MySQL has broken the relational mold. The relational mold is an offshoot of Codds 12 Laws of what makes a true relational database. Database purity has been certainly been a factor in the development of databases – as companies found ways to depart from a pure relational design in order to extract some functional convenience or performance advantage. Proprietary extensions in effect gutted the ANSI SQL92 standard – the major players could only agree on the very basic levels though they promised to deliver fully relational databases. This is one of the primary reasons IT shops are faced with application silos. Its nearly impossible to do a heterogeneous join between two or more different databases (say Db2, Oracle, and SQL Server). True IBM does have a standalone product that does limited heterogeneous joins – but that merely proves my point.
But if things were chaotic in the Enterprise relational database market they were absolutely despotic in the desktop and workgroup database world. Here convenience and ease of development nearly always trumped relational database standards. So you have had a sucession of semi-relational databases as leading development tools: dBase, then Paradox followed by Foxpro and dBase-reborn and Access. Currently Microsoft dominates the desktop database market with Foxpro and Access followed by Filemaker Pro.
But for the past 2-3 years a small vendor growing large, fast has entered in the market – open source MySQL. MySQL has provided desktop users with a very robust engine that can do true local data processing or 2-tier client server processing. In the latter case, linked with PHP and/or Perl, MySQL is a real powerhouse. But even on the desktop with third party tools both free and commercial starting to sprout up, MySQL has become a force on desktop Windows.
So who do you think would get the message ? Microsoft ? Well not exactly. Rather, Filemaker Pro has taken a leaf from the MySQL playbook and started to add more relational database features and enterprise caliber functionality to a database that has long had a strong reputation for easy to use. Here are some of those new features:
a)a granular, enterprise caliber, more-role based security and access control mechanisms;
b) greater scalability with support of 8TB databases, unlimited number of tables, 4GB max recsize;
c)visual table join mechanism along with closer compliance with ANSI standards;
d)added scripting capabilities including parameter passing and local variables;
e)user defined functions;
Now add these features to the traditional strengths of Filemaker:
1)ease in creation of forms and front-ends with many predefined templates;
2)cross platform performance on Windows, Mac, Palm and Windows Mobile 2003;
3)smooth handling of images, graphics, audio, and video files;
4)lots of prebuilt utilities like prebuilt search and find, adhoc reports, etc.
and suddenly Filemaker Pro 7 looks attractive for desktop plus 2-tier database usage. And given that MySQL will not gain scripting until version 5 comes out, it appears for databases on the desktop/workgroup space there is now a four horse race. Good news for users.