MariaDB vs MySQL ‒ Key Differences, Pros and Cons, and More

In website development, a database holds a vital role in storing and managing data, with two of the most popular databases being MySQL and MariaDB.

Despite having a similar structure, both relational database management systems have different features and elements. Knowing which one best suits your needs will optimize your web application’s performance.

This article will compare MySQL and MariaDB as well as explore each database’s pros and cons. By the end of it, you’ll know which database you should pick for your project for optimal performance.

An Introduction to Relational Database (RDBMS)

A relational database management system (RDBMS) is the upgraded version of a database management system (DBMS). It utilizes a software module known as a storage engine to store, manage, and modify data.

Unlike a DBMS that stores data as a file, an RDBMS manages data in a tabular format. The use of database tables eliminates data redundancy that DBMS experiences due to its use of keys and indexes.

MySQL and MariaDB belong to the RDBMS category. The next sections will further explore both popular relational database management systems and how they differ from each other.

What Is MySQL?

MySQL homepage.

MySQL is an open-source relational database management system created by MySQL AB for web application development. It provides support for web developers to manage data with ease using tables.

In most cases, MySQL works alongside PHP, Apache web servers, and Linux distributions. It’s modifiable using the Structured Query Language (SQL).

The relational database’s popularity rose when WordPress adopted it into its system. As MySQL database is compatible with Linux, it is included with its distributions, including Ubuntu.

What Is MariaDB?

MariaDB homepage.

MariaDB is a fork of MySQL. The developers built the RDBMS to preserve MySQL’s structure and features. They feared that the system’s acquisition by Oracle – the corporation behind the Oracle Database, which was MySQL’s biggest competitor at the time ‒ would jeopardize the database.

MariaDB’s developers make sure that each release is compatible with the corresponding version of MySQL. MariaDB not only adopts MySQL’s data and table definition files but also uses identical client protocols, client APIs, ports, and sockets. The goal is to let MySQL users switch to MariaDB hassle-free.

Much like MySQL, MariaDB is modifiable using SQL statements.

The Differences Between MySQL and MariaDB

Despite having a similar structure and functionality, there are several key differences between MySQL and MariaDB.

Since its acquisition by Oracle, MySQL has been distributed under dual licensing. The company sells licenses to customers who want to utilize it but don’t want to make their product open-source. Meanwhile, MariaDB is released under the GNU General Public License (GPL).

MySQL offers thread pooling capability in the Enterprise Edition to support up to 200,000 connections, offering better system stability and performance. Unfortunately, the same support isn’t available in MySQL’s Community Edition as it only supports a limited static number of threads.

On the other hand, MariaDB has improved this function in all versions – it’s capable of supporting more than 200,000 connections. This is vital for eCommerce platforms, where intensive online transaction processing (OLTP) is common. A high thread pool capability helps optimize the server resource usage, resulting in increased uptime.

Functionality-wise, MySQL has introduced the sys schema objects for better database maintenance and performance tuning and the super read-only function, used to prevent changes made on the server by SUPER users.

It also supports data masking and dynamic columns. Data masking protects sensitive information from unintended exposure, minimizing the risk of data breaches. Meanwhile, dynamic columns let you define multiple values in one column and modify it with functions ‒ a feature that static columns lack.

In contrast, MariaDB supports new features like invisible columns and database views. Invisible columns won’t be listed when the database executes a SELECT statement or requires a value in an INSERT statement. Database views simplify the saving and sharing of queries across applications.

When it comes to database engines, MariaDB offers more options than MySQL. Some of the storage engines MariaDB utilizes and MySQL doesn’t include XtraDB, Memory Storage Engine, MariaDB ColumnsStore, Aria, Cassandra Storage Engine, and Connect.

Meanwhile, MySQL supports a native JSON data type and provides the SHA-2 authentication plugin and the validate_password plugin by default, while MariaDB doesn’t.

The last key difference between MySQL and MariaDB lies in organization management. As MySQL is managed by the Oracle Corporation, the company governs the development and documentation process. The community has no say in any development decisions.

As MariaDB is community-driven software, it is managed by the MariaDB Foundation. The GNU GPL license allows open-source communities to participate in the development and documentation process and review any development decisions via the foundation’s public mailing list.

MariaDB vs MySQL: A Comprehensive Comparison

In the following sections, we’ll compare how well MySQL and MariaDB perform and discuss their intercompatibility.

Performance and Benchmarks

Considering how similarly MySQL and MariaDB function, several performance and benchmark tests were performed to determine which one is superior.

A performance and UTF8 impact test performed by Dimitri Kravtchuk revealed that MySQL 8.0 can handle a higher number of queries per second than MariaDB 10.3.

Similarly, according to the Minerva DB performance and benchmark test of InnoDB (running on MySQL version 8.0) and MyRocks (running on MariaDB version 10.3.7), InnoDB can take care of more queries per second than MyRocks.

In terms of commodity hardware, Axel Schwenke found out that MariaDB 10.1 performs better than MySQL 5.7.9.

That said, keep in mind that performance and benchmarking results depend on various factors, such as specific SQL queries, the number of users and connections, and use cases.

Compatibility

Since MariaDB is developed as MySQL’s full binary drop-in replacement, it is compatible with its predecessor in a number of ways.

For instance, MariaDB has kept MySQL’s naming conventions, structure, and data definition files. Additionally, it supports all MySQL connections, connectors, and ports. The MySQL client package works unchanged with MariaDB.

Switching from MySQL to MariaDB follows a standard installation procedure. You just need to run the mysql_upgrade tool to update the MySQL database’s privileges and event tables with MariaDB’s equivalents.

Pros and Cons of MariaDB

Now that you know how MariaDB differs from MySQL, we’ll examine the advantages and disadvantages of the two database systems.

Pros:

First and foremost, MariaDB is backwards compatible, meaning that its latest version is compatible with older versions. This is an important feature, considering that it’s open-source software constantly updated by the community.

MariaDB features a dynamic thread pool, enabling the server to optimize its resources by retiring inactive threads. Combined with a large connection pool, this feature results in considerably improved speed, enhanced replication, and faster updates.

The built-in advanced Galera cluster technology eliminates slave lag and lost transactions, reduces client latencies, and improves node read scalability.

Additionally, MariaDB supports more storage engines than MySQL, some of which are compatible with other RDBMSs. Each storage engine has a specific purpose. For example, MariaDB ColumnStore is designed for big data scaling and linear scalability.

Since MariaDB is distributed under the GPL license, you get full access to all of its features upon installation. Plus, the software is available for free.

Cons:

MariaDB only supports JSON data types starting with version 10.2 and higher. Even then, it is only an alias for LONGTEXT, presented for compatibility reasons. To replicate JSON data when switching from MySQL to MariaDB, the JSON column type needs to be changed first.

Some features that are only available in the MySQL Enterprise Edition are absent from MariaDB. However, as part of its enterprise database solution, MariaDB does offer alternative open-source plugins, like MaxScale for data masking.

That said, you get access to expert support and enterprise-grade features by purchasing a MariaDB Platform subscription. Users of MariaDB Community, the community-developed version, must rely on the knowledge base and forums for technical support.

Pros and Cons of MySQL

Here are the advantages and disadvantages of MySQL vs MariaDB.

Pros:

The built-in data masking and dynamic columns make for a secure and fast database system. Due to its simple design and multiple storage engines, MySQL can ensure optimal performance and continuous uptime.

While excelling in data management for web applications, MySQL can adapt to different use cases. For example, MySQL is suitable for eCommerce platforms as it has robust transactional support. It also features advanced data security features that protect transactions.

Backed by the Oracle Corporation, MySQL offers excellent compatibility. It is supported by most hosting providers and over 20 operating systems, making it platform-independent. What is more, MySQL is consistently updated and well-documented.

Lastly, MySQL is easy-to-use and customizable – it features multiple user interfaces to cater to different preferences.

Cons:

Migrating from MariaDB to MySQL isn’t as easy as the other way around due to replication configuration differences.

MySQL also isn’t compatible with the Oracle database. One of the reasons is that MySQL doesn’t support PL/SQL, an application-oriented language developed by Oracle. In comparison, MariaDB comes with Oracle PL/SQL compatibility, starting with version 10.3.

Additionally, MySQL isn’t suitable for managing large-sized data since it lacks a robust memory-focused search engine and a large-scale data processing solution. MySQL’s dual licensing model also locks essential features like the thread pool plugin behind a paywall.

The restrictions and monetization Oracle has implemented make MySQL hard to scale. Despite it being open-source, Oracle has full control over the database system’s development and patches.

Who Uses MariaDB and MySQL?

As two of the most popular relational database systems today, both MySQL and MariaDB have a strong following in the international market.

Some large corporations that use MySQL include YouTube, GitHub, Spotify, Netflix, and NASA. MySQL is also partnered with technology companies like Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Amazon Web Services, IBM, Microsoft, and Zapier.

Meanwhile, Wikipedia, Google, CentOS, and Verizon are a few of MariaDB’s customers. Its partners include renowned IT solutions such as Google Cloud, Red Hat, Qualcomm, and SanDisk.

MariaDB vs MySQL: Which One Should You Pick?

Both MariaDB and MySQL offer compelling features and capabilities. All that’s left to do is to determine which one best suits your needs.

Backed by the Oracle Corporation, MySQL is an ideal option for customers looking for steady improvements, consistent updates, and 24/7 enterprise-level support. Despite its cost at $5,000/year, MySQL Enterprise Edition comes with the highest scalability, reliability, and security levels.

That said, the MySQL Community Edition is versatile enough to accommodate all kinds of projects built on popular platforms and operating systems. Many open-source developers use MySQL as it’s considered one of the best database systems on the market.

On the other hand, years of improvement have turned MariaDB into a renowned RDBMS, rivaling its predecessor. Its open-source community keeps adding new features to improve the database management experience and SQL query execution. Therefore, consider using MariaDB for faster development cycles.

Hostinger uses the MariaDB database server on the Shared, Cloud, and WordPress hosting plans. Access your hPanel to check the installed version of MariaDB.

MariaDB and MySQL are the two most popular relational database management systems today. They have their pros and cons, so review them and your needs before making the choice.

We hope this article helped you understand the differences between MariaDB vs MySQL and how their features can benefit you. Good luck.

Author
The author

Jordana Alexandrea

Jordana is Hostinger's Digital Content Writer. She is passionate about website development, SEO, and the growth of information systems. During her free time, she dabbles in freestyle writing and the latest gaming news.