Sun claims big leap with MySQL upgrade this week

MySQL developers should be able to get their hands on a major update to the open-source database this week when Sun Microsystems Inc. hosts its first MySQL user conference since acquiring the company earlier this year.

Sun will use the MySQL Conference & Expo in Santa Clara, Calif., to release MySQL 5.1, an upgrade that includes several new features designed to make the database more suitable for mission-critical applications at large enterprises.

"5.1, though it sounds like an incremental release, has got some pretty major features," said Zack Urlocker, vice president of MySQL products at Sun, in a video posted on InfoWorld's Web site last week. "Probably, we should have called it 6.0, because there's so much stuff in there and we've been working on it for a couple of years."

Among the advances in 5.1 are partitioning, events scheduling, row-based replication and disk-based clustering. They are fairly standard features already offered in competing products from IBM, Oracle Corp. and Microsoft Corp., but they should help MySQL compete among users for whom performance and the ability to scale are critical.

"One thing we're really most proud of is, frankly, we fixed a lot of outstanding bugs in 5.0," said Urlocker, who was executive vice president of products at MySQL AB before it was bought by Sun. "So 5.1 has not only greater reliability, but a performance increase of 20%. It will be more in some cases and less in others, but there's a significant performance boost and scalability enhancements."

MySQL had said it would release 5.1 in the first quarter, which ended March 31, and some developers have been getting impatient for the new release. "I'm a little disappointed that Q1 is almost over and there's still no sign of MySQL 5.1," Andrew Poodle, who runs the MySQL user group in the U.K., said early last month.

Other topics for discussion at the conference include which transactional engine MySQL developers should focus on as they move forward. Most customers today use InnoDB, but Oracle acquired that software a few years ago, and MySQL has been developing an alternative, called Falcon, which is due for release with MySQL 6.0.

At the same time, Michael Widenius, one of the original developers of MySQL, is developing a transactional engine called Maria, an early version of which was released in January.

"The goal of the Maria development team is to make Maria to be the default transactional engine for MySQL by MySQL AB. The Falcon team has the same goal with Falcon engine. Let the best engine win :)" Widenius wrote in a blog post before the Sun acquisition closed.

Developers will also be looking for an updated road map for MySQL, something Sun has not given since it closed the $1 billion acquisition in February. And some will be looking for evidence that Sun won't interfere with MySQL's open-source development model, something it has pledged not to do.

Sun does appear to be crafting the marketing message around Falcon, however. The software will be "optimized for Web applications in a multicore, multithreaded environment," Urlocker said in the video. Sun has been using similar language in promoting its multicore, multithreaded server processors for running busy Web sites.

Still, Poodle was positive about the acquisition. Sun is one of the few big companies that have figured out how to offer free and paid products side by side, and the deal should help MySQL break into the enterprise market, he said. "I'm not saying MySQL is at a level where it can compete with the big boys in those markets, but it's getting there quickly," he said.

The conference starts today. On Tuesday, Marten Mickos, the former CEO of MySQL, and Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz will give speeches about the future of MySQL.

There will also be a panel discussion with representatives from Flickr, YouTube and Facebook on the challenges of scaling MySQL to run busy Web sites. And a member of the Swedish Pirate Party will talk about efforts to fight copyrights on software, which some see as a threat to open-source development.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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