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In the opening salvo of a competitive marketing campaign, Sybase announced last Wednesday the release of an Express Edition of its flagship enterprise database product, Adaptive Server Enterprise, for the Linux community.

This is great news for web developers of all stripes as it is the only free robust database on the marketplace with full support for ANSI compliance for SQL, full-featured stored procedures and triggers and hooks for Java, .Net and XML among other web services.

Clearly Sybase is not open source. However, many web professionals suffice with MySQL and PostgreSQL, which I endorse myself as excellent production tools. However, both have lagged in bringing features to the same level as proprietary competitors. Being that Sybase is offering the free database server for production — I would encourage developers to evaluate it (after all it does not cost you anything!). To our benefit, we may find that it raises the bar and encourages speedier development of these anticipated functions from MySQL and others on the open source side.

Sybase competitors Oracle and IBM offer developer licenses, however, none provide a production license without cost. Sybase’s Express Edition has a 2 GB RAM and 5 GB disk database storage limit though that should be plenty of room for many web applications.

David Jacobson, senior director of database and tools marketing at Sybase, said the goal is to entice people to try ASE.

“We see our market in three segments, those running open source solutions, those on IBM and Oracle databases and those running Microsoft SQL Server,” Jacobson said.

“This is a way to help customers get a single CPU development and production server running as pilots,” Jacobson said, which should also help those with needs that exceed the free license limits evaluate ASE without cost.

This also has positive implications for those running the Macintosh platform due to the intersection of Linux and the PowerPC architecture courtesy of Terra Soft Solutions, makers of Yellow Dog Linux (YDL). Terra Soft recently released YDL 4.0, supporting the latest G5 systems from Apple.

Although Sybase guidelines suggest the Adaptive Server Enterprise (ASE) Express Edition install is certified for Intel-based Linux distributions, both OS X and Yellow Dog Linux on Apple hardware have the capability of meeting minimum requirements. Sybase’s commercial versions of ASE natively support OS X.

Apple platform users may find the Sybase solution workable with the G5 Xserve, which comes optimized for data-driven solutions, especially those built for the Web architecture.

The Xserve comes ready-made with LDAP, the Apache Web server and a JBoss/Tomcat combo of Java application servers, all engines that can interact with ASE.

Growth Potential:
Gartner DataQuest statistics show that Sybase reaped $90 million in license revenues in each of the Windows and Unix marketplaces in 2003. In the Linux sector, the company was dwarfed by IBM and Oracle, who together accounted for more than 95 percent of Linux database license revenues in 2003.

According to Amit Satoor, senior group marketing manager at Sybase, his company is setting itself apart from other free offerings via the aforementioned ANSI compliance and a roadmap to high availability capabilities.

It must be noted that MySQL recently released clustering technology, though it is not yet been a year and may be considered unproven.

Jacobson said Sybase will go head to head against its core competitors, IBM and Oracle, with aggressive pricing.

Roadmap to Real Time Data Services:
The Express Edition does not include support. Customers can purchase a service package, if needed, with the download for just over $2,000. Additionally, the company hopes it will draw in users who might grow and migrate to multiple CPU and cluster deployments.

This would expand capabilities to include mirror activator for redundancy and dynamic archiving to ease data access and storage management that can come into play when using multiple database servers.

Pricing for additional licensing beyond the Express Edition, which has 2 GB of memory and a 5 GB storage limit, starts at $4,995 per CPU for small business and $24,995 for enterprise licenses.

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