MySQL is eyeing a November release date for Version 5 of its open-source database, a major upgrade that the company hopes will make it a bigger player among enterprise customers.
The Swedish company released what may be the final test version of the product, known as a release candidate, about two weeks ago. If no "show-stopper bugs" turn up it will ship the final, commercial version in November, said Kaj Arnö, MySQL vice president for community relations.
The company is calling Version 5 its most significant upgrade yet. It adds a handful of features considered important for enterprises that have long been available from market leaders Oracle, IBM, and Microsoft. Chief among them are triggers, views, and stored procedures.
MySQL has also changed the way its database performs some common tasks, such as error checking, to make it behave like other databases. The idea is to make it easier for a database administrator to switch from another platform, encouraging migrations. The "old" ways of doing things will still be an option, and the vast majority of current MySQL applications will run unchanged on Version 5, according to David Axmark, a MySQL co-founder who has the job title "open sorcerer."
The price for MySQL Network, its subscription support service, will not change, Axmark said. It ranges from €495 ($594) to €3,995 per server per year, depending on the level required. Its database is also available free under the GPL (General Public License) and under a commercial license for redistribution with other products.
MySQL has always denied it competes directly with Oracle and IBM, preferring to call its product "complementary." That may have been due to the limitations of its software or because it was unwilling to stir up its bigger rivals. Either way, the situation is changing now.
MySQL isn't laying claim to Oracle's high-end business, but the new features in the upgrade will make MySQL suitable for a wider range of enterprise tasks, including even running ERP (enterprise resource planning) applications, according to Axmark.
"We won't attack the data center installations, but there are thousands of other platforms out there for which, in some cases, an enterprise database may be too much," he said.
Axmark positioned MySQL 5 as a no-frills product for a wide range of data management needs: "not the Rolls Royce but the economy class." Other executives likened databases to DVD players, suggesting the category has been commoditized and that one database can easily substitute for another.
That may be true for some basic tasks, but Oracle, IBM, and even Microsoft continue to offer capabilities that keep their products far ahead of MySQL, said Gary Barnett, an industry analyst with U.K. research company Ovum.
"Ask Larry Ellison if databases are a commodity while he's sipping a cup of coffee and you'll have coffee all down your shirt," he said, referring to Oracle's chairman.
Barnett was skeptical of whether MySQL will drum up much new enterprise business, at least soon. License and maintenance fees are only a small part of the cost of owning a database, and MySQL will have to show other clear, tangible benefits if users are to migrate to its platform, he said.