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Sybase Offering Flagship Database For Linux

Officials at Sybase are jumping on the database giveaway bandwagon with an offering tailored to the Linux community.

Unlike similar moves from IBM with its Cloudscape and Computer Associates Ingres, the free download of Sybase's Adaptive Server Enterprise (ASE) Express Edition for Linux isn't an open source donation, officials said. Rather, it's a full-featured version of its flagship database with restrictions placed on its ability.

"[IBM and CA] are open sourcing their databases and those are databases that they've acquired over the years that have not been met with the same level of endorsement that their other products are; this is our flagship product, it represents the latest technology, the latest investments," said David Jacobsen, Sybase senior director of database and tools marketing.

ASE Express Edition for Linux is limited to one CPU , 5 GB of storage and 2 GB of RAM. Support for the software, however, runs $2,200 a year for customers. Since it's a full-featured, limited scope version of its current ASE product line, officials said customers won't have to worry about migration costs if they decide later to buy an enterprise-grade database down the road. All that's required is ASE Enterprise Edition or Small Business license in order to unlock the upgraded capabilities.

Jacobsen said that while an open source version of ASE under the GPL or another type of open source license would be a popular move among Linux developers, the fact is that many small- to medium-sized businesses (SMB) just want a working database to plug into the network without an inordinate amount of tweaking required.

While it's easy to compare Sybase's database giveaway as a knee-jerk reaction to the IBM and CA announcements last month, the Dublin, Calif., company's real target is Microsoft and its SQL Server Express, a scaled down version of its anticipated SQL Server 2005 due out next year. Like Sybase's offering, SQL Server Express will be free, run off one CPU and handle a 4 GB database.

Noel Yuhanna, an analyst at Forrester Research, said Sybase has a slight edge over Microsoft's upcoming offering if only because of the 1 GB extra database capacity. He said ASE's multi-platform capability -- as opposed to SQL Server Express, which is designed to run in a .NET environment -- is also enough to give Sybase some bounce in the database industry, where it's lost some ground in recent years.

He also doesn't expect the database's limitation of one CPU per license as a hindrance to adoption with many Linux enterprises; Yuhanna finds that 80 percent of Linux-based SMBs use one CPU to run their databases. The only issue, however, is the limited amount of database capacity.

"Typically, we see the average database as being anywhere between 10-20 GB in size for open source databases and I think that if they increase the size to 50 GB or so, it would definitely make [ASE Express Edition for Linux] attractive for customers to look at Sybase," he said. "But 5 GB might just be too small to make it really attractive."

When asked about modifying Sybase's database capacity, Jacobsen had this to say: "We understand Noel's thoughts regarding certain customers that may require more than 5GB," he stated in an e-mail. "Our early discussions with customers say that 5GB will be acceptable for the majority of the current market, but we will certainly continue to monitor customer needs, and respond when the time is necessary."

Users can download Sybase's ASE Express Edition for Linux here.