Once again, we have to start with the statement: "All major vendors except Microsoft support Linux." Add to that the "Unbreakable Linux" pledge from Oracle, and you get quite the Linux hotspot. All the vendors that sell Linux versions of their databases offer decent Linux support, but Oracle has gone so far as to say: "If you run into a problem, we'll help you fix it." That's a huge commitment. Moreover, the vendors that support Linux own more than 50 percent of the database market among them, by any measure. That's reassuring in the long run.
But it's not all roses. Although these vendors will help get their databases up and running, and will even offer you support for getting ODBC started, generic ODBC support is still lacking. This is problematic because most applications designed to access databases use ODBC. Sure, you can get IBM DB2 ODBC support, for example, and IBM will even help you configure it so your Windows applications have access. But that's just for DB2. If ever you decide to leave IBM, you must work through the whole ODBC issue with another vendor before the move can take place. This is a serious problem for those who want to run databases from multiple vendors, and it throws a wrench in the strategic plan to move to Linux as a way to provide an exit strategy in case vendors don't live up to support needs.
In the open-source space, some very good databases are available--MaxDB, mSQL, MySQL, Postgres and many others. Most of these also support ODBC in each particular database, but again, we face the issue of separate configuration and maintenance for each. If you have the chops to set up and configure FreeTDS, you'll get some ODBC functionality out of your database, but it's not nearly as complete as that offered by vendors.
Again, remember that if your organization has a preferred database vendor, the ODBC issue probably won't affect you. If your vendor supports Linux, it's a safe bet that it supports ODBC for Linux-hosted databases. This support was lacking in MySQL, but the integration of MaxDB is addressing this issue.
The product areas listed here are just a sample of what's available to you on Linux. Plenty of viable Linux-based software is out there to support your needs, and now that you know where the OS' strengths and weaknesses lie, you can choose with confidence. The question then becomes: Is your IT staff ready to support Linux? If not, you should address that in your training budget soon.
Don MacVittie is an application engineer at WPS Resources and a contributing editor to NETWORK COMPUTING. Write to him at [email protected].