MySQL vs MariaDB: The right database software for your project

MySQL and MariaDB are technologies that not only solve the same problems, but also have so much in common that the question arises as to which of the two is better suited for your project.

DevOpsUPDATED ON January 17, 2022

Cover image for blog post on MySQL vs MariaDB

Anyone who works with a large amount of data in the context of a web, app or software project will have to create a database for efficient, sustainable and low-complexity data storage. Such a database consists of two parts: the database itself and a so-called data management or data administration system. This is the case in a large number of areas. Nowadays, hardly any applications, whether computer or web applications, can do without a suitable database system.

The decision to select the right data management system for the database system can initially unsettle some project managers. Due to the multitude of technologies, no clearly best tool can be singled out.

However, in order to narrow down the choice somewhat, we will deal here with the question of MySQL vs MariaDB, since these database management systems are often compared with each other. There are several reasons why MySQL and MariaDB are often compared. One is that both MySQL and MariaDB were both significantly influenced by “MySQL AB” co-founder Michael Widenius, who was both the main author of MySQL and the initiator of MariaDB. Trivially, the two tools were named after his daughters My and Maria.

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Data management system: MySQL and MariaDB

Together with the database, a data management system forms the main component of a data system or database. A data management system is software such as MySQL or MariaDB described in this article that is installed and configured for the database to be set up. Only after installing such software is it possible to set up, manage and use the database.

What is MySQL?

MySQL is a relational database management system that is available as an open source as well as a commercial enterprise version. Probably the most common application for MySQL is data storage for web services, after which MySQL forms the basis of many dynamic web presences.

MySQL has been one of the most used database technologies in the world for years. In the latest “2020 Developer Survey” by Stackoverflow, MySQL has repeatedly taken first place as the most widely used database technology with over 50%. Web services such as YouTube, Facebook or Twitter make use of MySQL’s architecture and operate a large number of servers based on it, depending on their needs and size. In addition, MySQL is used as embedded software in many products.

MySQL established itself on the market early on and has now been on the market for over 25 years. The technology behind MySQL was developed in 1994 by the company MySQL AB, with co-founder Michael Widenius being one of the main authors of the software. After selling the company twice, Oracle Corporation is the current maintainer and owner of the software.

What is MariaDB?

Like MySQL, MariaDB is a relational database management system and was created by a fork from MySQL. The initiator of the technology is the former MySQL main author Michael Widenius, who was dissatisfied with the release policy of the software after the sale of MySQL AB.

MariaDB is based on MySQL and has a similar interface. The software is a freely available open source technology that runs on Windows, macOS, Linux or even Solaris and OpenBSD operating systems. It is even compatible with the original technology MySQL, which allows an easy migration of MySQL databases.

How do MySQL and MariaDB work?

Because MySQL and MariaDB are both relational database management systems and are almost identical to each other, it is not surprising that they function in the same way. The classic task of a database management system such as MySQL or MariaDB is to map, manage, store and change data in tables. The respective database is the server, whereby MySQL or MariaDB acts as a so-called client-server system and sends the commands to the database. In the last step, the database translates the commands into executable code and executes it so that the information is sent to the client.

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MySQL vs MariaDB: Advantages and disadvantages

Table summarising advantages and disadvantages of MySQL and MariaDB


There are several reasons to consider switching from MySQL to MariaDB. First of all, the latter supports significantly more engines, i.e. core routines for working with other databases. For example, MariaDB supports Aria or TokuDB, which are not supported by MySQL. TokuDB is a database engine that is particularly used for processing large amounts of data and especially for Big Data applications. Aria is a fail-safe storage engine that is not only based on MyISAM, but also replaces it as a better alternative.

MariaDB is completely open-source, so all functions and plug-ins can be used without restriction. With MySQL, some functions and plug-ins are subject to third-party providers and are therefore not integrated into the core system as with MariaDB. For example, some functions such as the use of a cluster database, which is particularly popular for commercial purposes, are only available in the Enterprise version. MariaDB provides the function free of charge and as a free multi-master replication, although, to be fair, SQL errors occur more often with this function than with MySQL.

For users, updates are made available more quickly in the form of updates, which on the one hand closes security gaps and releases more functions. In this way, MariaDB offers some new functions that are not offered by MySQL.

MariaDB is optimised for performance, so the overall performance of data processing is significantly higher. Especially with a large number of data records, MariaDB’s performance is much better than MySQL. This is due, among other things, to the revision of the source code and the use of more efficient algorithms. Among other things, MySQL cannot support large thread pools at once due to a smaller storage capacity, but this is possible under MariaDB.

What is the relationship between MySQL and MariaDB?

In principle, the databases created with MySQL and MariaDB are fully compatible with each other. Even the syntax of both technologies is pretty much the same, which means that conversion or transfer of stored information is not necessary. A simple change of software is often sufficient, whereby the functional variation of MariaDB exceeds that of MySQL in some points. Among other things, this is due to the commercial MySQL version, for which some MySQL functions are reserved.

Does the migration between MySQL and MariaDB succeed?

Switching from MySQL to MariaDB and vice versa is quite easy, unlike other data processing systems. Even between different versions of the technologies, the migration should work without any problems. This is partly because the syntax of MariaDB was modelled on that of MySQL. However, there may be some problems in that MySQL in its open-source version releases fewer functions than MariaDB, which as a holistic software is an open-source technology. In addition, MariaDB also has more functions than the commercial MySQL Enterprise version. However, these problems are not as big as they used to be and are often only single query errors. The integrity between the two servers should not be endangered because of the continued good compatibility. If you run a website using a CMS (Content Management System) such as WordPress or Joomla, there should be no compatibility problems as long as their web host uses current versions of the systems.

MySQL vs MariaDB: Decision-making considerations for your business

When using a Linux operating system, it makes sense to use the database system used by the distribution, unless there are special reasons for a change. Many Linux distributions such as the well-known Debian, Ubuntu and Arch Linux prefer MariaDB as the database system. Some of these have replaced the previously used MySQL software with MariaDB as the default installation. Distributions that use MySQL include centOS and Oracle Linux.

For a business it is important to rely on sustainable technologies and also to deal with trend products. So it is interesting to compare the development of the users of MySQL and MariaDB shown in the graph. MySQL is the most popular database tool on the market, which has not changed much in recent years. However, there is no sign of it becoming more popular. The number of users of MariaDB has been stable over the last ten years and many large companies, including Google or Mozilla, use it. Even the Wikipedia Foundation has switched from MySQL to MariaDB with its portal

Source: db-engines


Both MySQL and MariaDB are very well suited for backend databases and undoubtedly have good performance. For companies that already work with Oracle technologies and have purchased licences from Oracle, it can make sense to also use MySQL (owned by Oracle) as a database management system. For those who are starting out and want to decide which database to use, MariaDB is for many the better choice. MariaDB is a very powerful open source technology that is growing in popularity and includes many features that even MySQL in the commercial enterprise version does not support. This makes MariaDB a very lucrative choice for your database.

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