DB2 Express C and free fixpacks issue

This blog post was initially intended to be part of this thread on DB2 Express C forum but because my blog gets recently included in Planet DB2 blog aggregator i decided to make blog post instead.

I hear on DB2 Express C forum complains about lack of free fixpacks for DB2 Express C quite often. As i understand most of people using these forums are developers and developers like always use latest version and latest security and stability patches. For application developer using latest possible fixpack is best because it contains latest fixes and can potentially reduce number of problems which will their customers face. If new fixpack introduces some regression, developers have enough skills to fix their code or discover workaround.

Lets take a look into different world. Lets take a look at customers, because they will run your application after it is developed. Do they want always to run latest fixpack? Are they concerned with lack of latest security patches?

No. They are running application, not database. Their preferred style of operation for database and application is install and forget. This is understandable, they simply want to do their everyday task and don't mess much with IT. Database is hidden from their everyday view and they are really not interested in fiddling database unless something is broken because it might introduce instability to their application which will have major impact for their business. Simple and effective risk management. If something gets broken, they often to do not have highly skilled inhouse staff capable of fast diagnosing and fixing these problems. Resolving issues needs time, which directly translates to money, and possible downtimes are expensive and disrupting. Lack of security patches is not major problem, i never seen db2 exploits floating in the wild, while exploits including rootkits for Oracle are available even without much googling around. I am working with these customers daily and i don't believe that our SMB customers are vastly different from rest of the world.

In reality it often works in SMB similar to this: You are shipping licensed DB2 Express C with your application (limited to 4GB RAM/4CPU). You need to ship nonfree version just because customers will complain about using freeware database. It introduces some extra costs into your product, but DB2 license is not large part of total price and in addition to psychological effect with nonfree database (product looks more professional) customer will get more scalable database version. As ISV you can get DB2 EXPC license much cheaper than catalog price (currently US $2,995 per year) especially if your customers will not call IBM database support. They will call their application vendor to get both database and application support at one place, which is preferred method by both sides - application vendor and customer because it speeds up problem solving. Recently SAP support switched to this scheme too.

Shipping old DB2 version is not a problem. We ship db2 9.1.2 as part of our product. There are for sure some known bugs in DB2 9.1.2 just look into latest v9 fixpack APAR list, but if they don't have negative impact at your application, why you should care? Every release of DB2 fixpacks included is tested against SAP and checked for regressions. This is not only unique benefit for SAP users, but for rest of DB2 community too because every DB2 release is field tested. DB2 is not MySQL where even basic queries will return wrong results.

Our customers don't have right to apply v9 fixpack, they paid for database only not for maintenance, but applying fixpak is technically (but illegal) possible. Do not expect mass applying of illegal fixpacks. Even SMB customers with paid support are not interested in applying fixpacks unless application support from ISV support will tell them to do it. Lack of free DB2 fixpacks have also benefits - it reduces number of DB2 versions floating between your customers, which directly translates to your lower support and testing costs.

So i simply do not believe that lack of free access to DB2 Express C fixpacks hurts your ISV business.

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