IBM won't open source DB2. Is this a surprise?

IBM won't open source DB2...until it makes strategic sense to do so. That is, when it pulls down its competitors' revenue, not its own.

When I first saw ZDNet reporting that IBM may open source its DB2 database, I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop. The comment that led to the report? "We have a light version of the product offered for free, which is a step towards exposing our core (DB2) technology." This was made by a UK-based director-level IBMer, which probably wouldn't be the person one would expect to reveal Big Blue's plans to open source core technology.

Regardless, IBM isn't in the habit of open sourcing technology in which it has a lead or at least a strong position, such as it does with DB2. IBM strategically invests in open source to undermine the margins of its competitors, not its own.

It was therefore no surprise to see IBM quickly follow up ZDNet's article with a blunt statement: "IBM has no plans to open source DB2."

Of course it doesn't. Not yet, anyway. It's only when IBM derives no direct, pecuniary incentive in monetizing DB2. The day that it needs DB2 to undermine Oracle's database, however, we may see IBM making a similarly bald the other direction.

Tech Culture
About the author

    Matt Asay is chief operating officer at Canonical, the company behind the Ubuntu Linux operating system. Prior to Canonical, Matt was general manager of the Americas division and vice president of business development at Alfresco, an open-source applications company. Matt brings a decade of in-the-trenches open-source business and legal experience to The Open Road, with an emphasis on emerging open-source business strategies and opportunities. He is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not an employee of CNET. You can follow Matt on Twitter @mjasay.


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