MySQL 4.1 moves in on Oracle

The open-source database is edging closer to parity with commercial databases with functionality such as binary prepared statements

MySQL, the company which sells services for the MySQL open-source database, will release the production version of MySQL 4.1 on Wednesday.

Brian Aker, director of architecture at MySQL, told ZDNet UK on Tuesday that the new features in MySQL 4.1 including support binary protocol prepared statements, full clustering, sub-queries and GIS data sets.

Aker claims that the new support for prepared statements has resulted in a 30 percent increase in performance when tested using the MySQL benchmark suite.

The clustering capability has been improved so that all front-end instances can now share the same data in a transactional manner.

MySQL 4.1 has been available for testing for more than a year, but the company says it has been waiting until it reached a high level of stability before releasing it as a production version.

The new features in 4.1 move MySQL closer to the functionality of commercial databases, according to Aker, who says more functionality will be added to 5.0, the next production release.

"4.1 has added a lot of features, and with 5.0 we will be reaching parity with other databases," said Aker. "The main things which are missing in 4.1 -- views, triggers and stored procedures -- will be in the production release of 5.0."

An alpha version of MySQL 5.0 is already available, with a beta due in mid-November and the full production version due in the first half of next year.

Aker said that MySQL is not planning on achieving full parity with commercial databases.

"Databases which have been around for a long time, such as Oracle and DB2, are past the basics -- they have a lot of features which users don't necessarily want," said Aker. "For example, we're not going to add feature parity to the point where we add Clippy the paperclip."

Aker said his company has seen increased interest in the open-source database in the past year.

"The market is definitely getting stronger," said Aker. "A year ago we mainly dealt with Web hosting and Web application companies, now we're reaching more traditional companies, such as Sabre [the airline software company]."

Gary Barnett, a research director at Ovum, thinks that MySQL has been following a good roadmap in terms of features, but is unable to compete with Oracle in the high-end market.

"MySQL does not have to achieve full parity with Oracle and DB2 to compete and has been good at determining which functionality to implement," said Barnett. "But, Oracle will continue to be the database of choice for high volume and mission critical applications. I would be astonished if anyone ported a multi-gigabyte Oracle database to MySQL for the next few years."

One area where Barnett expects MySQL to succeed is with independent software vendors (ISVs) who need to include a database in their application. He pointed out that the mid-market is becoming increasingly important as the high-end market is reaching saturation. MySQL has an advantage in this area as it provides basic functionality for a low cost, according to Barnett.

"Basic database functionality should be a commodity -- people shouldn't be paying so much to commercial vendors for it," said Barnett

MySQL has already had some success in the ISV market, when it made a deal with SAP in May 2003 for MySQL to replace SAP DB.