its flagship database with restrictions placed on RAM (2GB) and disk storage space (5 GB). A company can download as many copies of the DB as it wants, however. The special Sybase license is a perpetual one, David Jacobson, Sybase's senior director of database and tools marketing, told NewsForge.

Flagship product has 40K installations

"This is our flagship product, the result of 20 years of development," Jacobson said. "We have more than 40,000 installations. This is not a second- or third-tier product, unlike some of the others that have come out recently. It has all the latest features of the databases we sell to AT&T, AOL (to run email), and Merrill Lynch (stock transactions)."

ASE will run on any "major" Linux distro, Jacobson said, including Red Hat, SUSE, TurboLinux, and others. "It should run on most distributions, but I can't say that for sure. There are so many," he said.

ASE is designed to compete directly with Microsoft's SQL Server, the open source MySQL and Sleepycat Berkeley databases, IBM's DB2, and Oracle, Jacobson said.

Sybase is the latest software vendor to release free or open source software recently. BEA, with its Workshop toolkit, and Computer Associates, with its Ingres database, also joined the list of seasoned companies not formerly associated with open source or free software to release free major offerings in the last few months.

"A lot of IT shops are finding that buying and maintaining IBM or Oracle databases is just too expensive," Jacobson said. "And shops are paying more to their DBAs, meaning they don't have a lot left for buying software."

Support does take some investment

While the database itself is free, the support is not. A year's worth of full support will cost $2,200.

"We're not seeing a big demand for that [tech support]," Jacobson said. "We understand that budgets for this aren't always there. Customers just want to plug this in and go to work. That's what it's designed to do."

The main differences between the free ASE DB and the premium Sybase enterprise database edition are the "high availability and high-replication features that most smaller and mid-size shops don't really need when they're just starting out," Jacobson said.

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