Debating the Open Source Future of IBM's DB2

Lora Bentley

Monday, along with news that Microsoft has stepped up to sponsor the Open Source Census, there were also stories speculating that IBM might consider open sourcing DB2. ZDNet UK reported:

While the computing giant has no immediate plans to open-source DB2, market conditions may make it unavoidable, according to Chris Livesey, IBM's UK director of information management software.

At the same time, however, Computerworld's Eric Lai said:

In an e-mail sent on Monday, an IBM spokeswoman wrote flatly: "IBM has no plans to open source DB2." She declined to comment further.

Not surprisingly, a debate of sorts has ensued in the blogosphere. Neither Matt Asay nor Matthew Aslett is surprised that IBM doesn't plan to open source its database offering. Asay's blog title says simply, "IBM won't open source DB2. Is this a surprise?" In short, he says IBM won't open source DB2 unless it needs to undermine Oracle's place in the market.


The 451 Group's Aslett goes into more detail in explaining his position, but his piece is similarly titled: "Open source DB2? I don't think so." He notes that IBM's statement (see above) is about as clear as it gets. Furthermore, he agrees with Asay that IBM has no business reason to open source the database. Big Blue is holding its own with Microsoft and Oracle as is, he says. Besides, when IBM does open source technology, "the company ... prefers where possible to sponsor, or build on top of, existing projects."


On the flip side, InfoWorld blogger Zack Urlocker has a different theory. Unlike Asay and Aslett, he has a dog in this fight. He works with MySQL, Sun Microsystems' open source competitor to DB2. Urlocker says:

Maybe this little statement from the UK was [in] a way a trial balloon, intended to test the reaction from customers and press in order to gain support internally to open source DB2. IBM's been a great contributor to open source, so this move makes a lot of sense. As I've said before, I think it's odd when a company says "Open source is great --but not for your database."

Who knows? Maybe DB2 will be the next proprietary database to go open source. Like Asay suggested, plans do change.

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