I've been watching the discussion about alternative databases, and thought it relevant to post some news about my use of Firebird with Moodle.
1. Firebird is the open source fork of Interbase. Interbase has a long history as an "embedded" database. This means it is used with products that are not sold as databases. For example, here in New Zealand here, 90% of Doctor's software uses Interbase at the backend. Four of the most popular accounting products use Interbase (or will shortly) use Interbase. The situation is similar in other countries in different ways with other products of course.
2. Interbase, originally developed in the '80s, was released under a version of the Mozilla Licence by Borland almost three years ago, and now operates under the name Firebird. The Firebird Foundation, like Moodle, is incorporated in Australia. Borland continue to develop and support Interbase as a commercial product.
3. Firebird is now one of the most active Open Source projects (sorry but even more active than Moodle from a software development point of view). But like Moodle it is truly Open Source. I cannot help but view mySQL as a pseudo commercial product that they (mySQL AB) have, and increasing their focus on commercial licensing. Also as a two decade (database) software developer, I view mySQL as a great product, but very much in the pubescent stage of it's lifecycle.
4. I've used mySQL with Moodle, and other web based applications and have no quibble with it's use in that way, however I'm focusing my contribution to Moodle on heavier application use, and am currently using Moodle as the application in a research project developing an Open Source based High Availability Linux cluster. This will involve using database replication at the backend. MySQL AB is currently touting a HA option but when you get down to the details, it is still in it's infancy and defintely nothing I would let near a production environment. FYI it requires memory to hold the entire database, and of course version 5.0. Also standard MySQl replication is only unidirectional. Tahe a look at this white paper for a full comparison.
5. Contrasting that, Firebird / Interbase have had replication features for 5+ years. With the great support for database triggers and stored procedures (required for effective replication) there is a real reason to spend the time and effort in looking at alternative databases for this type of application.
6. The drive to develop this area is relevant comes from looking at larger organisations, requiring a higher degree of reliability, performance, and redundancy.
7. For anyone interested, the research project can be viewed at http://cluster.waiariki.school.nz. Please don't knock the site content, it's not really intended as a fully documented "as we go site". I'm using Moodle as the application to test the environment. And it will also be down from time to time as we experiment with the configuration.
8. I'm expecting to have a Firebird-Moodle implementation going before the end of the year, and will look to support that and other Firebird users thereafter.