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Volume 6, Number 27 -- July 15, 2008

Sun Updates MySQL Carrier-Grade Clustered Database

Published: July 15, 2008

by Timothy Prickett Morgan

It is no secret that server maker Sun Microsystems got its real start in the server racket when telecommunications companies stopped wanting to buy proprietary minicomputers and mainframes to run their vast billing and application systems and started using Unix gear instead. With the dot-com buildout in the latter half of the 1990s, Sun expanded its market to include various kinds of service providers, including those who sell Internet services, as well as to the companies that make network switching equipment, or NEPs.

These three parts of the market--telcos, NEPs, and service providers--are still a key driver of sales at Sun, thanks in large measure to the popularity of Solaris among these companies, not the least of which because it is a rugged, nearly real-time implementation of Unix that still has some features that stock Linux does not. Applications and databases drive platform choices, as they have from the beginning of the computer business, and are one of the reasons why Sun shelled out $1 billion in cash to acquire open source database management system maker MySQL in January of this year. The combination of Solaris and MySQL--particularly the carrier-grade extensions of MySQL--allow Sun to protect a market that Linux players want to take over.

Sun has to play both sides of the fence--Solaris and Linux--with MySQL, of course, and it continues to do so with the recently announced MySQL Cluster Carrier Grade Edition 6.3 extensions to the MySQL database. This software, which is already used inside switching systems made by Alcatel-Lucent, Nokia, Nortel, and Siemens Networks, is being updated in the 6.3 release with a number of new features to make it more appealing to NEPs, telcos, and service providers and more competitive with the DB2, Oracle, Sybase, and Informix closed source alternatives. MySQL Cluster is what is known as a shared-nothing database clustering extension to the MySQL database, which means you gang up a bunch of servers to host a single instance of the database and you add more servers to increase its capacity. Sun claims that MySQL Cluster can deliver 99.999 percent uptime and millisecond response times on transactions. The Carrier Grade Edition of MySQL Cluster has optimizations and database access methods keyed to the telcos, service providers, and NEPs.

The big new feature in release 6.3 is geographical replication, which allows the asynchronous replication of MySQL Cluster databases across long distances, thereby allowing workload balancing and high availability at the same time. The updated MySQL Cluster also has what Sun is calling disk-based data support, which is in contrast to a memory-resident database setup, which telco and service providers often use to speed up transactions on their networks. With the 6.3 release, persistent data (usually data files like images or other media) can be stored on disk drives while transactional data can be stored in memory--all in a single database. This balances performance for transactions with capacity for media rich files. Finally, MySQL Cluster 6.3 has an online database schema tool that will, for instance, allow a database administrator to add a column to a database table while the database is still online and applications are still running.

MySQL Cluster runs on Solaris, HP-UX, Mac OS X, Red Hat Enterprise Linux, and Novell SUSE Linux Enterprise Server. For whatever reason, neither MySQL nor Sun has supported AIX with the MySQL Cluster software, and Sun is not talking about the HP-UX support in its announcement even though it is there.


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