Review: What Sun Hath Wrought for MySQL2:37 PM EST Thu. Apr. 17, 2008
The most well-known open source database for Web applications now has a strong channel program backing it, new features, and a slew of new management features.
When Sun Microsystems, Santa Clara, Calif., acquired open-source database vendor MySQL AB in the fall of 2007, many solution providers expressed relief at having a strong channel-friendly company behind the popular database. The database's adoption rate has been hampered by customer apprehensions about dealing with open-source software, making it doubly hard for solution providers to sell. Many partners saw the deal as a seal of approval from a big-name and established vendor that was necessary to give customer peace of mind and to coax them to finally give the whole open-source thing a try. Sun now has something to offer customers who were considering Oracle just because of the name.
At the MySQL User Conference this week, Sun unveiled new features for the database, with a little caveat: The new features, including online backup, encryption, and native storage engine-specific drivers, will be available only for its enterprise subscription customers. While many have accused Sun of shifting MySQL away from open-source and towards a proprietary model, it's important to note that the code split between mySQL Community and mySQL Enterprise happened back in August 2007, and MySQL AB announced that split before Sun entered the picture.
In performing an independent review of MySQL, the Test Center set up a mySQL Community database and tried out some of the management tools that came with MySQL Enterprise Monitor. Currently, the GA version is 5.0.51, RC is version 5.1.23, and version 6.0.4 is available as an alpha. CRN Test Center reviewers used the GA version for this story.
A quick point to clarify: Sun bought the company that provided enterprise support for companies using the mySQL database, not the source code itself. MySQL remains open-source and readily available. It is similar to the relationship between Linux and Red Hat and Novell, where the companies provide enterprise support for the open-source operating system. With the newest announcement, the Community Edition remains open-source and free to anyone interested in trying out the database, while the Enterprise Edition has additional Sun-developed features and is available only for the paying customers. There is a lot of suspicion and distrust among segments of the channel towards open-source applications. Along with the common misperception that open-source equals free (no cost) as opposed to free (libre), there is also a sense that there is no way to make money on non-proprietary software. On the contrary, there are plenty of opportunities, including support, selling hardware with the application pre-installed, maintenance and service contracts, and add-on management tools.
For many partners, the Sun connection gives them access to contracts that were previously out of reach. The database is so widely deployed that partners now have a longer roster of customers they can work with who weren't already using Sun products, or hadn't previously considered buying Sun equipment. Partners can also offer management tools to customers, regardless of whether they have commercial or no-cost MySQL database installations. Solution providers can sell MySQL Enterprise to customers looking to move on to the platform, or offer management and development tools to customers already entrenched in the MySQL community.
On the software front, the open-source mySQL database is a weak on management and development tools, compared to the proprietary databases, such as Microsoft SQL Server and Oracle. This is where Sun's line of MySQL management products shine. The flagship offering is MySQL Enterprise Monitor, a comprehensive set of proactive monitoring tools and support available through an annual subscription. There are four service plans, Basic, Silver, Gold, and Platinum. The Platinum version costs $4,999 per server per year.
Enterprise Monitor includes a service agent on each monitored server and a service manager that relies on Java services to collect database and operating system data. Administrators can also look at and monitor several servers as a group instead of accessing them individually. A Web-based Enterprise Dashboard provides graphs, charts, and events data for the monitored servers.
Once the database is installed, it can be used via the command-line utility or by any of the several third-party GUI tools available. Sun offers the MySQL Query Browser, a visual tool for creating, executing, and optimizing SQL queries for the database server. The MySQL Query Browser provides a complete set of drag-and-drop tools to build and analyze queries. A database explorer simplifies finding database objects, the table editor creates and modifies tables, and the script editor provides a robust interface for creating, editing, and debugging large SQL scripts that involve multiple SQL statements. The script area supports line numbering and syntax highlighting to make it easier to debug scripts. MySQL Workbench, also available through Sun, is a database modeling tool that can design and create new database schemas, document existing databases and even perform complex database migrations.
For solution providers assisting customers in developing an application, the MySQL Embedded Database is a full-featured, zero administration database that can be shipped with a software application or appliance. Because of its small footprint -- only 1 Mbyte -- the entire database server can be run inside an application. Because the database runs transparently to the end user, customers don't need to hire a dedicated DBA to manage the database separately.
MySQL supports replication and hierarchical master/slave relationships, where one or more databases from a master server are automatically mirrored onto other slave servers. This is usually done to improve performance or for backup. Enterprise Monitor can auto-detect pairings and track changes made to the relationships.
The database runs on practically anything, including Linux, Solaris, HP-UX, AID, FreeBSD, Mac OS, and on Windows operating systems (XP, 2003 Server, and Vista, for example). In Windows, the database installs and runs as a service and comes with an applet for configuration. It ships with most Linux distributions and powers most major blog systems on the Web as well as several large companies. Designed to be easy to install, configure, and get into production fast, the average time from download to installation is about 15 minutes.
The database engine is small and fleet - it does not tax the system resources. Reviewers had no trouble running the database on a laptop. It is fast, reliable, and scalable.
Benchmark Factory for Databases from Quest Software, Aliso Viejo, Calif., was used to measure database performance and scalability using an ODBC connection. The software tool uses industry standard benchmarks such as OLTP, data warehouse, and several TPC tests. In a simulation of 20 virtual users, the database recorded 10.4 transactions per second.
On the hardware front, Sun will be optimizing MySQL for Sun hardware, much in the same way Sun servers are optimized for Oracle databases. While MySQL runs on a variety of servers and storage devices, this is good news for Sun partners, who can offer customers a full MySQL solution, complete with Sun servers and storage, MySQL database, and database management software.
MySQL is often deployed in Web applications as part of a LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP/Perl/Python) stack. Partners can source their own hardware and build web server appliances with all four components installed and configured. Customers interested in taking advantage of open-source applications instead of costly IIS-based solutions could use a "plug-and-play" appliance that has all the components already in place.
Sun is committed to making tools and services available for MySQL. Solution providers can take advantage of the offering to expand some of their own business offerings.
The bottom line: MySQL didn't become the de facto database of choice for Web applications by accident. With Sun hardware optimized for MySQL and strong support, it opens up more opportunities.