Firebird database readies SMP release

Builder: The open source project, which was created when Borland open sourced Interbase in 2000, is due to release a version of its database with full SMP support allowing enterprises greater scalability
Written by Ingrid Marson, Contributor

Firebird developers are due to do an alpha release of version 2.0 of the open source database later this month and have completed work on SMP support, which is due to be released in late spring.

Firebird is an open source relational database that runs on Linux, Windows and a variety of Unix platforms. The Firebird project was created in July 2000, when software company Borland open sourced its Interbase database. Borland later returned to a closed source model, but Firebird has continued as an open source project commercially supported by open source company IBPhoenix.

Paul Beach, an administrator of the Firebird project and chief executive of IBPhoenix, said that Firebird already includes various enterprise features, but can't make the best use of multiprocessor servers.

"Our strength has always been a high-level of sophistication — we have support for triggers, events and stored procedures," said Beach. "The only key piece we have missing is fine-grained SMP support — this is scheduled for Firebird 3.0."

There is already basic multiprocessor support in the current version of Firebird, as it uses a standard process-based architecture. However, this means a single process is tied to a particular processor in an SMP system, irrespective of system load, and doesn't share memory. Firebird 3.0 will enable multiple threads to run across multiple CPUs at the same time, all sharing memory. This feature will allow enterprises to cut down on the amount of hardware needed for larger databases, according to Beach.

"To scale a process-based architecture you need to throw hardware at it," said Beach. "With finely threaded SMP you can get greater scalability at less cost."

This feature has been worked on in a separate branch of the project by Interbase founder Jim Starkey. It is already completed and is due to be merged with the 2.0 tree over the next few months.

An alpha release of Firebird 3.0 is due in April or May 2005, with the full release due around the end of 2005, according to the Firebird project Web site.

The initial release of the next version of the database, Firebird 2.0, is due in the next few weeks, with the final release due within the next three months, according to Beach.

"We are currently working on 2.0 release which will hopefully be available early this year," said Beach. "We are planning on doing the alpha builds before the end of this month."

Firebird 2.0 includes various features such as an incremental back-up facility that allows database administrators to do back-ups of changes made to the database, rather than copying the entire database every time it is backed up. Other features include security and optimisation enhancements, and support for addition SQL syntax such as derived tables.

Beach said that although Firebird is not as well known as the other open source databases, MySQL and PostgreSQL, IBPhoenix already has around a dozen global enterprise customers. Firebird is also used as an embedded database in a number of applications. The Firebird licence is similar to the PostgreSQL licence as it does not charge licence fees for commercial applications.

Firebird attracted interest in 2003, when it disputed the Mozilla organisation's decision to rename its browser 'Firebird'. Mozilla later stepped down and chose the name Firefox.

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