PostgreSQL, MySQL Tweak Their Wares

Developers add features to make their respective open-source databases more attractive to enterprise buyers.

Two of the leading open-source database vendors, MySQL AB and PostgreSQL Inc., are making bids for the enterprise with new features and support.

MySQL, of Uppsala, Sweden, next week will announce support for IBMs zSeries servers running the Linux and AIX operating systems.

Such support has been available to open-source users for some time, but MySQLs formal announcement reassures the thousands of enterprises that run databases on IBM technology that their DBAs (database administrators) will have someplace to turn to for backup. "We have a habit of formalizing support for platforms so conservative companies will know its supported and they can come to us for any problems," said Marten Mickos, MySQLs CEO.

MySQL Pro costs $395 per server. Pricing for annual support contracts starts at $2,500.

Jason Jacobs, CEO of CoreSense Inc., a New York company that makes e-business software for resellers and manufacturers, said that even though hes not running MySQL on IBM hardware, the IBM support is still welcome because it broadens the pool of users contributing to open-source enhancements. "The larger the user group, the better for all of us," he said. "[Enterprises are] going to look for something to be supported, in order to bet their business on it."

For its part, PostgreSQL, of Wolfville, Nova Scotia, on Wednesday rolled out PostgreSQL 7.3. Major new features include the addition of SQL schemas, which allows users to create objects in separate namespaces, so multiple people can have tables with the same name in a database. This facilitates mobile users working in the same database. Also new is a public schema for shared tables. Table/index creation can be restricted by removing permissions on the public schema.

PostgreSQL 7.3 also can return record sets and prepared queries—features that appeal to power users. Also, table functions that return multiple rows and/or multiple columns are now easier to use. Users can call a table function in the SELECT FROM clause, treating its output like a table. A full list of new features in 7.3 appear on PostgreSQLs Web site.

Bruce Momjian, a lead member of the PostgreSQL 7.3 development team, said that users have been requesting schemas for some time. Oracle Corp. databases already have the capability of letting mobile users work in the same database. Since PostgreSQL is already considered the "Oracle-class" open-source database, he said, it makes sense to plug in the features it lacks to make it even more of an enterprise database than it already is.

"We have lots of people moving from Oracle to [PostgreSQL] already," said Momjian, in Philadelphia. The more Oracle-like features his database has, the more alluring an alternative to Oracle it becomes, he added.

Christopher Kings-Lynne, lead programmer for Family Health Network Pty Ltd., a company that specializes in online weight loss programs in Australia and the United States, said that appealing to power users is a good way to get open-source accepted in the enterprise.

"More and more enterprises will see PostgreSQL as a viable backend for their operation," Kings-Lynne said.

Kings-Lynne also said that the addition of SQL schemas to PostgreSQL 7.3 should appeal to academic environments, since administrators can now create separate workspaces for all their users. But its 7.3s advances in ease-of-use and functionality that matters the most to him. For example, in 7.3, users can drop columns from tables and can easily change the NOT NULL status of a column. Also, foreign keys are smarter and are easier to drop and manipulate.

Ericson Smith, a database administrator for Inc., in Rockville Centre, N.Y., said the prepared-queries feature of 7.3 will help automate the "millions" of simple queries in the companys Maestro product, a service that optimizes search engine technology. "This will help us a lot," he said.