5 Reasons It’s Time to Ditch MySQL


MySQL is still the most popular open-source database, but it has been losing fans over the years – for good reason. We look at five practical motivations to dump the MySQL database.

Back in 2008, MySQL was rapidly growing in popularity when Sun Microsystems bought MySQL AB for approximately a billion bucks. The following year, Oracle scooped up Sun, and MySQL was part of the deal. MySQL users and developers started questioning the fate of the open-source database, and many of them began looking for alternatives.

Flash forward to 2013: Oracle didn’t kill off its former competitor, and MySQL remains the most popular open source database. Still, MySQL’s popularity is on the decline; as it loses its luster, viable database alternatives have started to shine. Let’s look at five good reasons not to use the former open source database standard, MySQL. (To see the other side of the argument, read Andy Patrizio’s article on the 5 reasons to stick with MySQL. Then make your own decision, and share it with us in the comments.)

1. MySQL is not as mature as other relational database management systems.

MySQL did not start out as an RDBMS, but later changed direction to encompass more functionality. Older, more mature relational database management systems are still considered more feature-rich than MySQL. If you want a feature-rich RDBMS, you might check out PostgreSQL or closed source options, such as Oracle or Microsoft SQL Server.

PostgreSQL contributor Selena Deckelmann says that Postgres is seen as the right choice for new projects among Web developers who need a relational database. “With the JSON data type and PLV8, Postgres may become the default choice for NoSQL as well,” she says.

2. MySQL is open source… but only sorta

Technically, MySQL is an open-source database, but in practice, it no longer feels like it. Under Oracle’s umbrella, MySQL now has proprietary, closed-source modules. “MySQL remains alive on paper but Oracle’s foot dragging on development and refusal to release test cases for bugs and security patches for MySQL has reinforced its control over the code and sent hordes of open source developers to greener pastures,” Paula Rooney explains in her ZDNet article, Is it time for Oracle to donate MySQL to Apache?

MariaDBIt isn’t like you don’t have other open-source alternatives. MariaDB, a MySQL fork, remains “truly open source.” SkySQL, a MariaDB developer that merged with Monty Program Ab (MariaDB’s parent company) earlier this year, explains, “All code in MariaDB is released under GPL, LPGL or BSD. MariaDB does not have closed source modules like those you can find in MySQL Enterprise Edition. In fact, all the closed source features in MySQL 5.5 Enterprise Edition are found in the MariaDB open source version.”

3. MySQL’s performance doesn’t scale as well as its competitors

The MariaDB blog offers detailed benchmark results for recent MySQL vs. MariaDB releases, and, although the results were close, MariaDB came out ahead.

PostgreSQL contributor Selena Deckelmann says that Heroku Postgres makes Postgres more attractive for several reasons, including scaling. “They have arguably the largest hosted environment for Postgres, automatically handle scaling for your apps, and are supporting cool add-ons that make it easy to try out features before you figure out the DevOps situation locally,” she explains, adding, “They just announced support for PLV8, which allows you to run JavaScript in the database and take better advantage of the JSON datatype available in 9.2 and higher.”

4. MySQL is Oracle-owned instead of community driven

MySQL hasn’t changed direction dramatically since it was acquired by Oracle, but Oracle still owns it, which makes some developers nervous. “And, probably worst of all, it’s impossible for the community to work with the MySQL developers at Oracle,” Michael “Monty” Widenius, founder of MySQL and MariaDB, says.

Widenius notes that Oracle does not accept patches or provide a public roadmap. “There is no way to discuss with MySQL developers how to implement things or how the current code works,” he says. If an open source, community developed database matters to you, Widenius recommend MariaDB (duh!) because it is built on top of MySQL and offers more features, speed, and stability, with fewer security issues.

5. The list of big names jumping ship is growing fast

At its June 2013 summit in Boston, Red Hat announced that it was breaking up with MySQL. Instead, Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) will ship with MariaDB. Fedora already announced that it would move from MySQL to the MariaDB fork with Fedora 19. Slackware Linux announced its move from MySQL to MariaDB in March 2013, and openSUSE made a similar announcement in January 2013.

It isn’t just the Linux distributions. In April 2013, the Wikimedia Foundation announced that Wikipedia, the world’s seventh most popular website, would be adopting MariaDB. In the announcement, Wikimedia Foundation Site Architect Asher Feldman explained that MariaDB’s optimizer enhancements and Percona’s XtraDB feature set were compelling reasons for the change. “Equally important, as supporters of the free culture movement, the Wikimedia Foundation strongly prefers free software projects; that includes a preference for projects without bifurcated code bases between differently licensed free and enterprise editions,” he added. “We welcome and support the MariaDB Foundation as a not-for-profit steward of the free and open MySQL related database community.” As technology journalist Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols (and contributor here at SmartBear) noted at the end of 2012, no matter how you feel about Oracle or open-source vs. proprietary software, “MariaDB’s better performance at one of the world’s busiest Web sites is going to draw attention from anyone running serious Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP/Python/Perl (LAMP) software stacks.”

So what do these big data, tech-savvy companies know that loyal MySQL users don’t? MySQL is no longer the only big fish in a small pond of database solutions. Instead, MySQL is up against its own Oracle-free, truly open source offspring, MariaDB, the increasingly popular PostgreSQL RDBMS, and a growing NoSQL market. If you haven’t dumped MySQL yet, there are plenty of reasons to reconsider.

About the author

Rikki Endsley writes for a variety of tech publications, is the community manager for USENIX, and is the managing editor of the association’s bi-monthly publication, ;login:. In the past, Rikki worked as the editor in chief of Ubuntu User magazine, associate publisher of Linux Pro Magazine, and managing editor of Sys Admin magazine. Follow her on Twitter at @rikkiends or visit rikkiendsley.com.

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  1. Martyr2 says:

    Why does this reek of MariaDB fan-boy-dom? It really taints the article and makes me feel that it is pretty bias and provides no real value.

    • Well, for people that are used to/are using MySQL and want to switch to something with better future perspectives, MariaDB IS the most obvious choice; In fact, on most debian distros, right now if you install MariaDB, you can start it by doing “service mysql start”.

      It’s the spiritual successor of MySQL, MySQL itself is kind of dying a slow death under Oracle’s ‘supervision’. Every big FOSS no-no from closed source modules to poor changelogs and just messy ways of handling bug fixes they’ve been doing from what I’ve heard.

      Of course, aside that there’s a whole bunch of database projects sprouting lately, that open up all kinds of different new cool ways of saving database stuff, like NoSQL databases, and for some people it might be better to just look around a bit further. But if you want ‘MySQL but actually FOSS and alive’ then MariaDB really seems the way to go. Correct me if I’m wrong.

      • rikkiendsley says:

        MySQL under Oracle has been a concern for members of the open source community from the beginning, and so far, Oracle hasn’t done anything to quash those concerns.

    • ElectricPrism says:

      That seal / manity logo really has me convinced that MariaDB is top notch.


      My next stop will just be a MySQL competitor, the only reason I used MySQL or got into it was because it was installed on literally every server.

    • Ken Kinnison says:

      The MariaDB thread was pretty heavy… my initial response was ‘did I just read an ad for MariaDB?’
      But the points do seem sound.

    • rikkiendsley says:

      That’s the first time I’ve been called a “MariaDB fan-boy”. The angle of the article was reasons NOT to use MySQL, which means I was answering the question, “Why wouldn’t I want to use MySQL?” MariaDB wasn’t the only MySQL alternative I covered. Andy Patrizio’s article provides reasons for sticking with MySQL: http://blog.smartbear.com/open-source/5-reasons-to-stick-with-mysql/ (With your logic, Andy’s article reeks of MySQL fan-boy-dom, I suppose.)

    • Great- a troll that can’t read!

  2. Max Peck says:

    Why not use SQL Server Express? It’s free and very capable.

    • It’s not open source, limits your database size pretty small and only runs on windows. It’s cool for small windows development though I think.

    • jgmitzen says:

      Lots of reasons: 1) It only runs on Windows, 2) It’s closed source, 3) Features such as partitioning and database compression are only available in the enterprise version of SQL Server which starts at over $25K while these features are in PostgreSQL for free.

  3. Coming soon MariaDB for sale… money sucks!

  4. …but it does everything I expect and need, so I see no reason to ditch it.

  5. I am quite happy with Percona

  6. This article sees that Oracle’s acquisition of MySQL is a huge problem. I don’t agree.

    The only problem with MySQL, from my perspective, is the very common table corruption that happens when the server goes down when there’s a write activity on one (or more) of the tables. There should be an intelligent mechanism to handle that.

    • rikkiendsley says:

      If using open source software is a priority for you, then MySQL under Oracle *is* a huge problem.

  7. 6. MySQL is a functionless black hole of 20-year-old childishness. You know – like PHP!

    • What have you written / contributed to any software community that qualifies such bold statements Dan? What do you prefer as a language? Ruby on Rails? .Net?

      All languages have their flaws, Ruby and Rails have far more limitations than PHP, and Java development typically takes 3 – 5 times longer than PHP development. .Net is far worse as it only runs at 100% capability on Windoze.

      Used correctly MySQL / Maria DB scale well and are easier to maintain than several of their peers including the bloated PostgreSQL (Can’t make up it’s mind if it is a programming environment or an RDBMS).

      • Well, C# is a beautiful language: it’s what Java should’ve been; it’s a shame it isn’t available on anything other than Microsoft platforms, since it represents to me the direction in which these things should be going. By contrast, PHP is inconsistent, badly-designed, formless and messy. MySQL represents the bare minimum one can get away with when presenting a database platform: I’d shudder to have to use it for anything more complicated than storing plain table data and doing simple queries on it. Oh well: you get what you pay for, I suppose.

      • Fabian Becker says:

        Ruby on Rails is a framework – not a language. If you want to compare it, then compare it with CakePHP.

      • Not realy, check MONO project. In fact, sometimes Microsoft is lagging with .net when it comes to new features..

  8. Guest1283219 says:

    Interesting comments: I’m still a loyal users of MySQL – ain’t broke (does what I need as a backend for my iPhone app), don’t fix it. But I am worried about the future roadmap (or seeming lack thereof) from ORCL. Thus I keep reading these types of articles (and the comments that are constructive) to stay aware in case I need to make a move.

  9. JustSaying says:

    I think you don’t drop MySQL just because there are other databases with more features, you should only consider those databases if your application requires them

  10. The good news is that if you switch to MariaDB you can still say you are on LAMP.

  11. Seth @ FBT says:

    MySQL is certainly one of the most popular open source database. However, if they do not at least try to match their competitors I don’t see a bright future ahead for them.

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  14. mariadb and percona are forks of mysql… both are much faster, but both still are living in the past in terms of relational databases… don’t start me on indexes or stored procedures…

    i just avoid all forks of mysql period.

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  16. of course open source is driven by community.

  17. Opensource problem


  19. Yes, you should ditch MySQL for MariaDB for clustering for instance. Galera cluster with their multi-master replication is pretty neat. But performance wise, really stop wasting time with open source databases and instead go for Oracle or Amazon Aurora or DeepSQL if you are too entrenched in MySQL territory.

  20. MySQL installed 1.1 GB of *stuff* on my OSX system, and then I could not log in with the temporary password that was provided during my installation, and it all went astray from there.
    It’s bad enough having to deal with being locked into such a legacy system, and it’s bloated on top of that.

  21. Levi Brereton says:

    Obviously, If you Maintain a rule in mariadb security then it is most important.

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