IBM wants to encourage more of its business partners to use its open-source, low-end application server and its free entry-level database by giving those companies access to IBM sales, marketing and technical expertise at no charge.Partners who use IBM\u2019s WebSphere Application Server Community Edition (WAS CE) or the vendor\u2019s DB2 Express-C database will be able to directly tap IBM staff for advice on integration, scalability, testing and support issues and won\u2019t have to pay for the privilege, IBM said Wednesday.Such IBM feedback should help business partners bring their software based on WAS CE or DB2 Express-C more quickly to market, according to Rado Nikolov, director of strategy and emerging business, independent software vendor (ISV) and developer relations at IBM. The company will also help some partners create more buzz for their products in different geographies through free ongoing telemarketing campaigns and discounted advertising. Partners can also call on IBM sales staff for assistance in closing deals, he said. Such help can be accessed virtually or in person at IBM\u2019s 30-plus innovation centers worldwide where IBM provides training, testing and support for its hardware, software and services to partners and customers.The new reach out to partners builds on the WAS CE partner initiative that IBM ran last year and offers wider benefits than the previous program, Nikolov said. The new initiative also includes DB2 Express-C. In 2006, through the help of the WAS CE program, more than 300 ISVs and systems integrators built applications based on the IBM application server, he added.Although IBM doesn\u2019t release specific figures, Nikolov claimed that WAS CE is being downloaded in as great a quantity as the more established rival application server from Red Hat\u2019s JBoss division.IBM acquired what became WAS CE through the May 2005 purchase of open-source startup Gluecode. WAS CE is based on the open-source Apache Geronimo project steered by the nonprofit Apache Software Foundation.DB2 Express-C first appeared just over a year ago, rubbing shoulders in an already crowded market with open-source offerings from MySQL and Ingres, as well as free databases from Microsoft and Oracle.Would IBM consider releasing DB2 Express-C as open-source software? "At this point in time, it\u2019s not a consideration," Nikolov said. For the most part, users of the database don\u2019t appear to be interested in viewing the source code or having the ability to modify that code, he added.Both products provide low-end entry points to IBM\u2019s paid enterprise offerings, its WebSphere middleware and its DB2 enterprise database, respectively. The vendor is seeing partners and users start off with the free products and then ramp up to its paid software, Nikolov said.WAS CE continues to include IBM\u2019s embedded Cloudscape database. IBM positions Cloudscape as more of a repository than a database, while the larger-size DB2 Express-C has much more functionality. However, it\u2019s up to users which database they choose to use, Nikolov said.-China Martens, IDG News Service (Boston Bureau)Check out our CIO News Alerts and Tech Informer pages for more updated news coverage.