The MariaDB and MySQL database management systems have a lot in common, which can make it difficult to choose when you need to decide on a database solution for your business. Both systems are fundamentally open source, relational databases. MariaDB is originally a spin-off or further development of the MySQL project, which is now fully managed by Oracle. Because Oracle holds the trademark rights to the name MySQL as of 2010, a new name for this database project was found in MariaDB.
The founder of the MariaDB project is Michael Widenius, who was also the chief developer and inventor of MySQL in 1994 and co-founder of the Swedish company MySQL AB. This company was taken over by SUN Microsystems in 2008 and then by Oracle in 2010. However, the further development and support of the open source idea at MySQL came to a standstill with this takeover and so Widenius turned away from MySQL and began to develop MariaDB, the second important relational database management system.
In December 2012, an independent software foundation, the MariaDB Foundation, was founded to ensure that MariaDB in the Community Edition remains available as open source and is promoted and further developed in the future. But MariaDB, like MySQL, also has an Enterprise Edition, which can be licensed separately and is then subject to a fee with support and further functionalities.
The database structures of MariaDB and MySQL are so similar, certainly because of the same development team, that one can even speak of a 1:1 compatibility. Both databases use the same SQL syntax, which requires similar indexing. It is therefore relatively easy for companies to switch between the two databases. This is an absolutely unique feature compared to other database solutions.
Below we explain some of the main differences between MariaDB and MySQL so that you can decide which database solution can be the right tool for your company.
The central distinguishing feature between MySQL and MariaDB is the way the open source idea is interpreted. For example, the development and update cycles for the free open source community edition are significantly shorter for MariaDB than for MySQL.
MySQL offers a free open source community edition. However, if you need enterprise-level features, MySQL locks some of those features behind proprietary code. So for the full version of MySQL, companies must purchase an Enterprise Edition.
MariaDB offers all of its features in its open source package. Users can still pay for support services or for cloud implementations (enterprise licence), but a qualified team can use the best and core features of MariaDB completely free of charge.
Apart from how these two products handle their open source code base, MySQL and MariaDB also have other different salient features.
One of MySQL’s biggest advantages is its long market presence. Because it is one of the oldest popular database solutions, there is a wide range of community resources that developers and database administrators can use to find answers to problem questions and fix bugs. Even if they don’t pay for MySQL support services, MySQL is a database solution that many database administrators are already familiar with. So it can be easier to learn and implement if you already have a database team.
The biggest feature and therefore the biggest advantage of MariaDB is its speed and performance. When it comes to performing queries or replication, MariaDB is faster than MySQL. So if you need a high-performance relational database solution, MariaDB is a good choice. In addition, MariaDB also easily supports a high concurrent number of connections without much performance degradation. So if you have many data sources, this could be another reason to prefer MariaDB over MySQL.
When it comes to pricing, it’s worth noting that it’s possible to use MySQL and MariaDB for free by using their open source versions. But if you are looking for a bit more support or special implementations or features, both offer some additional services. MySQL offers an enterprise version of its product that includes complementary security features and 24/7 support.
Maria DB offers a paid enterprise edition as well as a cloud implementation of its database solutions on an hourly billing basis. This solution includes support, implementation as well as security features and custom branding.
All in all, it’s a tough call between Maria DB and MySQL, as both are extremely powerful relational database solutions that can be used for many similar use cases.
Below, we summarise the most important distinguishing features.