MySQL Brings Database Up to Par for Enterprise Deployments
by Alex Woodie
Large companies that previously would not consider the open-source MySQL database due to its lack of high-end features needed to run enterprise applications may want to take a fresh look at the data platform. Last week the Swedish company announced MySQL version 5.0, which adds critical new features such as triggers, stored procedures, and views, which for years have been available in competing databases.
Since the open-source software movements started to gain steam in the late 1990s, MySQL has come to the forefront as arguably the most visible provider of open-source database software. With six million active installations, and 40,000 downloads per day, MySQL has become a popular back-end for Web sites, especially when paired with other commonly used components in the open-source stack: the Linux operating system and the JBoss Web application middleware.
But when it comes to powering the critical business applications that process hundreds of thousands or millions of transactions per day at banks, insurance companies, retailers, and manufacturers, enterprises have steered clear of MySQL in favor of more established products, like IBM's DB2, Microsoft's SQL Server, and Oracle's eponymous database. This avoidance of MySQL in the enterprise realm was due, in large part, to a lack of enterprise-grade features in the MySQL database.
That could change. Now many of those enterprise-grade features have made their way into MySQL version 5.0. Support for stored procedures is one of the major new features. Stored procedures will enable developers to build business logic directly into the MySQL database, which is expected to have several impacts, including increased performance, greater security, and more code portability. Stored procedures in MySQL version 5.0 comply with the ANSI SQL 2003 stored procedures specifications, the company says. In addition to stored procedures, MySQL 5.0 also supports SQL functions for the first time.
Another important new feature is support for triggers. Like stored procedures and functions, triggers force more business logic that would otherwise be coded into an application, down into the database, bringing advantages such as cleaner and more portable code, and more uniform execution of business rules. MySQL says triggers will be most useful for data auditing and ensuring data security, such as triggering calls for encrypting sensitive data.
Support for views is another new feature in MySQL 5.0 expected to attract support from enterprise-level organizations. Views helps to protect sensitive data by hiding one or more sensitive columns in a table. It can also help database administrators (DBAs) tune the performance of a database application by limiting the amount of data returned in large tables. While limited in this release, MySQL 5.0 also brings support for cursors.
This release brings DBAs additional ways to prevent data from becoming corrupted through a new feature called "server enforced data integrity." According to MySQL, prior to MySQL 5.0, invalid data being sent to a MySQL database was denied at the server only through the use of column default values. In version 5.0 of MySQL, a new strict mode option is available that rejects invalid data outright and prevents any data misrepresentations from finding their way into the server.
"We are quite proud to deliver this new version of MySQL, as it includes the most-requested features from our users, customers, and partners," says Marten Mickos, chief executive of MySQL. "With their feedback, we have been able to provide important enterprise-class features."
This is a good time to be in the database software market. According to market researcher IDC, the worldwide market for database software grew by almost 12 percent to $14.9 billion in 2004. Oracle captured about 41 percent of the market, followed by IBM with 31 percent, Microsoft with 13 percent, and Sybase and Teradata, with about 3 percent each.
While open-source database software doesn't yet account for much of the overall database market, the major players are girding for battle, IDC says. Oracle launched its offensive against MySQL when it bought Innobase OY, a Finnish open-source software company whose InnoDB storage engine is often deployed alongside the MySQL database. And as we report elsewhere in this issue, Oracle has launched
The release of MySQL 5.0 is not the only move MySQL is making to gain traction in the enterprise space. The company has formed many partnerships with leading enterprise software firms over the past year, including deals with business intelligence software maker Business Objects and others.
As part of last week's MySQL 5.0 announcement, SSA Global, the world's fifth largest ERP software company by 2004 revenues, announced it will work with MySQL to certify the database with its ERP LN suite (formerly Baan). MySQL also has partnerships with about 30 other major IT vendors, including Informatica, Novell, Red Hat, Sun Microsystems, and Zend.
The production version of MySQL 5.0 is available now for Linux, Windows, Solaris, Mac OS X, FreeBSD, HP-UX, AIX 5L, and other operating systems. All MySQL database software is available under a dual licensing model. Developers and organizations can choose between an open-source (GPL) or a commercial MySQL license, depending on their deployment requirements. Support contracts range from $295 to $4,784 per server per year. For more information, go to www.mysql.com.