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SQL Server Express a sign of LAMP's success

Microsoft's release of SQL Server Express is being seen as further evidence that the LAMP stack is having a major impact.

The butterfly effect, wherein a butterfly flaps its wings and influences the weather halfway across the globe, is a testament to how small changes can affect even the largest of entities.

Last week, Microsoft showed that the changes in the Web services field brought about by the open source LAMP stack could be affecting the weather in Redmond, and announced the availability of a new product in response.

Microsoft officials said the free product, called SQL Server Express, offers a "LAMP-like" ability to quickly create a Web site.

LAMP, which is an open source software stack that consists of a version of Linux, the Apache Web server, MySQL and Perl, Python or PHP, allows developers to build Web services.

Throughout 2005, analysts have billed LAMP as a less expensive and less complex development opportunity than Java 2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE) and Microsoft's .NET. During that time, LAMP has also made headway with vendors like IBM and Sun Microsystems Inc.

Now, Microsoft is unveiling a new version of its SQL Server platform, this time with an "express" label. IBM is also making use of the "express" label with its line of SMB-targeted Express Portfolio products.

According to Microsoft, SQL Server Express allows tables and files to be stored on a Web site, and has been designed to let developers run complex computing functions using Visual Studio 2005.

Jim Balderston, a senior analyst with the Sageza Group, wrote in his weekly research note that in IBM's case, the Express label means products have been designed to be adopted by small and midsized businesses (SMBs) seeking enterprise-class software at a price that meets a tighter budget.

To date, he said, Big Blue has been successful in providing just that, while giving the growing SMB population a migration path to the enterprise-class offerings.

But unlike IBM, Microsoft has no intention of investing in LAMP and its component parts, Balderston said.

"While Microsoft hopes that offering a free lightweight version of SQL server will attract developers that would otherwise look at the LAMP stack, we have to wonder if this is merely posing for the cameras," Balderston said.

SQL Server Express is another example of a "lighter" offering from Microsoft. An earlier example, Windows XP Starter Edition, was a less expensive, stripped-down version of the operating system. It was marketed in developing nations and was seen by analysts as an example of how Microsoft was fighting Linux in areas where it had gained a substantial following.

Although Microsoft senior vice president Will Poole said last month at the company's financial analyst meeting that over 100,000 copies of Windows XP Starter Edition have been sold to date, Balderston was less optimistic about SQL Server Express unseating the versatile LAMP stack.

"The open source development gestalt is not so much about the product produced as it is about the means by which a product comes to life," he said. "Open source development threatens traditional software development firms like Microsoft, which historically has been very aggressive in protecting its software franchise, while limiting the amount of freelance work produced on top of its code base that is done without a hefty license fee."

With SQL Server Express, Redmond isn't fighting a different choice of operating system, but rather an entirely different means by which an operating environment is brought to market, Balderston said.

"LAMP and open source have made an impact and Redmond is paying attention," Balderston said.

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