IBM has announced a free version of its DB2 database aimed at attracting application developers who might have opted for open source alternatives.

DB2 Express-C is available now to customers and developers as a free download, IBM says. The product provides the same core DB2 data server in a smaller package specifically designed for use in software development, deployment, redistribution and embedding within applications, IBM said.

IBM so far hasn't set any limits on the number of users or the number of connections a user may have with DB2 Express-C, and it places no limits on database size. But there are hardware restrictions. Users can deploy DB2 Express-C on systems with up to two processor cores, and up to two dual core chips on x86 systems. The data server supports up to 4 GB of memory.

To help encourage uptake, IBM is launching a new public Web forum on its developerWorks site where DB2 Express-C users can access no-charge community support. In addition, IBM established a DB2 Express community team to nurture community participation and work with developers, ISVs and open source community organizations.

IBM also is providing optional for-fee support.

“We are expanding our investment in growing the community of developers and users of DB2,” said Bob Picciano, vice president of data servers for IBM, in a statement.

Later this year IBM plans to integrate some of its "Viper" capabilities into a future version of DB2 Express-C. Viper is the code name for the next release of IBM's full-blown DB2 platform, which will provide a hybrid data server for managing both relational and XML data. The Viper database is in beta now.