Open-Source Database Alternatives

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Although the Linux operating system—with its variety of distributions—has more or less become the face of the open-source community, it also offers less publicized yet valuable solutions across information technology. Particularly, open source has contributed a great deal to the database sector for many years now. Some of these contributions include MySQL, which has more than 6 million installations on every continent on Earth (yes, even Antarctica), and PostgreSQL, which has been around for more than 15 years. But how many database professionals use them?


A decent number of them, as it turns out, and that figure will probably rise in the near term: A study conducted in the past few months by technology research organization Evans Data Corp. showed that open-source database deployments were up by about 20 percent in the past six months, with many respondents reporting that they were expecting to implement them in some capacity in the next six months. “We see a lot considering,” Evans Data Corp. President John Andrews said. “My opinion would be that many are thinking about it. We have not—in any of our qualitative research—seen a large population implementing yet.”


One of the main reasons behind this sudden increase in popularity is the fact that these systems are perceived as more secure. Andrews explained that open-source database systems had greater flexibility—and therefore could adapt to attackers’ tactics faster—than their proprietary counterparts. Also, as with Linux in relation to Windows, the smaller user population guarantees that there will be fewer attacks. Users of proprietary databases were twice as likely to have to suffered a security breach, according to the EDC report. “I think that’s part of the context, no question,” he said. “I also think that there are lessons learned that the open-source community has implemented based on the past.”


While Andrews predicts rapid growth in open-source database rollouts during the next few months, he acknowledged the existence of a few inhibitors to adoption, such as the present lack of technical support, customer suspicions about capability, and insufficient scale and performance in a few current offerings. However, he doesn’t think these should hold back growth too much. “I think all of those will improve at a commensurate pace,” Andrews explained. I don’t see any of those being overly difficult or challenging for the developer and vendor communities. It goes back to the context of open-source versus proprietary. It’s time, experience and maturity. We have to wait and see.”


Here’s a roundup of some of the open-source databases the industry can expect to see more of:


MySQL: One of the most popular open-source database providers, this organization recently released MySQL 5.0, which is available for Linux, Windows, Solaris, Mac OS X, HP-UX and several other operating systems. This latest distribution includes new features like stored procedures for enhanced developer productivity, views to protect sensitive records and information schema to provide greater accessibility to metadata. With more than 6 million installations around the world overall, the company counts NASA, the Associated Press, Bank of America and Google among its current clients.


For more information, see


PostgreSQL: Speaking of new releases, PostgreSQL also rolled out a new version of its flagship product. PostgreSQL 8.1 has more than 120 new features and improvements contributed by approximately 200 developers, including new database roles, which simplify management of large amounts of users with varying database rights, and enhanced multiprocessor performance for greater gains on 8-way, 16-way, dual-core and multi-core CPU servers. PostegreSQL prides itself on the flexibility of its products, which run stored procedures in more than a dozen programming languages, including Java, Perl, Python, Ruby and C/C++. Also worth noting, PostgreSQL’s source code is available under the laissez-faire BSD open-source license.


For more information, see


FirebirdSQL: Firebird’s SQL database engine is based on the source code of InterBase 6.0, which was released as open source by Borland in August 2000, but the company traces its history back to 1981. More recently, Firebird launched version 1.5 of its client/server relational database in February 2004. Additionally, the company is in the beta stage with version 2 of this product, which is available for download at the company’s Web site. The company’s open-source creds are sound, too. Firebird requires no registration, licensing or deployment fees, and can be implemented freely for use with any third-party software, whether commercial or not.


For more information, see


Sybase: Born in a garage in Berkeley, Calif., in 1984, Sybase brings more than two decades of database experience to the table. The company, which has most of the Fortune 500 as clientele, offers a suite of four distinct open-source database options: Sybase IQ, Sybase Adaptive Server Enterprise (ASE), Sybase Anywhere Studio and Sybase Dynamic Archive.


For more information, see

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