MySQL AB is eyeing a November release date for version 5 of its
open-source database, a major upgrade that the company hopes will make
it a bigger player among enterprise customers.
The Swedish company released what may be the final test version of the
product, known as a release candidate, about two weeks ago. If no
“show-stopper bugs” turn up it will ship the final, commercial version
in November, said Kaj Arn¿, MySQL vice president for community
The company is calling version 5 its most significant upgrade yet. It
adds a handful of features considered important for enterprises that
have long been available from market leaders Oracle Corp., IBM Corp.
and Microsoft Corp. Chief among them are triggers, views and stored
MySQL has also changed the way its database performs some common tasks,
such as error checking, to make it behave like other databases. The
idea is to make it easier for a database administrator to switch from
another platform, encouraging migrations. The “old” ways of doing
things will still be an option, and the vast majority of current MySQL
applications will run unchanged on version 5, according to David
Axmark, a MySQL co-founder who has the job title “open sorcerer.”
The price for MySQL Network, its subscription support service, will not
change, Axmark said. It ranges from €495 (US$594) to €3,995 per server
per year, depending on the level required. Its database is also
available free under the GPL (General Public License) and under a
commercial license for redistribution with other products.
MySQL has always denied it competes directly with Oracle and IBM,
preferring to call its product “complementary.” That may have been due
to the limitations of its software or because it was unwilling to stir
up its bigger rivals. Either way, the situation is changing now.
MySQL isn’t laying claim to Oracle’s high-end business, but the new
features in the upgrade will make MySQL suitable for a wider range of
enterprise tasks, including even running ERP (enterprise resource
planning) applications, according to Axmark.
“We won’t attack the data center installations, but there are thousands
of other platforms out there for which, in some cases, an enterprise
database may be too much,” he said.
Axmark positioned MySQL 5 as a no-frills product for a wide range of
data management needs: “not the Rolls Royce but the economy class.”
Other executives likened databases to DVD players, suggesting the
category has been commoditized and that one database can easily
substitute for another.
That may be true for some basic tasks, but Oracle, IBM and even
Microsoft continue to offer capabilities that keep their products far
ahead of MySQL, said Gary Barnett, an industry analyst with U.K.
research company Ovum Ltd.
“Ask Larry Ellison if databases are a commodity while he’s sipping a
cup of coffee and you’ll have coffee all down your shirt,” he said,
referring to Oracle’s chairman.
Barnett was skeptical of whether MySQL will drum up much new enterprise
business, at least soon. License and maintenance fees are only a small
part of the cost of owning a database, and MySQL will have to show
other clear, tangible benefits if users are to migrate to its platform,
Customers also have other open-source options, although MySQL may be
the best known. The Apache Software Foundation offers Apache Derby, the
Cloudscape database that IBM contributed to the open-source community
last year, and several companies offer databases based on PostgreSQL.
In addition, Oracle and IBM have released low-cost versions of their
database for smaller customers, and both have released source code for
noncore products in a bid to court the open-source community.
On Friday, Oracle acquired open-source database company Innobase Oy,
whose storage engine is often used as part of MySQL. Oracle pledged to
renew its contract with MySQL, Axmark noted. And If anything goes awry,
MySQL could always “fork” the development of InnoDB and create another
version, he said, although it would prefer not to.
MySQL faces other challenges too. There are no ERP applications
certified to run on its platform today, although it is working on
certification with Germany’s SAP AG, as well as Dutch financial
software vendor Agresso, Axmark said. The work with SAP could be
finished in about a year, he estimated.
Still, MySQL 5 definitely elevates MySQL into the class of a “true
database,” Ovum’s Barnett said. It should lead to more ISVs
(independent software vendors) embedding MySQL in their products, and
MySQL will probably find its software being deployed in new
environments, he said. The company also has the backing of Novell Inc.,
Dell Inc. and Hewlett-Packard Co., all of which have said they will
resell support services for its product.
“They are much more credible now for ERP and for transaction-based
applications,” Barnett said,” but it’s always a slower burn than people
in the [open-source] community would like it to be.”
By James Niccolai – IDG News Service (Paris Bureau)