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Versant acquired the assets of the database software business of privately-held Servo Software, Inc. (formerly db4objects, Inc.)

by Roberto V. Zicari on December 22, 2008

You probably noticed a news in the object database market: On December 1, 2008 “Versant acquired the assets of the database software business of privately-held Servo Software, Inc. (formerly db4objects, Inc.)”.

What`s the meaning of this acquisition? I asked a few questions to
Robert Greene who is responsible for defining Versant’s overall object database strategy ….

Q1. What`s the meaning of this acquisition for Versant? db4o is an open source object database, but Versant had no open source strategy until now.

[RCG] This acquisition recognizes the value the db4objects team created, by bringing visibility to software developers, the relevance of object database technology in the software development toolkit.

Incidentally, this is not Versant’s first initiative in the open source space. In 2006, Versant open sourced a JDO/JPA based ORM driver and initiated an open source JPA project within Eclipse, at the time known as Eclipse JSR220-ORM. Eclipse had managed to use this project to get Oracle to commit a similar open source project. In the end, both projects merged into what is the Eclipse Dali project and Oracle became the project lead.

This open source activity by Versant was aimed at making developers more aware of object based transparent persistence and fostering such an API approach in their development. We view this as a tremendous success, as now a substantial portion of the Java community uses Hibernate (or TopLink) and Eclipse Dali to develop applications.

Those ORM API’s which have flourished since the early 2002 timeframe, are in essence the Versant database API’s which have existed since the mid 90’s in our object database technology. It was an ex-Versant product manager who went to Sun and drove those standards through the Java JSR process. Ultimately, it was open source Hibernates’ flavor which gained the most acceptance, but the similarity of the approach is undeniable.

Due to the power of open source, anyone who knows ORM technology, has in essence, become an expert in the use of object databases. They can simply get rid of the mapping portion of the ORM work and then everything else is nearly the same as long as they point connections to an object database. In fact, Versant plans to release a compatibility version for Eclipse Dali.

Q2. Will you keep db4o as a separate product or will you merge it into Versant Object Database?

[RCG] Versant plans to continue to operate db4o in the same manner, continuing to foster the community and improve the technology in the traditional open source fashion. It will remain a separate product.

Q3. How do you plan to manage/support the db4o open source community?

[RCG] one of the nice things about db4o is the extended community of supporters it’s developed over the years. Versant plans to simply join that community, following the same open form which has worked for db4o in the past. Of course, that being said, Versant has a long history and extended expertise in the OODB technology space. In that regard, we have opened our technology stack to the db4o core team and where it makes good technology sense, we can contribute significant forms of functionality that otherwise take a long time to create.

Q4. db4o is targeting the embedded device market. Is this a market for Versant as well?

[RCG] Versant technology has many successes in the embedded space. However, our real commercial success, comes from the many large scale systems developed using our technology to overcome limitations in traditional database systems. So, in this regard, db4o will dominate the embedded side of the Versant business and the Versant commercial object database will exist to help those who want the simplicity of the OODB programming model, but require greater scaling capabilities.

Q5. Are there going to be any changes in the db4o business model?

[RCG] No. The db4o brand will continue to offer the dual licensing model common to open source businesses, along with professional levels of subscription based support.

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