A database query

One of the more common queries I hear is, “What database should I use under Linux?” That is actually a pleasantly difficult question, because there are a number of choices that depend on what you want to do.

If you are looking for a large commercial database such as Oracle or DB2 to run on Linux, the solution may be just to run Oracle or DB2. Many of the most prominent commercial databases established a presence in the Linux world years ago, so you can often stay with your current database vendor under Linux if you wish to.

But if you are looking for open-source alternatives, there are several. One of the most visible options is MySQL AB’s MySQL (www.mysql.com). Unlike most commercial databases, MySQL is less concerned with having every possible feature and more concerned with maximising speed. As a result, some database administrators make the mistake of thinking MySQL is a “toy” because it currently does not have support for stored procedures, triggers, and views.

But MySQL is no toy. It’s an extremely fast, sleek engine favoured by Web designers for years. The few features it lacks will arrive, but only after the core team deems them fast enough to meet the project’s speed requirements. The developers refuse to slow down the engine’s trademark quickness for the sake of adding features that few customers use.

During the frantic era of the dotcom boom, many organisations started using MySQL to power their Web pages. Its fast queries, minimal administration, and zero acquisition cost made it a winner. But in the aftermath, these organisations are discovering that this “little” database can do a whole lot.

On the other side of the coin is PostgreSQL (www.postgresql.com). Begun as a research project at the University of California at Berkeley in the mid 1980s, PostgreSQL is a database engine focused on stability and high volume. It boasts an impressive array of features, availability on a wide number of Unix platforms, and it will feature native Windows compatibility with its next release. It also includes GUIs for database administration under both Linux and Windows.

Another open-source database that is beginning to turn heads is Firebird (firebird.sourceforge.net). Born of the opening of Interbase’s source code, Firebird seems to be gathering fans in the open-source world. Given Interbase’s long history, Firebird is quite mature for a relatively new open-source entry.

As they are open source, you don’t need some expensive contract just to try them out.

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