MySQL 5.4 Released as Oracle Looms Large

Things are changing fast for the open source database MySQL. On Tuesday at the kick off of the MySQL Conference & Expo, Sun’s open source database division announced new plans to release MySQL updates on a more rapid basis.

The first of those releases, MySQL 5.4, is available in preview today, with MySQL claiming it to be up 90 percent faster than MySQL 5.1 for certain types of queries.

The speedier MySQL database comes as Sun Microsystems (NASDAQ: JAVA), which has owned MySQL for just over a year, is being acquired by Oracle.

While it is still early in the process, MySQL chief executive is optimistic that Oracle will see the value in MySQL and will let them continue on the path they are paving with their new rapid release schedule.

“MySQL is so ubiquitous it will transcend its ownership,” Karen Tegan Padir, vice president of MySQL and software infrastructure at Sun told “We saw it as Sun acquired MySQL and we will see it as Oracle acquired Sun. Oracle will be a very good steward to MySQL because they must. If they don’t try and choose to squash it out, they won’t be able to as it would accelerate.”

Padir is taking over leadership of MySQL from Marten Mickos, the former CEO. Padir pledged to be more transparent in her dealings with the community than her predecessor.

“We will be more transparent, we will give more to the community and we’re doing monthly rapid updates to the community to release more often,” Padir said. “There will be an emphasis on taking community contributions and putting them into the code.”

MySQL 5.4

Robin Schumacher, director of product management at Sun’s MySQL division, explained that the goal of the new push at MySQL is to have a milestone release every three to six months, the first of those is MySQL 5.4. Today’s release is considered by MySQL to be a preview, with the full release set for later this year.

Performance is the key improvement in MySQL 5.4, which comes from a number of innovations in the database. At the top of the list are improvements to the MySQL Optimizer which is the tool that dictates the path the database takes to satisfy queries.

MySQL Optimizer has been improved for subquery optimization such that nested queries (queries that are two levels or more deep) will now execute 90 percent faster, according to Schumacher.

A new table join algorithm called batch key access which used memory to speed up the processing of multi-way joins, also helps to accelerate MySQL 5.4.

Shumacher argued that the changes are such that for existing MySQL users they will get the speed improvement by simply migrating to MySQL 5.4. “No one has to do anything to benefit from these things,” Schumacher said. “They just have to upgrade from MySQL 5.1 or whatever MySQL they were using.”

MySQL 6 and Beyond

MySQL has been talking about its MySQL 6.0 development effort for the past several years. Shumacher noted that the current plan is for 6.0 to be out in 2010, with one of its key features being the Falcon engine, which MySQL originally announced in 2006.

Falcon is an alternative transactional database engine to the InnoDB engine, which has been owned by Oracle since 2005.

Another key project within MySQL development organization is the Drizzle project, which is an effort to create a lightweight MySQL database.

“Drizzle is absolutely complementary to MySQL,” Padir said. “We’re really looking at it as an incubator to see what things happen there that we need to do to current releases of MySQL. It’s a project and over time we’ll productize it as appropriate.”

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