Sun updates partitioning, replication in MySQL 5.1

Sun Microsystems is hoping the ability to partition and replicate data and automate common tasks will convince large enterprise customers to take a second look at its open source MySQL database.

The launch of MySQL 5.1 on Monday included several enhancements designed to improve performance and ease administration of the product. Sun acquired MySQL in January. Table and index partitioning, for example, will users to “prune” through the horizontal slices of data in a database table and exclude information they don’t really need.

“You might have a year’s worth of sales data, which you partition by month,” said Robin Schumacher, head of MySQL product management for the Database Group at Sun Microsystems. “If I only needed data for January, I’m going to only access one partition, so you’re reading much less data, which means better response time.”

The partitioning add-ons make a big difference to users like Alexey Kovyrin, a Toronto-based developer who specializes in MySQL. “Before 5.1, we were using some really complicated application-level code to partition our data to many tables,” he said. “This is a lot better.”

MySQL 5.1 also features row-based or hybrid replication, which means statements don’t have to be replicated between master and slave servers. Schumacher used the example of a random number generator call that’s sent between a master and a slave. When that happens at the statement level, the random number generator might end up offering a different number on the slave. Replicating rows or a combination of rows and statements should give users more flexibility, he said.

An Event Scheduler, meanwhile, will allow users to do away with external systems for automating tasks within their database environments. “With a couple of commands, you can tell it how often to run, whether it’s one time or recurring, and then what SQL actions you want it to take,” Schumacher said.

Kovyrin said he appreciated Event Scheduler as well. “We were forced to write our own scripts to run some routine tasks on the database. Now we just write in-database tasks and run it into MySQL,” he said.

According to Peter Borgan, president of MySQL consulting firm Aborg Computing in Ottawa, demand for the open source database has remained strong since Sun’s acquisition, probably because Sun hasn’t introduced any additional licensing fees.

“You see it a lot on blogs, content management systems,” he said. “It’s quick and inexpensive to develop on.”

Schumacher said MySQL adoption had been limited in the past due to features such as partitioning. The emphasis now is educating CIOs and CTOs about how it matches up against Oracle or Microsoft’s MySQL.

“Those times when the door has been closed in our face, those are becoming few and far between,” he said. “What we fight now is a lot of FUD. Some people think it’s a community project. Well, it’s not. Sometimes they don’t even realize we have support.”

Borgan said the only limitations to MySQL might be around financial transactions where users need the ability to “roll back” in the event of a power outage and reverse a transaction. He said it will be interesting to see if Sun’s improvements generate more interest in large firms that could afford more hefty licensing fees.

“For small and medium-sized enterprises, Oracle – it’s a great product, but it can be very expensive,” he said.

Sun will be offering MySQL 5.1 in three editions: Community Server, Enterprise Server and Embedded Server. The company also recently released MySQL Query Analyzer to its premium MySQL Enterprise subscribers.

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