MySQL has released version 4.1 of its open source database, claiming it is ready for large-scale company use.

The upgrade features advanced querying capabilities through sub-queries; faster and more flexible client-server communication; and new installation and configuration tools. Security is improved and support has been added for international character sets and geographic data, the company said.

The sub-queries and derived tables feature allows users to search complex data sets. And new installation and configuration wizards for both Linux and Windows make it easier to set up, said MySQL.

"We're continuing to add a lot of the enterprise capabilities that people are looking for, like sub-queries and prepared statements," said Zack Urlocker, the company's marketing VP. "We continue to improve the performance and make it easier to use with every single release."

Analysts, however, said the company still has work to do. "I am not a fan to date of this release," said Gartner analyst Donald Feinberg. "It is not enterprise-ready until features such as (stored procedures and triggers) are there." Those capabilities, plus a views feature, are to be added in release 5.0 of MySQL, targeted for shipment early next year. It had been initially set for release late in 2004. "Version 5.0 is what needs to come out. Not sure why this came along now," Feinberg said.

"I think 4.1 is an incremental step," added Noel Yuhanna, an analyst at Forrester. "It's definitely a requirement to have a new release coming out every 12 to 18 months." Security and performance improvements in 4.1 are worthwhile, but the company still needs to add stored procedures and triggers, Yuhanna said.

Encrypted client-server communication, featured in release 4.1, is enabled using OpenSSL, to boost security against intrusion and unauthorised access. Also included is a faster client-server protocol, improving queries and warning information. Full text and Help features are also improved in Version 4.1, MySQL said. The Help function now offers expanded documentation.

MySQL 4.1 is available now for Linux, Windows, Solaris, Mac OS X, FreeBSD, HP-UX, AIX, and others. The product is offered under a dual licensing model - through either an open source or a commercial license. For open source usage, in which source code is made available, the product is free. Commercial pricing, for using the database in commercially distributed applications, starts at $595 per server. Support charges cost extra.