Open source databases are preparing for enterprise use

Open source databases may not yet be armor-clad enough for use as back-end corporate data stores, but observers say those displayed at the LinuxWorld Conference & Expo last month are on the right track. At the very least, analysts say, these databases are becoming viable foundations for Web and application servers.

Start-ups NuSphere Corp. and Great Bridge LLC were among the firms showing off open source databases, free software they are bolstering with support for:

    Referential integrity, which prevents users from entering erroneous or inconsistent data into fieldsOn-line back-up, which allows for the preservation of database copies without taking the primary database down.Triggers, which can kick off a new operation after another is performed.

NuSphere and Great Bridge offer their respective

products, MySQL and PostgreSQL, for free. However, they charge for optional service and support. MySQL and PostgreSQL, like the Linux kernel, are developed as open source projects and have been adopted for commercialization. Open source databases run on Linux and various flavours of Unix and BSD.

In addition to those features, Great Bridge’s PostgreSQL will soon gain other enterprise application-level capabilities, such as write-ahead logging. This feature could be used to protect the integrity of a transaction in the event of failure – intended database changes are sent to a log before being written to disk.

NuSphere, meanwhile, is building essential database functionality into MySQL, such as record and transaction locking “that will make it increasingly more viable as a database in midsized networks,” said George Weiss, an analyst at Gartner Group.

Weiss doubts NuSphere’s MySQL or Great Bridge’s PostgreSQL will replace corporate Oracle databases any time soon. But he suggests they have applicability in multitier application environments.

“In a multitiered system where you have a back-end corporate database and front-end systems that are compiling certain local databases, it’s possible that the open source databases will be used in front-end applications of a simpler nature,” he said.

However, some users say they are willing to consider open source databases instead of products from Microsoft, Oracle, Sybase and other leading database vendors.

“I see MySQL as mainly in competition with Microsoft (Corp.)’s SQL Server for the middle ground and with Oracle (Corp.)’s databases more at an enterprise-level system,” said MySQL user J.E. Martin, technology coordinator at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, Ark.

“I wanted a database I could use as an [application server] back end for Web sites, so that I could add more dynamic content,” Martin says. “Our project is a nonprofit, so I can’t really hand over US$1,500 for a database system when I can have one for free.”

Don’t think Oracle isn’t taking notice of the open source database companies. The firm last week introduced the Oracle Migration Workbench Release for Red Hat Inc. Linux 6.2, designed to help MySQL users migrate to Oracle databases. The package can be downloaded from