MySQL 5.0 Stars at Users Conference

By Lisa Vaas  |  Posted 2005-04-19

MySQL 5.0 Stars at Users Conference

SANTA CLARA, Calif.—Oh, if only the whole despicable idea of software patents would crumble as quickly as the fudge cake that MySQL users scarfed down at the third users conference (and 10-year birthday bash) for the database here on Tuesday.

Grumbling about how patents stifle innovation and throwing cheerful jibes at how Oracle databases slow down a laptop with all those barely necessary performance-hogging things they call features, out onto center stage surged the open-source database gurus who officially started the phenomenon back in 1995: MySQL co-founders David Axmark and Michael "Monty" Widenius.

In honor of the anniversary, the pair were clad in Hawaiian shirts, sporting red and blue dolphins, the database companys mascot. The theme from "Hawaii Five-O" played, if this reporter has her cultural compass aligned correctly. The keynote itself was delivered with Swedish/Finnish accents.

"Hawaii Five-O," Sweden, Finland, Hawaiian shirts: Its a cultural mishmash that reflects the exponential, global growth of the open-source community that contributes to the databases development—a community which has grown to a practically unknowable size, although at the 10-year mark, downloads number over 6 million.

MySQLs looking to boost that number further, announcing a new, GUI-based database migration tool called MySQL Migration Suite. Its freely available from the companys site under the GPL (General Public License) open-source license, and supports Oracle and Microsoft Corp. Access, with SQL Server, Sybase, DB2 and Informix databases to be supported in the future.

Click here for a slideshow of the MySQL Users Conference.

MySQL has plenty of competitors in terms of performance, but none can boast its broad implementation. This popularity can be attributed to a host of factors—most notable of which may well be that MySQL is free.

Beyond its price, a major appeal of MySQL today is a truth thats been with the database for all its 10 years: Speed is valued more than features. "Monty and I lost sleep if MySQL crashed," Axmark said during the keynote, tracing the history of the databases development. "We had a 15-minute rule: The goal was and is to make it possible to install and try MySQL in 15 minutes."

As such, MySQL has long been billed as a commodity database: not something that will ever displace your Oracle Corp. workhorse, but something that costs a lot less money and is a hell of a lot easier to maintain than Oracle—it can be plugged in as an engine behind a Web site, for instance.

Is the time coming when MySQL will grow less humble and give proprietary databases a run for their money? At the very least, the time is coming, with the upcoming release of 5.0, when enterprise-class features will enable the database to run even better with databases such as Oracle.

Next Page: Who is implementing MySQL 5.0?

Implementing MySQL 5


Axmark and Widenius, for the umpteenth time since development on 5.0 began, ran down the list of whats coming in 5.0, including stored procedures; support for triggering statements; views, both read-only and updatable within one table, which is useful for accessing the result of a query as if it were in one table, Axmark said; distributed transactions; and a new information_schema database with meta information that will be useful for finding meta information about your data.

MySQL 5.0 also will include Precision Math, which is good for commercial banks in that it provides exact calculations with well-defined rounding, at least 56 digits of precision, and very fast static memory allocation; and Strict Mode, or the ability to get rollback/errors instead of closest value/warning messages.

Other goodies await: a federated storage engine, which will enable you to use a table on another machine as a local table; Greedy Optimizer, which is the fast handling of many tables in a join; SQL standards; and useful extensions for very particular users, including data warehousing gurus, whove asked to store 20 petabytes (thats 20,000 terabytes!) in MySQL databases.

It all sounds great, but, although a sizable chunk of the audience raised their hands when Axmark and Widenius asked who had already downloaded MySQL 5.0, some attendees offered up explanations for a wait-and-see attitude. Demetria Williams, a Web programmer at Northern Essex Community College in Haverhill, Mass., told Ziff Davis Internet that her college was still running 4.1.9 because 5.0 hadnt been released as a production version yet.

Williams is looking forward to 5.0s enterprise-class features, though, she said, particularly stored procedures and triggers, assuming that the database will run more smoothly with the colleges core Oracle database.

Phillip Morelock, director of operations at Evite, is still running on a version that his companion, MySQL Developer Bjoern Hansen, groaned at as being a bit dusty: MySQL 4.0. "It aint broke," Morelock explained. Hes using the venerable MySQL for tracking user sessions and e-mail because its "cheaper and faster and easier to maintain" than his main Oracle database.

Morelock might be interested in the enterprise-class features in 5.0. Maybe. If and when they work. "Ill probably wait for 6.0," he said. "Im an IT guy. We wait until things work before we use them."

Thats your typical enterprise conservatism, and MySQL is meeting it and catering to it, particularly with MySQL Network. "Data-center people want minimum change," Axmark said during his keynote. "In the community version of the software, we fix all the bugs all the time. Not everybody wants that."

Read more here about MySQL Network.

The MySQL Network subscription service, which the company rolled out in February, includes software certification, MySQL advisors, a knowledge base, production support direct from MySQL engineers, IP (intellectual property) protection with full indemnification, and more.

But above all the talk about features and new support services, the open-source message rang loud and clear: Its all about the community pitching in. "The biggest advantage of open source is bug reports," Widenius said. "People who spend their time trying to help us, we are committed to helping them. I hear people say, Open source is not innovative, blah blah blah. I think thats [expletive]. I think its better than any proprietary [software]. Because people fix the small things. Some vendors dont care about things like a keystroke. [Such things] will never make a headline."

Indeed, repeatable bug reports are as valuable as code, Axmark proclaimed. All bugs get fixed, and all fixes and all features get disbursed to all users, unlike the fancy features that get tucked away into Enterprise editions in databases such as Microsoft Corp.s SQL Server.

"In MySQL, all things area available, even the more esoteric features," Axmark said. "You also have freedom. You have the ultimate documentation: the source code. And security is not by obscurity. You can look at the thing. You can find out. We feel that open source is like a democracy. You can see things."

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