Developers at open-source player MySQL are set to make it easier for customers to manage the software. The company is working on a project code-named "Merlin" which continually scans a user's database network for any likely system crashes, bottlenecks or security vulnerabilities.

Merlin, which has been under development at MySQL for 22 months, is due to debut late in the fourth quarter of this calendar year or early in the first quarter of 2007. It's unclear whether Merlin contains any third-party software or if MySQL developers have modelled the offering on any existing database monitoring and advisory service.

The company said that the aim of Merlin was to simplify MySQL database administration for both small to midsize businesses (SMBs) and enterprises. While SMBs often can't afford to employ database administrators (DBAs) to look after their MySQL implementations, larger firms are running into difficulties trying to find sufficient DBAs with specific MySQL skills. Customer demand was a strong factor in the vendor deciding to create Merlin, the source added.

In an interview Friday, Marten Mickos, chief executive officer at MySQL, declined to comment on the project. However, he said that one of his company's main focuses in the coming year will be to provide tools and other offerings to make life easier for MySQL DBAs.

"Our first wave of users in the '90s were not database developers," Mickos said. "In the twenty-first century, we've been enabling database developers. Now, we're thinking of ways to help DBAs and take care of them."

Merlin acts as a "virtual DBA" or "a constant MySQL consultant," the source said, alerting users to potential system issues before they become critical and offering fixes, tips and tuning options to improve the performance of the MySQL database. So far, Merlin has 50-plus database rules that it can check and provide advice on, with the expectation that both MySQL and its customers will build more customized rules in future.

Merlin, now being beta-tested at 24 customer sites, will be rolled into the MySQL Network subscription service, the source said.