MySQL, So Much Database, So Little Money
by Robin Bloor and Carol Baroudi, Partners
Are there good reasons to pay hefty license fees for an enterprise database? Well, it depends on the circumstances, but in most situations the answers is “No”.
Are there good reasons for using a completely free database within the Enterprise?
Well, that depends upon the circumstances too. After all, many companies use a free browser (Firefox), a free web server (Apache) and a free operating system (Linux). However, with database the situation is likely to be more complex. Support can and should be a major consideration, and 24 x 7 support with a guaranteed response is never free.
The Open Source Database Movement
The Open Source database movement began almost at the same time as the whole concept of Open Source was established. MySQL AB initiated it, launching one of the first Open Source products in 1995. It was a no-nonsense easy-to-use database that was particularly suited for use with web applications, because it was optimized to deliver fast read access to information.
MySQL was provided in two versions; MySQL Standard, which was available free of charge and issued under the Open Source GPL license and MySQL Pro which was identical in functionality and available under a low cost commercial license which didn’t include some of the restrictions of the GPL and offered a basic level of support. It quickly became a very popular choice among web site developers, partly because it was low cost (or free), but also because it was robust and effective.
MySQL is no longer the only Open Source database product, but nevertheless it is the dominant one. With an estimated 5 million installations in businesses of all sizes – from the small and medium enterprise (SME) to the likes of Google, Daimler Chrysler and Ericsson – MySQL is one of the most used database products in the world. Over the years it has also grown in capability, from being a simple SQL database to one with sophisticated transaction processing capabilities – and it continues to evolve.
MySQL has also grown in other ways. The leading ISVs (SAP, Novell, BMC, Veritas and others), who rarely offer support for anything but leading database products, support MySQL, and MySQL is a key part of LAMP, the Open Source enterprise software stack, which is now used extensively for building and implementing corporate browser based applications. (LAMP stands for Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP / Perl / Python).
The Inexpensive Enterprise Database
Fundamentally, databases provide developer-friendly data storage capabilities. Their use varies considerably in sophistication, both in how they are used and in the types of applications they support. Many areas of database application do not need a particularly sophisticated product, and contemporary software developers understand that there is no need to pay high database license fees for straightforward usage.
While a large number of MySQL deployments are of this type, the product has also been extensively used in mission critical internet applications – simply because it has proved itself robust in such applications over many years. MySQL is thus forging ahead on the basis of proven capability and, as a consequence, is being used in more and more business-critical applications.
The success of MySQL in such areas presents a challenge to the major database vendors. A large number of developers have MySQL knowledge and experience and MySQL continues to evolve with every new release, coming closer and closer to providing the same functionality at dramatically lower cost. MySQL has become suitable for applications that were once the sole preserve of the major database vendors and its price is a fraction of the fee for the big name database products.
MySQL – A Second Generation Open Source Database
2004 was a “coming of age” in the development of commercial Open Source products – with the notion of “second generation” Open Source taking root.
The first generation of Open Source products were created, proliferated and supported by developer communities. Users of such products needed to be technically sophisticated, and needed to be happy with the level of support that the Open Source developer community could provide. While some businesses took the risk of using such products, many businesses shunned them, primarily because the support available for such products was simply not good enough.
Second generation Open Source products are characterized by the fact that they are backed by a commercial organization (such as JBoss Inc. or MySQL AB) that provides formal support and all the other associated services that enable the use of such products in the corporate context, even for mission critical applications.
MySQL AB has been a pioneer in this area for many years offering and delivering a broader range of support and services than were usually available with other Open Source products. Recently, however, it enhanced its service to the point where it can genuinely claim to deliver the service options normally associated with the use of large, commercial databases.
In January 2005, MySQL AB announced MySQL Network, a set of newly packaged support capabilities aimed squarely at enterprise deployments of MySQL. The aim was twofold:
1 To allay the fears that some IT users have in adopting Open Source products and
2 To package and formalize support levels available to enterprise customers.
MySQL AB will deliver unified releases of MySQL that are certified for use on a variety of platforms and with complementary products. Every new release is subject to formal testing for functionality, reliability and security. Enterprise level product support is provided with four options for the customer to select; Basic, Silver, Gold and Platinum. The Gold and Platinum levels provide full global 24 x 7 support, with the Platinum level offering a higher guaranteed response time and additional advisory services.
All support levels include access to a self-help knowledge base, technical alerts and update advice – including formal delivery of software updates. Product releases will be in line with a published product roadmap.
Additionally Gold and Platinum levels of support provide comprehensive product indemnification that covers patent, copyright and trademark infringement. However, the likelihood that MySQL violates any intellectual property is very low as the source code of MySQL has been written entirely by MySQL employees.
The Value Proposition
The pricing of MySQL Network is highly competitive, starting at $595 per server for Basic support, rising to $4995 per server for Platinum support.
Now that comprehensive support is provided, the major difference between MySQL and its big name competition is a functionality difference that is gradually diminishing with each new release of the product and a price difference that weighs heavily in MySQL’s favor.
At the end of the day, the MySQL value proposition is simple – it provides excellent value for money.