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MySQL Breaks Into the Data Center

Once dismissed as inadequate for high transaction volumes, the open-source database's improved performance and low cost are winning new converts -- and shaking up the status quo in the database world.

By Mark Hall
October 13, 2003 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - MySQL infuriated a janitor one night in the New York headquarters of The Associated Press. Because of a successful adoption of the open-source database, the IT staffers there figured they no longer needed their DB2 manuals. So they dumped them all in the trash.

"He looked at the manuals, and there were stacks of them, got angry, said he'd come back for them later and stormed out," recalls Michael Welles, a database consultant on the project. "All because of MySQL."

MySQL is also upsetting the entire database market. Charles Garry, an analyst at Meta Group Inc. in Stamford, Conn., hails it as "a disruptive technology" that's commoditizing databases—so much so, he says, that "the future of the database market will be the standardization on MySQL."

Strong words, but adherents of the open-source database are passionate supporters, and they number in the millions. These users are drawn to it because it offers high performance, ease of use and a feature set broad enough to handle most of their database development needs. And it's cheap.

Indeed, MySQL's low cost never fails to come up in conversation with users. Mark Cotner, manager of network application development at Cox Communications Inc. in Atlanta, points out that his MySQL-based application cost less than $90,000 from soup to nuts, including the Intel-based servers, programming time and the approximately $4,000 annual license and support payments to MySQL AB, the Uppsala, Sweden-based company that oversees the development and distribution of the open-source database. An Oracle database license for the project would have totaled $300,000 by itself, he says.

Cotner is far from the only person with a MySQL money-saving story. Another is Dwight Clark, an IT specialist and systems analyst for the Marshall Space Flight Center Procurement Office at NASA. He says the NASA Acquisition Internet Service (NAIS) migrated an Oracle database to MySQL because a price restructuring by Oracle Corp. meant the licensing costs alone for a simple upgrade would be "more than twice the NAIS annual budget."

Fast and Easy

But free source code and inexpensive licensing aren't the only reasons why users sing MySQL's praises. Performance also rises to the top of the list.

Cotner says that the 700GB data warehouse he built "is very, very fast." The application atop the database gathers monitoring information via Simple Network Management Protocol on Cox's 1.2 million cable modems in the field. With it, Cox is now able to supply critical service data to analysts and technical support staff.

"The most expensive part of running a cable company is managing the last mile," he says. "So if we can do that more intelligently, we can save the company money and improve customer satisfaction."

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