Sun is to set offer developers a major upgrade of MySQL , the first since it acquired the company earlier this year.

The company is set to make the announcement at a MySQL conference in California. MySQL 5.1, is expected to add several new features to make the database more suitable for critical applications at large enterprises.

"5.1, though it sounds like an incremental release, has got some pretty major features," said Zack Urlocker, vice president for MySQL products at Sun, in a video on our sister title, Infoworld's site. "Probably, we should have called it 6.0, because there's so much stuff in there and we've been working on it for a couple of years."

Among the advances in 5.1 are partitioning, events scheduling, row-based replication and disk-based clustering. They are fairly standard features already offered by rivals IBM, Oracle and Microsoft, but they should help MySQL compete in environments where performance and the ability to scale are critical.

"One thing we're really most proud of is, frankly, we fixed a lot of outstanding bugs in 5.0," Urlocker said. "So 5.1 has not only greater reliability, but a performance increase of 20 percent. It will be more in some cases and less in others, but there's a significant performance boost and scalability enhancements."

MySQL had said it would release 5.1 in the first quarter, which ended 31 March, and some developers have been getting impatient for the new release. "I'm a little disappointed that Q1 is almost over and there's still no sign of MySQL 5.1," Andrew Poodle, who runs the MySQL user group in the UK, said early last month.

Other topics for discussion next week include which transactional engine MySQL developers should focus on as they move forward. Most customers today use InnoDB, but that software was acquired a few years ago by Oracle, and MySQL has been developing an alternative, called Falcon, which is due for release with MySQL 6.0.

At the same time, Michael Widenius, one of the original developers of MySQL, is developing a transactional engine called Maria, an early version of which was released in January.

"The goal of the Maria development team is to make Maria to be the default transactional engine for MySQL by MySQL AB. The Falcon team has the same goal with Falcon engine. Let the best engine win :)" Widenius wrote in a blog postbefore the Sun acquisition closed.

Developers will also be looking for an updated road map for MySQL, something Sun has not given since it closed the US$1 billion acquisition in February. And some will be looking for evidence that Sun won't interfere with MySQL's open-source development model, something it has pledged not to do.

Sun does appear to be crafting the marketing message around Falcon, however. The software will be "optimised for web applications in a multi-core, multi-threaded environment," Urlocker said in the video. Sun has been using similar language in promoting its multi-core, multi-threaded server processors for running busy websites.

Still, Poodle was positive about the acquisition. Sun is one of the few big companies that have figured out how to offer free and paid products side by side, and the deal should help MySQL break into the enterprise market, he said. "I'm not saying MySQL is at a level where it can compete with the 'big boys' in those markets, but it's getting there quickly," he said.