Readers Respond to MySQL, Lite Databases Comparison

Opinion: Lisa Vaas finds that readers, especially fans of Firebird and PostgreSQL, have much to say regarding her column, "MySQL vs. the Lite Databases: A Fair Comparison?"

Its so simple. If only Id remembered. Instead of dissing Oracle and trying to wrap my head around SQL injections, all I have to do to get readers attention is this: Write an article comparing the "lite" versions of proprietary databases to MySQL. Without mentioning Firebird or PostgreSQL.

Thats exactly what I did recently, and although it resulted in a gratifying onslaught of mail, I dont like making PostgreSQL users blood pressure skyrocket.

Both PostgreSQL and Firebird are very useful, robust open-source databases, not to be overlooked. And its far too easy to do just that, with these marketing-deprived outfits.

I had taken a look at Builder AUs review, which rated MySQL at the top of the list in comparison to SQL Server Express, DB2 Express and Oracle 10g Standard Edition.

The review had gotten Slashdotted—twice, that I noticed—but nobody had taken a serious look at the quality of the review or its basic premise.

And the premise, I thought, was funky: Builder AU created a hypothetical online business, relatively small, that sells books and DVDs. The business needs to grow, so it needs a database that can scale from a dual processor or four-way server on up to a small server farm. But the important thing was to do it on the cheap—hence, the free or close-to-free versions.

/zimages/6/28571.gifOracle Database Lite 10g Release 2 will support Symbian OSTM. Click here to read more.

A few people mentioned that you just wouldnt base a business on these lite databases, which are primarily intended for marketing purposes (although an IBM insider pointed out that DB2 Express has been around for a while and is "a serious piece of engine," with no parallelism restrictions on operations, except scale-out, no real RAM limits that most two-way servers would exceed, support for 64-bit and built-in autonomics).

At any rate, the premise of the comparison did in fact spark something for readers, who flooded my inbox with their own tales of making their own databases from scratch with dBase or using the light versions just as comfy at-home hack tools and, of course, with reasons why the media should stop overlooking PostgreSQL and InterSystems Cache and Firebird.

Steve Lane, vice president of Soliant Consulting Inc., pointed out that the discussion just cant proceed without including PostgreSQL, a database well known in the open-source world as "an extremely feature-rich, robust open-source database that has long boasted enterprise-class features such as transactions, triggers and stored procedures: features which MySQL has only just added in the Version 5 release, and which have yet to be extensively tested."

And then theres Firebird. Doug Chamberlin wrote in to say, "Why use lite versions of any database when you can use free, fully functional, fully relational open-source databases?

"Firebird is fully open source and has been around, in one form or another, for over 20 years," he wrote. "It has thousands of installations handling databases in the hundreds of gigabytes [range] down to those with hundreds of records. The Firebird approach pioneered zero administration database technology."

Theyre both right, and theyre not alone. Check out the Builder AU reader response section for more snubbed-database user feedback. I had seen it and somehow it completely slipped my mind to mention it. Mea culpa.

Why does the media keep forgetting these other open-source databases? Quite simply, the communities dont pay people to be in our faces all day. Lane nailed it:

"MySQL is backed by a commercial firm, so their marketing has always far outstripped that of PostgreSQL," he wrote. "This explains much of the pervasiveness of MySQL in the public mindset. As a long-time user of PostgreSQL, I almost always end up wishing the media covered it more extensively."

My New Years resolution: Stop forgetting PostgreSQL. Stop forgetting Firebird.

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