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Rapid commoditization of databases is sparking momentum for open-source database vendors, such as MySQL AB, among others, to firmly establish notoriety for quicker-paced, less costly alternatives to large-scale database offerings.

Experts say developers are showing a growing comfort level toward open-source database tools, primarily due to the proliferation of Linux combined with liberal licensing terms and relative deployment ease for non-back-office applications.

“It wouldn’t surprise me to see that 2004 will be when we move into the early-adopter phase of open-source databases,” said analyst Charles Garry, of Meta Group Inc., in Stamford, Conn. “I get calls now [from customers], not ‘Should I use an open-source database,’ but instead it’s ‘Should I use PostgreSQL or MySQL?’”

According to sources, IBM is paying close attention to that demand and is considering offering its support for an open-source database technology, likely that of MySQL, later this year.

IBM, of Armonk, N.Y., would not confirm or deny its open-source database interest.

Keying on the trend, however, is MySQL, which this week will release the Alpha development version of its MySQL 5.0 database software.

A significant addition in the 5.0 upgrade is stored procedures support to facilitate moving legacy database applications from an application server without interference, said Marten Mickos, CEO of MySQL, based in Uppsala, Sweden.

Additional upgrade features include new server-side cursor support for stored procedures accessibility, as well as internationalization capabilities and portability and migration enhancements.

MySQL at LinuxWorld.

Separately, MySQL later this month will introduce new graphical database management and server administration tools at LinuxWorld in New York. The company will unveil at the show a partnership with Zend Technologies Ltd. that is aimed at the Hypertext Preprocessor space.

Experts say that sooner or later, major commercial database vendors will have to address users’ growing appetite for open-source database technology.

That point was driven home last week in a Database Development Survey by Evans Data Corp., in Santa Cruz, Calif. The survey, which measured the responses of nearly 550 developers, found that MySQL usage grew by 30 percent in 2003. In contrast, the survey showed that Microsoft Corp.’s SQL Server and Access each grew by only 6 percent.

Tim Crider, a programmer for SubscriberBase, in Columbia, S.C., has used MySQL for eight years. Crider said most commercial databases cannot match the tight data format, replication and scaling capabilities that open source affords.

“Should something arise [with open source] you have a problem with, you can [correct] it yourself or hire a developer to do it,” said Crider. “That’s not the same answer with Microsoft or Oracle [Corp.]. … You’re just locked into whatever version you’re using.”