What is it?
Gartner's November 2008 report "The Growing Maturity of Open-Source Database Management Systems" found "a 50% increase from 2007 to 2008 in the usage of open source DBMSs in production" -although Gartner cautioned that the study only included organizations that currently used some form of open-source product.
Sun missed this qualification when it quoted Gartner's report in the launch of MySQL 5.1 in December. But big analysts have become a lot more positive towards open source databases. The main reason is the involvement of IT corporations, putting a protective barrier between users and the open source originators, with their hardy DIY approach to delivering and fixing code.
Gartner says the major open source DBMSs are now available for installation as packages, without involving the source code, and include tools to help support administrators and managers. Meanwhile large software suppliers, including SAP, are ready to certify open source databases for their applications.
Gartner still has reservations: open source DBMSs should be used "primarily for non-mission-critical applications and those that do not require high availability". However, they add, "If the technical capabilities of the staff are strong, use of an open-source DBMS in mission-critical environments is possible now".
Where did it originate?
MySQL, first released in 1995, was a pioneer of the dual licence which enables open source and commercial versions of a product to co-exist. The for-profit company MySQL AB was set up to provide software and services, while a free "community" version remains available. Sun took MySQL AB over in 2008.
What's it for?
MySQL is available in a "full function" community version, a subscription-only enterprise version, and a commercially licenced embedded version. In recent years, MySQL has rapidly acquired the features of an enterprise DBMS, including high-availability options such as failover and clustering. Sun is now adding tools such as query analyzers, which enterprise DBMS users have come to expect.
MySQL AB claims the average time from software download to full installation is less than 15 minutes. There is an integral suite of self-management features, and graphical tools for DBAs.
MySQL has an extensive range of drivers for other databases and languages such as PHP, Perl, Java and the .net family, and plug-ins are available to embed MySQL into applications. There is a migration suite for moving schemas and data from Oracle, SQL Server and others.
What makes it special?
MySQL is now supported by DBMS management tools from major suppliers such as BMC and Embarcadero.
How difficult is it to master?
The official MySQL for Beginners course takes four days. With SQL or DBA experience, it should be possible to use online tutorials to become productive in a day or two.
Where is it used?
MySQL AB says MySQL is scalable from 1Mbyte embedded databases to data warehouses. Many of the claimed 50,000 downloads a day are likely to be used in small scale developments with the Lamp (Linux, Apache, MySQL and Perl/Python/PHP) and other stacks. Within enterprises, MySQL is mostly used for non-mission critical systems, although big Web 2.0 operations such as Google, Yahoo and Facebook are based on it.
What systems does it run on?
Most flavours of Linux and Unix, Windows and Mac OSX.
Rates of Pay
Rates for developers depend on languages offered. MySQL DBAs earn £30,000 to £40,000.
Start with Sun's aptly named "Getting Started with MySQL"and the MySQL tutorial, or search for free independent online tutorials.