MySQL has released the first beta of a major upgrade to its open source database, adding several features designed for corporate users.

MySQL 5.0.3 was put on its website earlier this week for platforms including Linux, Solaris, AIX, Windows and Mac OS X. It isn't intended yet for production use yet. Instead, MySQL hopes developers will try out the database and provide feedback to help it resolve issues. The final release is expected in June, said Zack Urlocker, MySQL's marketing VP.

The main additions are support for stored procedures, triggers and views. Together they will make the database more suitable for jobs like running an e-commerce website or building a data warehouse, Urlocker said. The upgrade also adds support for transactions running across several servers or databases, including databases from other vendors.

"This is probably the biggest upgrade we've down in the last 10 years," Urlocker said. "It should open the market to a much broader audience of users."

MySQL offers its database under a dual licensing model: customers can use the software for free under the GNU GPL (General Public Licence), or buy a commercial licence if they want to distribute the database with an application for which they do not want to release the source code. The second option is popular among independent software vendors that distribute the database with their products.

In February, MySQL launched a third option for enterprise users. Called MySQL Network, it includes a GPL licence, indemnification against intellectual property lawsuits and some new support options. The annual subscription price ranges from $595 to $4,995 per database server depending on the level of support.

MySQL says its software complements, rather than competes with, databases from market leaders Oracle, IBM and Microsoft, but it clearly hopes to take business from those vendors.
"Most large companies have lots of different database systems. They may choose to run Oracle or Microsoft; we think MySQL has a really good bang for the buck because the open source model makes it very cost effective," Urlocker said.

Many of the features MySQL is adding to its database with version 5.0 have long been available from the more established vendors. About 40 percent of MySQL's customers run its database on Linux, with about 35 percent running Microsoft Windows, Urlocker said.

The beta release is behind schedule by a few months - it was originally due in December, then in January or February. The company will talk more about it at its user conference in California on 18 April.