I recently talked with Sybase CEO John Chen [watch the video] about a variety of subjects, including his notion of the "unwired enterprise," how the database business will evolve more toward an open source foundation, RFID, doing business in Asia, and reporting security vulnerabilities. Chen told me that Sybase is "attempting to change the open-source business model a little bit." Rather than open sourcing its software, however, Sybase has a free version of its high-end database for Linux that will only work on a single-processor machine, storing a maximum of 5GB of data and using a maximum of 2GB of RAM. It's a good way for Sybase to attract SMB customers, who may at some point upgrade to the fully-enabled, revenue generating version, but it's not freeing up the source code.
But, Chen admitted that five years out, it's very likely that some of Sybase's database products and middleware would be open sourced, and revenue would come from support and maintenance, as well as value-added options, such as handling unstructured data, search, EII, federated databases, analytics and compliance reporting. "It's Just at the beginning...open source is good for everyone...and allows some level of community building and standardiztion so everybody can add value if they know how to," Chen said. Regarding doing business in Asia, Chen cautioned, "If you do it right, there is a lot of good return for your shareholders and a huge market, and if you do it wrong could really kill your own value."