If you lived through the early 90s and 2000s, the chances are that you’re already familiar with the LAMP web development stack. Which, in short, stood for Linux, Apache, MySQL, and PHP/Python/Perl. Most web projects were being built using the specific stack alone.
It was (and still is) accessible, relatively easy to maintain, and had next to no entry cost as you could manage a LAMP project on a very modest machine.
Yet, our focus for this article is not on programming languages, and instead, we are going to be looking at the state of modern database systems and their differences. As the graph above shows, SQL is still going strong, with more than 52% of professional developers using it in their daily workflow.
Well, just like programming languages change and evolve, so do database systems. Looking further into the previously mentioned survey, we have the following graph that showcases the growth of other database systems.
The two systems, in particular, we care about the most for this article are MongoDB and MariaDB. Both have shown a steady increase in use and popularity, and so it is worth looking at as to why this is happening.
Furthermore, it would be relevant to find out whether either of those systems has significant advantages over using SQL in your workflow. Although a seasoned and reliable technology (SQL), it can have its drawbacks when it comes to large-scale projects.
Let’s take a closer look.
MySQL: Popular, ease of access, reliable.
MySQL is the most widely known database management system in the World. It is maintained by Oracle (who gradually acquired the engine), and the latest official version is 8.0. MySQL is in active development and remains an open-source project.
Despite the increase in several different database systems intended for modern purposes, MySQL remains popular even amongst the most evolved of tech companies. Netflix, Twitter, Slack, and other big brands are just a few amongst the millions of companies relying on MySQL in some shape or form.
So, what are the prominent features of MySQL?
- Client & Server Communication. MySQL presents an effortless means for back-to-back communication between the Client and the Server. This makes it easy to scale MySQL applications through many different servers, networks, or cloud systems.
- Flexibility. MySQL shines with its ability to let developers manage data in very flexible ways. This is mostly achieved through its SELECT syntax, which provides enormous potential for managing even the biggest sets of data.
- Performance. Although the words “MySQL & Performance” did not go hand in hand traditionally, the latest versions of the system have proven to be extremely performance friendly.
- Support. Since MySQL has been around longer than most other database systems, you have access to a much larger pool of support needs. This includes the actual documentation, Q&A sites, and of course, online tutorials.
All of these make MySQL a solid choice for pretty much any type of project. But, of course, there are some drawbacks, too. One of which is that MySQL stores data in tables, rows, and columns. In other words, as your database grows in size, so does the requirement for resources to access, parse, and utilize that data.
The more seasoned developers understand this very well; hence, there’s an increase of developers and brands that are relying on more streamlined database systems.
All in all, MySQL is a good starting point for any new web or software project. It helps you learn the general way in which databases work, and you have ample resources to work with.
MariaDB: With performance in mind.
MariaDB has an interesting story behind its inception. Specifically, MariaDB is a fork of MySQL and is supported by some of the initial developers of MySQL. There were concerns over Oracle (corporate) acquiring MySQL, and so MariaDB was born in 2009. Since then, the project has continued to evolve and grow, and as shown in the earlier graph, it is used by approximately 17% of professional developers today.
One of the great things about MariaDB being a fork of the original MySQL, it’s that you can easily (and safely!) transition from one database system to the other. Most of the command-line syntaxes remain largely the same.
So, you might be wondering, what’s the point of choosing MariaDB over the more popular MySQL system? Let’s look at some core points that showcase how MariaDB can improve your data management experience when it comes to databases.
- Storage Engines. MariaDB comes with a dozen storage engines (Cassandra, TokuDB, etc.), which allow you to store different types of data more effectively. This also means accessing the said types of data becomes less reliant on server performance.
- Faster Caching/Indexing. A unique storage engine called “Memory” is up to 25% faster for INSERT commands than that of MySQL. This grows in significance as the amount of information you store in your database expands.
- Plugins System. MariaDB supports the use of plugins, software components that may be added to the core software without having to rebuild the MariaDB server from source code. Therefore, plugins can be loaded at start-up, or loaded and unloaded while the server is running without interruption.
The core engine is compatible with all major operating systems, including Windows, Linux, and even OSX if that’s the route you’re taking.
Over the last couple of years, companies like Wikipedia, Google, and numerous world-class banks have all adopted MariaDB as their primary choice of a database system. This goes to show not only the robustness of MariaDB but also the trust that large-scale brands have in the project.
MongoDB: High availability data structuring.
MongoDB continues to rise in popularity due to its infamous document-based database system. In short, MongoDB lets you insert new data in your database at an accelerated rate using the insertMany() function. Whereas with MySQL, you would have to do this on a one-by-one basis. It doesn’t require a graph to understand the difference.
But, in case you want one, here is a graph provided to us by Onyancha Brian Henry.
What you’re looking at here is the amount of time it takes for MySQL (red) and MongoDB (green) to insert data inside the database. The data at hand was calculated using a benchmark of one million inserts.
Most commonly, developers who already know that they’re going to be dealing with large amounts of mixed data will choose MongoDB because it provides the most flexibility. For managing the said data, that is. Without being scheme-bound, it’s possible for data and its types to be quickly saved either for instant or later use.
- Scalability. Want to transfer your data across multiple servers? MongoDB encourages this behavior as it supplements even faster performance. On top of that, all data is saved in JSON format.
- Mobile Development. A new kind of tech-stack is called MERN (MongoDB, Express, React, and Node), which is intended for the development of high-grade mobile apps. Since mobile applications tend to produce an enormous amount of data at a very fast pace, it only makes sense that MongoDB would be the default choice for this purpose.
- Dynamic Structure. Issues can arise without any foresight. In the case of MongoDB, you get extreme flexibility to dynamically move or transfer your database without needing to address any issues relating to the inner data structure.
There’s a reason that more than 26% of professional developers are already working with MongoDB daily. It’s a powerful, document-based database system intended for modern applications and software.
Finding the right Database System for you is always going to be a little bit of a hustle. You might spend a week working with a certain system only to find that it doesn’t do exactly what you want it to. And, many other reasons why a certain system might fail your expectations.
That said, MySQL is always a safe choice. It has been for decades now. But, if you have prior development experience, and have bigger plans for your projects, the new database systems we have coming into the market now are definitely worth looking at.
Let us know in the comments if you have made any database transitions recently yourself. It’s always good to hear another side of the story. Lastly, we hope this article covers enough ground for you to look into each system more closely.