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Six free databases with commercial-quality features

Microsoft, Oracle offer impressive free versions of their commercial offerings, but MariaDB wins our test

By Susan Perschke, Network World
December 03, 2012 12:08 AM ET

Page 6 of 8

Firebird

Firebird has been in existence in some form or another since 1981 and is currently based on the highly regarded InterBase code released by Borland in 2000. The current modules are released under the Initial Developer's Public License. Firebird runs on Linux, Unix and Windows. We reviewed the latest stable release, Version 2.5.1, on a Windows Server 2008 R2. Installation is very straightforward and completed in a few minutes with few options to decide during installation. In addition we decided to install FlameRobin, a cross-platform management tool for Firebird.

FlameRobin is not as feature-rich as a pgAdmin, SQL Server Management Studio or HeidiSQL, but it does offer some basic features such as the ability to create databases, tables and other objects. Objects are created by providing sample T-SQL code as opposed to providing an interface where you can type in field names and such. However, once you have created an object such as a table, it can be edited using a GUI. As it turned out, the more we worked with FlameRobin, the more useful features we happened upon.

After completing the installation, we created a test database with a table to hold the test data. As there is no real bulk insert option nor an import feature, we ended up creating a "temporary" table to hold the external data and used this to insert into our real table. This process was not exactly elegant, but it did get the job done after some back-and-forth with permissions issues. As is often the case with free and open source software, the documentation is not always up-to-date or presented as well as with commercial software, but a well-formulated search engine phrase eventually yields results for most tasks.

Once the test data was loaded, we conducted our usual test, but ran into problems when attempting to select large numbers of rows (100,000-plus) using SELECT statements both from the Firebird ISQL tool and also using FlameRobin. The ISQL tool simply crashed whereas FlameRobin did return the records, but since these were returned just a few hundred at a time it was hard to get a feel for performance. While working with smaller subsets we found Firebird to work efficiently and we were able to select, update and delete single rows in fractions of a second.

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