The last two months of 2003 may be looked at as the time open-source databases made their initial charge at the enterprise-level database market. In November, both MySQL AB and PostgreSQL Global Development Group released new versions of their open-source databases, which include added features and tools that are specifically targeted at larger enterprises.
After partnering with SAP, MySQL introduced MaxDB, which is its version of SAP's open-source database. With the MySQL brand and marketing behind MaxDB, it has attracted "the attention of the marketplace," according to Gartner Inc. vice-president Kevin Strange. MaxDB includes features such as snapshots, archive tables, and MaxDB replication. Also, with the MySQL Proxy software program, MaxDB and MySQL work together, and data can be transferred between the two.
PostgreSQL, while not creating as much buzz, has introduced version 7.4 of the PostgreSQL Relational Database, which includes new tools for larger enterprises. The upgrade includes optimization tuning for systems running AMD's 64-bit Opteron processor, improved index maintenance tools, and support of full-text indexing.
Charlie Brann, SAP administrator at Swisslog TransLogic in Denver, has been using the SAP open-source database for more than seven years and calls it a "dream" compared to other databases he's used.
"I might spend a couple of hours a week working with the database directly, and the majority of that is simply checking statistics and verifying parameters. MaxDB literally runs itself," said Brann. "We've had a couple of untimely system crashes due to hardware failure, and have not suffered any data corruption as a result. The database is very stable."
However, questions remain about how open-source databases will fare in a database market that is dominated by Oracle, IBM, and Microsoft. Strange contends that although open-source databases have excellent support and stability, there are still two main challenges that need to be faced: scalability for large enterprises and third-party support. As of now, Strange sees large enterprises using open-source databases only for internal applications and not mission-critical applications.
But directly competing with the big databases like Oracle is not MySQL's intention. According to Zack Urlocker, MySQL VP of marketing, the goal is to attract the commoditized portion of the market. He compares Oracle 9i and IBM's DB2 to a Ferrari, and MaxDB to a Honda. "A Ferrari is nice to drive to work in, but a Honda will get you there just as efficiently and in a more cost-effective manner," said Urlocker. Strange agrees and believes the open-source databases will find success with the lower-end and midsized markets.
It may take a while for the low-cost attraction of open-source databases to make a real change in the industry the way Linux has in the OS market. In the meantime, Strange says Oracle and IBM should keep a close eye on MySQL and PostgreSQL. "[MaxDB] is not ready to run the enterprise now, but it is a lot better than I thought it was," said Strange. "MySQL is where Microsoft's SQL Server 2000 was two years ago in the server industry. [MaxDB] is missing features now, but as [it adds] them in and makes improvements, [it is] going to cause a little shakeup."
Jeanette Perez is a former Intelligent Enterprise editor and is now a freelance journalist.
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