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Open-source MySQL DBMS adds clustering tech

Swedish open-source database maker MySQL AB plans to release a new clustered database product with high-availability support next month, company officials disclosed. The new MySQL Cluster combines the company's flagship open-source database with a clustering architecture officials say is designed to deliver database applications with so-called five-nines availability (99.999%, or less than five minutes of downtime per year).

The new cluster capabilities are based on technology from Alzato, a start-up venture created by European telecom equipment maker Ericsson in 2000 and acquired by MySQL AB last October. Officials describe the technology, called NDB Cluster, as a high-availability data management system designed for the telecom/IP environment. MySQL Cluster is designed to automatically shift workloads among as many as 32 servers, presenting the company with an opportunity to target larger organizations with its products.

The product is scheduled to debut at the MySQL Users Conference in mid-April, according to MySQL AB Marketing VP Zack Urlocker.

Unlike the open-source Linux OS, open-source DBs have yet to claim significant enterprise market share, analysts say. The likely cause, industry watchers have speculated, is a lack of support from major IT suppliers, some of which have thrown considerable weight behind Linux. Most of the big DB vendors, including Oracle (Oracle Database 10g), IBM (DB2) and Microsoft (Microsoft SQL Server), currently offer clustering capabilities with their proprietary offerings.

During a panel discussion at last week's Software Development West Conference in Santa Clara, Calif., Oracle standards architect Jim Melton conceded that an open-source DB vendor like MySQL AB could present serious competition to the current market leaders, but only on price. When it comes to features and functions, he contends, companies like Oracle, with a "10-year head start" in development, will continue to dominate.

Yet MySQL's strategy definitely includes high-end feature offerings. Along with new clustering capabilities, the company plans to add support for stored procedures in Version 5.0 of MySQL, said the firm's Urlocker. The ability to store executable code within a database and make the function available to multiple applications is offered in a number of existing proprietary databases, and even some open-source products (PostgreSQL and Firebird). MySQL 5.0 is currently in early testing, Urlocker said.

MySQL AB describes itself as a "second-generation" open-source company, a moniker shared by companies like Trolltech AS and Sleepycat Software, which also employ a dual-licensing business model. Under that licensing scheme, these firms release software at no charge under the General Public License (GPL) governing the use of open-source software for incorporation into other open-source applications, and at the same time offer a commercial license to use the software in proprietary apps.

"Dual-license companies combine the software quality and distribution benefits of an open-source model with the software licensing revenue model of a traditional commercial software vendor," said IDC analyst Dan Kusnetzky. "This appears to be a successful business model. It offers customers seeking a traditional packaged software model what they want in terms of documentation and ongoing support. For those seeking freely available software and the open-source model of community development and support, they get what they want."

MySQL currently claims more than 4 million active installations of its products. Its customer list includes Yahoo, Sabre Holdings, Cox Communications, The Associated Press and NASA.

More information on MySQL Cluster is available at http://mysql.inspire.net.nz/products/cluster/.

About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached at john@watersworks.com.

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