MySQL targets back office with clustering

Looking to boost the reliability and availability of its open-source database, MySQL this week is unveiling clustering capabilities.

At its user conference in Orlando, the Swedish firm is expected to preview its new MySQL Cluster feature as a low-cost way to boost database uptime while ensuring that there is no single point of failure. The company is also highlighting a graphical user interface called MySQL Administrator, which will replace the existing command-line interface. Among the enhancements to the upcoming MySQL 5.0 that will be on display at the conference is support for stored procedures, said Zack Urlocker, vice president of marketing. This feature allows a SQL statement to be stored in the database and called up for use by multiple applications without having to be rewritten.

Urlocker was quick to point out that the company isn't trying to compete directly with either Oracle or IBM. "Those are very mature products that have all the features you can ever imagine," he said. "Think of those as the Ferraris, while we're providing the Honda database for core functions with extreme reliability at a low cost."

The MySQL Cluster tool, which comes as an add-on feature, will allow companies to distribute a MySQL database over multiple machines but keep running it as if it were a single database. Any changes to one server in the cluster will be automatically synchronized through replication to other connected machines.

The clustering feature would probably be most useful for companies running heavy-duty Web applications, noted Carl Rubin, principal at Evidata Solutions, database consultancy that is currently using MySQL to store its customer information. For his own company, he is more interested in other enhancements coming in Version 5.0, such as the stored procedures feature and the ability to automatically join database tables. Prior to using MySQL, Evidata relied on Microsoft Access to hold customer data, which prevented the company from doing things such as assigning different users different viewing privileges, Rubin said. MySQL can be configured so that a given group of end users is limited to read-only access to the data, for example.

MySQL is maturing its product quickly by cherry-picking features, such as clustering, that are most in demand from users looking for a database worthy of the back office, said Charles Garry, an analyst at Meta Group. At least initially, those customers that are now using MySQL probably won't need the more advanced features for the sorts of applications they are running, he said. Nevertheless, these enhancements will remove "technical roadblocks" for those willing to invest in an open-source database, he added.

The MySQL Cluster feature will be available in the third quarter this year as part of MySQL 4; pricing was unavailable, but a commercial license will cost less than US$5,000 per processor. It will run on the Linux, Microsoft Windows and Solaris platforms. MySQL 5.0 will ship in the second half of this year.

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