Put in the most understandable terms possible, MySQL is a highly valuable database system that is used in popular websites today, such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.
MySQL was conceived in Sweden but was acquired by the California-based Oracle Corporation in 2010. The Oracle Corporation is one of the largest and most influential computer technology corporations in the world, earning billions of dollars of revenue every year.
For a company to grow into a corporation, and for that corporation to grow into a multinational leader in database and cloud technology, they must have something that is both valuable and distinct. Both adjectives ring true when applied to MySQL, which is why Oracle acquired it nearly a decade ago.
Perhaps the most notable features of MySQL are its compatibility with multiple platforms and systems, and the ability to handle large databases that correspond with numerous machines. Both its open source nature and high compatibility have made it a go-to method for many years, though new database management systems are quickly gaining popularity, begging the question:
What exactly is MySQL, and why is it important? Let’s answer this question, and so many more additional items, in this MySQL review.
What Is MySQL?
Margaret Rouse from TechTarget describes MySQL as “…an Oracle-backed open source relational database management system based on [SQL].” This definition is a mouthful. To better understand the importance of MySQL, let’s discuss what open source, relational database management system, and SQL means.
If you have ever heard that a specific program or software is open source, this means that the program or software is freely available for download, modification, and redistribution. MySQL is an enterprise open source, having a secure and reliable team of security and tech personnel available to help and warn you in cases of unexpected issues or errors.
Many of the smaller open source programs and software do not offer the same amount of reliability, making them a risky choice. MySQL is a trustworthy open source software, which is why it is used by some of the busiest and most popular websites today.
So, what is a relational database management system? Often abbreviated to RDBMS for the sake of time and energy, a relational database management system stores information, data, in a highly structured way. It stores this data in the form of tables. The relationships between these columns and rows will also be stored in the form of a table.
An RDBMS is ideal for keeping track of a large inventory, as you will be able to search through a large amount of data very quickly. For this reason, and many other reasons, relational database management systems are highly useful and very popular.
Structured Query Language, often abbreviated to SQL, is the language used by many relational database management systems to query and communicate with the data in the database. SQL uses a syntax that is like English syntax, which makes it far easier to use than more complicated and less intuitive programming languages.
In terms of popularity, MySQL rules. It is the most popular open source SQL database. It is often employed in web application development and is praised for being reliable, inexpensive, and relatively easy to learn and use. Therefore, you can find it being used for large sites such as Google or Facebook.
However, MySQL has been around for a very long time, and since its creation in 1995 and inception into the Oracle Corporation in 2010, there have been other, possibly more desirable RDBMS that have arrived onto the scene. This may be worth a look, especially when you consider what popularity has done to performance of MySQL.
Oracle-backed MySQL is known to suffer from a few performance issues, especially when scaling. Also, because this RDBMS is old, MySQL does not contain some of the more advanced features that some developers may be looking for, or accustomed to using.
Of course, the RDBMS you choose to use is entirely reliant on several factors, but mostly it boils down to preference and the complexity of the application being created.
The various incarnations of MySQL can satisfy the needs of nearly any developer. The open source, the inexpensive version is excellent for smaller ventures, while the MySQL Enterprise Edition is perfect for anyone comfortable with the MySQL format, but who are looking for more exceptional capabilities and far more advanced features to utilize.
MySQL is popular because it is proven, reliable, and simplistic. However, it may fall from grace with time, should its competitors prove to be more valuable in the future. Yes, not every RDBMS is created equally, and new systems pop up all the time.
How It Compares
If you had only ever seen one processing system, ever, in the whole of your life, you would be likely to think that that processing system is the best one ever created. However, if you had access to hundreds of different kinds, and could test out every product, you’d soon find that they all have differences that either make them better or worse than their competitors.
Such is the case with MySQL. It is one of the oldest and most reliable RDBMS, and it is undoubtedly one of the most powerful, but it may not be the best one available. We wanted to see how MySQL stacks up against other, competing systems, so we set out to compare it against the three most popular competing systems. This is the best way to create a fully comprehensive MySQL review.
Like MySQL, MariaDB is a relational database management system that is open source, and inexpensive. It is a step forward from MySQL, being backward compatible with MySQL. It is important to note that there is no 100% guarantee that MariaDB will be completely compatible with MySQL.
MariaDB is simple to install, and set up and is ideal for small or medium applications. It does not have as strong of a security team as MySQL, though it is working to create more security releases to keep their software reliable and trustworthy for developers.
Some developers have found that queries perform more quickly on MariaDB than on MySQL and that MariaDB handles large amounts of data far better than MySQL does.
The most common complaint against MariaDB is its user interface. For all its speed and increasing reliability, MariaDB cannot compare to MySQL’s friendly UI. However, MariaDB is a relatively new system and is still being altered and perfected as more developers utilize it. Perhaps it will feature a more adaptive and intuitive UI in the future.
Unlike MySQL, which is owned by Oracle and therefore fraught with licensing conditions, PostgreSQL is completely open source. That means that you can download and install it for free.
Much like MariaDB, it installs quickly and is not complicated to set up. It has multiple schemas per database, has many advanced features, and is extensible. The database scaling is far better than that of MySQL, and there are many people offering help and assistance to new developers struggling to learn PostgreSQL, making it easier for just about anybody to jump in and get started.
The graphical interface is not very useful when it comes to PostgreSQL, and many developers recommend entirely avoiding it. Also, the syntax used in this system can prove confusing to those who have learned the commands for a different method.
However, PostgreSQL does offer rich support of procedural languages like R, C, Python, and Perl. But unlike MySQL, users cannot write their database engine.
Overall, PostgreSQL is a solid choice, though it does have some significant failings and drawbacks, particularly when compared to MySQL.
People love free things, and SQLite is no exception. Both open source and freeware, SQLite is an excellent way for beginning developers to learn a new system that relies on SQL. For smaller database needs, this system is ideal. It is a server-less database, which means that you do not have to dedicate any space or memory for this system to function.
The file sizes the SQLite uses for its tables is rather small, typically 1 MB or less. This is great, as it saves a tremendous amount of space on the servers and the databases. Though, if you plan on having multiple people working on the same database at the same time, be warned. SQLite only supports single write at one time.
Pros And Cons
In this MySQL review, we have discovered what makes MySQL valuable, and what makes other relational database management systems just as worthy. Much of what makes an RDBMS great is what needs it can specifically satisfy within the developer.
For example, if a developer is looking for a system that can handle multiple inputs and multiple queries over many databases, they would not be thrilled working with SQLite. Similarly, someone hoping to run a small business would feel overwhelmed trying to use MySQL Enterprise Edition.
Preferences and needs aside, we decided to take a long look at the positive and negative qualities of MySQL, to better understand and judge the value of this system.
- Open source system.
- The most popular RDBMS in use today.
- Has an excellent security and tech team to support you.
- Great for broader database needs.
- Allows you to write your database engine.
- Familiar syntax and commands that are easy to learn and use.
- Enterprise Edition does feature a license agreement.
- May lag and have performance issues, particularly when considering scaling.
- Does not come with many advanced features that developers are accustomed to.
How Important Is MySQL?
Pondering the importance of MySQL is much like wondering how vital red paint is to painters. The answer is sure to vary from painter to painter. Those who incorporate a lot of red into their work will necessarily value red paint highly. Those who never or who rarely use it will not assign much importance or significance to it.
It works very similarly when attempting to answer the question, “How important is MySQL?”
If you are a developer who is looking for a tested and true relational database management system, MySQL is critical. If you’re someone who is looking for a small, highly efficient RDBMS, there are better, less expensive options available to you.
One thing is for sure. MySQL isn’t going anywhere, any time soon.