Open-source database advantages

Open source database MySQL is gaining popularity

MySQL is gaining popularity

What is it?

MySQL is an open source relational database management system.

Linux is overtaking sales of established proprietary operating systems, Apache is dominant in web servers, and languages such as Perl and Python are used everywhere. But is the world ready for open source databases? Not yet, said Meta Group - corporate users will not give them houseroom for at least another five years.

However, systems such as MySQL, PostgreSQL and Interbase are beginning to infiltrate companies with low budgets, or those where IT staff are given free rein.

Meta's objection, that "no supplier has stepped up to support an open source database", is starting to crumble. Since September, a commercially licensed version of MySQL has shipped with Netware 6.5, and Novell is providing technical support, overcoming another corporate reservation.

Where did it originate?

Interbase was created in the mid-1980s by a group of ex-Digital Equipment developers and subsequently acquired by Borland, which made version 6.0 open source in 2000.

Postgres was developed at Berkeley University in 1986 by a team that included Michael Stonebraker, father of the Ingres relational database.

MySQL comes from Sweden, and is backed by the embedded database company Progress. MySQL AB also sells SAP's database, SAP DB, under the name MaxDB.

What is it for?

Meta said. "For the next few years, open source databases will be a non-factor in the database management system market, relegated to non-critical tasks such as clickstream logging and directories. Open source databases also do not have a history of supporting mission-critical, back-end applications."

However, a combination known as AMP (Apache/MySQL/PHP and Perl) is gaining popularity as a webserver package, and the launch of Netware AMP may push MySQL deeper into the enterprise.

How difficult is it to master?

There are GUI tools to make design and administration easier.

What makes it special?

The huge virtual teams behind open source products mean that new features and fixes should become available far more quickly than traditional database suppliers can make them. However, open source databases have ground to make up: MySQL only recently acquired two-phase commit and row-level locking.

But open source databases are cheap, or even free, depending on whether you choose the support of a commercial licence, or rely on the open source community.

Once installed, you can deploy them as widely as you like. Suppliers and backers also claim they are more reliable and stable than proprietary databases

Where is it used?

Users include Yahoo, Motorola, Google, Sony Pictures Digital Entertainment, Nasa and Texas Instruments.

Don't confuse...

A free database with a no-cost database. Meta said switching from an existing database could cost £600,000 or more as application code, triggers and stored procedures have to be redone and staff retrained.

What systems does it run on?

Versions of MySQL are available for most versions of Windows, Unix and Linux.

What is coming up?

Features expected from proprietary databases will be added to open source databases.


Much open source training, like the software, is free. There are also many sources for AMP training, such as the Apache site.

Rates of pay

MySQL is the most sought after open source database, although people who already have Delphi or other Borland skills might consider Interbase. Look for £20,000 to £40,000 depending on experience.

Read more on IT jobs and recruitment