MySQL Update Puts a Toe Into Big Vendors Database Turf

By Lisa Vaas  |  Posted 2004-10-27

MySQL Update Puts a Toe Into Big Vendors Database Turf

MySQL AB on Wednesday released into general availability a version of its open-source database with subqueries, faster and more secure client-server communication, tools that ease installation and configuration, and support for international character sets and geographic data.

MySQL Version 4.1, which can be downloaded now here, isnt the truly competitive database that everybodys waiting for and that everybody thinks will give commercial databases a run for their money, according to Charlie Garry, an analyst at Meta Group, in Simsbury, Conn. That would be Version 5.0, which will feature stored procedures and triggers and which will take advantage of the 2.6 Linux kernel and its improved scalability and support for things that databases like—asynchronous I/O, for example.

But MySQL 4.1 is a good evolutionary step toward that truly competitive version, Garry said. Version 4.1 is easier to use, he said. "Theyre getting more SQL compliance. Theyre starting to catch up with other commercial databases."

In Version 4.1, subqueries and derived tables are geared to helping users search complex data sets easier and more efficiently. A faster and more flexible client/server protocol will support prepared statements, which should help to optimize query execution and improve warning information.

A new GUI installer and configuration wizards for Linux and Windows should enable developers to more easily set up and optimize MySQL databases. In addition, client/server communication is encrypted with OpenSSL in the new version.

An optimized server library with a smaller footprint promises to perform much faster when embedded into third-party applications.

At this point, MySQL is the worlds most popular open-source database. In the spring, Forrester Research Inc. surveyed 140 large North American companies on their open-source plans and found that MySQL was high on respondents project lists, with 52 percent of respondents reporting that they were using it or planned to use it.

Still, database giants such as Oracle Corp. sneer at the idea of MySQL competing. Open-source databases share of the RDBMS market is negligible, with the following fears comprising the list of what scares CIOs away from the technology, according to research done by Garry:

  • Informal product support.
  • Rate of feature change, with some CIOs concerned that changes happen too slowly and others concerned about exactly the opposite.
  • Lack of a product road map.
  • Functional gaps.
  • Licensing caveats.
  • Low ISV support.

Many of these fears are irrational when applied to MySQL, Garry said. For example, the company has a formal support program and a product road map, and has secured a strong relationship with at least one ISV: SAP AG.

But its still important for MySQL to build relationships with software companies, Garry said. "To prove to you, Mr. software vendor/application provider, that you could run your database on MySQL and significantly reduce total cost of ownership to your client base—thats how you get over that objection," he said.

Next page: Enterprise-class features.

Page 2

Marten Mickos, CEO of MySQL, said that the companys conservative release schedule has given the market the incorrect impression that the database lacks enterprise-class features that have, in fact, been used by some customers for months already.

"Transaction capabilities have been in the production release for two years now," Mickos wrote in an e-mail exchange. The company is based in Uppsala, Sweden. "Stored procedures, triggers and views are in Version 5.0, which is out as alpha right now and will be in production release next year. Some of our customers have been writing stored procedures for 5.0 for several months already.

"But you may remember that we tend to be conservative when it comes to releases, so we dont call it production release until it has been battle-tested by the community for a long time. Some of our customers put alpha and beta versions into production [already], though."

As far as becoming the open-source database that will truly give commercial databases a run for their money in the RDBMS market, Mickos said that change is slow, but the company is steadily working on overcoming CIOs fears about open source in order to get the mindshare it needs.

"Perceptions and fears guide purchasing behaviors," he wrote. "We are growing faster than any other database company, but still there is a huge untapped market for us. Yes, we win new customers over every day as we demonstrate our ability to support them in their mission-critical applications. But there also are a number of companies who still have concerns regarding open-source—perhaps because we have not spoken to them yet. Bit changes dont happen overnight."

MySQL 4.1 runs on Linux, Windows, Solaris, Mac OS X, FreeBSD, HP-UX, IBM AIX and other operating systems. Its available under a dual licensing model: either an open-source GPL license or a commercial license, which starts at $595 per server.

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