Sun Microsystems' MySQL is the database to beat in the open source market. But another option -- EnterpriseDB -- has caught the attention of several investors -- including IBM. Here's the scoop for potential partners.

EnterpriseDB is well-known in open source circles. But most solutions providers -- particularly Microsoft SQL Server partners -- may not know the EnterprisDB name just yet.

That could change as EnterpriseDB continues to attract funding and attention from some major companies. The company just scored $10 million in Series C venture funding, and IBM is among the companies pumping money into EnterpriseDB.

Surely, Sun betting $1 billion on its MySQL acquisition is a far bigger bet than IBM writing a far smaller check out to EnterpriseDB.

But consider the following scenario: In most software markets, IBM wants to avoid a Windows-type scenario where one company winds up controlling 90 percent of an industry.

In the Linux market, for instance, IBM has openly backed Novell SuSE Linux and Red Hat Linux as a way to force balance and healthy competition. And there are rumblings that IBM will increase its support of Ubuntu Linux in the next few months.

Now, we're seeing a similar scenario in the open source database market, where MySQL generates most of the ink in the mainstream press.

In April 2007, IBM announced plans to more aggressively back MySQL. But Big Blue's commitment to stir competition remains intact.

By pumping a few dollars into EnterpriseDB, IBM is essentially telling customers that it's safe to select EnterpriseDB on IBM's hardware, and it's safe to integrate EnterpriseDB with IBM's own middleware products.

Ensuring customer choice, it seems, is one of the secrets to IBM's ongoing hardware and middleware success.