Alternatives to MySQL and why you might want to use them

21.02.2019 4,997 2

MySQL has been around for 23 years throughout the duration of which it has become one of the most popular database management systems. Not only is it free, and open-source, but it’s also the backbone of many popular online services, including some features of Google, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and more. But it’s not the only choice out there.

MySQL is definitely popular and has a lot of great uses. But these days there are plenty of alternatives. Some focus on specific areas, others just aim to be a complete replacement. In fact, there are dozens of MySQL competitors. Here are some of the more popular ones.


MariaDB is a fork of MySQL. It was created by the original developers of MySQL who made it as an alternative when Oracle acquired Sun and MySQL as a result. Unsurprisingly, MariaDB and MySQL are very similar. Of course, there are some differences and not all tools and features are compatible. MariaDB offers additional features like XtraDB to replace InnoDB, for example.

Microsoft SQL Server

This is another popular alternative. As with MariaDB, Microsoft SQL Server bears a lot of similarities with MySQL. They are both easy to scale, use the standard relational database table model, primary and foreign keys and similar syntax. It’s often referred to as the second most popular database platform after MySQL.

There are some key differences, though. One of the main ones – Microsoft’s platform is not free and you have to pay for licenses. They also differ on IDE tools. And MySQL uses Enterprise Manager, while Microsoft’s service uses Management Studio. It’s also integrated with LINQ and .NET while for MySQL you need to download third-party tools for them.


This one is also open-source and often used in online gaming applications, data center automation and more. The good part about PostgreSQL, aka Postgres, is that it runs on a wide array of operating systems. It’s also one of the older ones around, and offers enterprise-level features like Oracle’s and DB2 platforms. Among them are ACID compliance and others. It also supports JSON and is easily scalable to handle terabytes of data.

As for cons, it can be a bit tricky to configure, especially if you don’t have a lot of experience with it. Also, it’s not that fast when handling large bulk operations.


Another free alternative. MongoDB aims to be universal and can handle structured and unstructured data. It supports JSON, NoSQL and is generally very fast to use. You can add plug-ins with storage engines, improve performance of indexes and more. As a drawback, the setup is tedious and it can’t use SQL as a query language unless you add extra tools.


As the name suggests, SQLite is quite… well, light. It’s portable, easy to use and self-contained. Sadly, the simplicity comes at a price and it’s not a monetary one. SQLite doesn’t support multi-user capabilities and some SQL features are missing. Still, if you need a simple solution for a small database, it may just take the cake.

Other interesting alternatives are: IBM DB2, SAP Sybase ASE, Amazon’s SimpleDB, Oracle 12c. They all have various features and are going to work well for enterprises.

Why you may want to use them instead of MySQL?

Despite being around for quite some time, MySQL is not as mature as some of the other offerings. It’s also not completely open-source as there is some “foot dragging” when it comes to the releases of bug fixes and security improvements. It’s often not the fastest performer, either.

So, as is with many other IT solutions, the most popular choice is not always the best choice. It all boils down to what exactly you need out of your database management solution. Being able to pinpoint this early on will help you with the right choice and save you issues later.

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