Wednesday, August 12, 2009

TimeTrak: The Database

I love free things, and I love good free things. When it comes to software development, there are tons of free options for most pieces you will need to build your applications, and building TimeTrak will be no exception. I'm choosing to use the MySQL database server for this project because I am familiar with its reliability, scalability, performance, and simplicity (all awesome). They also provide a Java connection driver and a bunch of other free tools to manage the database.

To be impartial, I've also checked out, used, or heard of these other free database applications that some might find more appealing than MySQL. Heck, I'll use any database that is relational, is SQL-compliant, has a driver for my programming language, is known-good in the industry for the kind of application I am developing, and is (almost) free - unless the project requires using a specific product.

The free database applications:
  1. PostgreSQL: Extremely scalable, open-source, object-relational.
  2. Firebird: ANSI SQL-99 features, Open-source, freeware, based on Interbase.
  3. Apache Derby: Open-source, implemented in Java.
  4. H2 Database Engine: Open-source, Java SQL database engine with embedded, server and cluster modes.
  5. Hypersonic SQL: Open-source, created in Java, small. No longer being developed, but existing versions work well.
  6. SQLLite: Self-contained, embeddable, zero-configuration SQL database engine. Great for desktop applications.
  7. Microsoft SQLServer Express: Lightweight version of Microsoft's commercial SQL Server database.
  8. Oracle Database 10g Express: Freeware edition of Oracle's high-grade 10g database.
Additionally, I always have DBVisualizer installed alongside database applications, mainly to visually inspect the schema. The free edition allows running only one SQL statement at a time. To run .sql files, I just use the MySQL command line console. Each database application will have a different set of management tools, so do your research.

Finally, perhaps it's nothing to worry about, but the future of MySQL long term is uncertain. The company was bought by Oracle, and I suspect they will want to monetize the acquisition. They make expensive and enterprise-grade databases already, and I do not see a huge incentive to keep a (good enough, production-grade) free database around. Time will tell.

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