Home MariaDB MySQL vs. MariaDB: what you need to know

MySQL vs. MariaDB: what you need to know

by Brandon Jones
mysql vs mariadb

Both MySQL and MariaDB databases have an undisputed commonality. They are the most sort after database management systems on a worldwide scale. To understand the need for MySQL vs. MariaDB truce, we need to slightly o back in time.

Before MariaDB came into the picture, it was just MySQL ruling the database management systems universe. Its popularity remained unshaken for a long time. Its preference as a reliable DBMS by many is also because of its associated base programming language, C++.

In 2008, the acquisition of MySQL AB, the Swedish company housing MySQL, by Sun Microsystems, then took place. Finally, in 2010, the Oracle company stepped up and acquired Sun Microsystems. Since then, Oracle continues to own, manage, and maintain MySQL.

However, during the acquisition of this database management system by Oracle, its lead developers and engineers felt that Oracle Database Server (a commercial database) was creating a conflict of interest with MySQL. This event led to the creation of MariaDB as a fork of MySQL code. 

The popularity of these two database management systems continues to be seemingly high in terms of user preferences. However, in terms of rank, the developer community puts MySQL on a slightly higher platter than MariaDB.

MySQL versus MariaDB

This article seeks to highlight some key features that comparatively distinguish these two database management systems. 

What is MySQL? 

This relational database management system has the primary objective of organizing a user’s database-stored data. Its usage is prone with the Apache web server and the PHP programming language. It is popular with Windows and Linux operating systems distributions. In terms of querying a database, MySQL makes use of SQL language.  

What is MariaDB?

This DBMS exists as a fork of the MySQL codebase. It is a relational database management system. Both enterprise and small tasks benefit from its data processing capabilities. You can look at it as an improved MySQL version regarding security, performance, and usability improvements on top of its numerous and powerful inbuilt features.  

MySQL versus MariaDB features summary

Both MySQL and MariaDB offer a unique set of features to their respective user communities. 

MySQL features

The following are its important features:

  • High availability
  • Flexibility and scalability
  • high performance
  • Warehouse strengths in web and data
  • Robust transactions support

MariaDB features

The following are its important features:

  • Backward compatibility support
  • Percona Server, also a fork of MySQL server. 
  • Open-source software
  • New storage engines support (FederatedX, XtraDB, Maria, PBXT)
  • It is a direct fork of the MySQL Community Version. 

MySQL versus MariaDB performance comparison

MariaDB mirrors a better performance scope than MySQL due to several optimizations associated with it. It is the primary vision behind its development as an alternative relational database management system to MySQL. 

Database views

An ordinary database is associated with regular tables. “Views” can be depicted as virtual database tables. The same way you query regular database tables is the same way you query these virtual database tables. Therefore, the way you query views hugely determines the performance optimization of the associated database management system. 

Querying a view in MySQL produces a query result that bundles all the tables associated with that view. This query produces extra view results that are not needed. MariaDB optimization takes care of such unnecessary result baggage. A database query will only hunt for tables associated with it and not bring anything extra.      


This feature is a powerful performance improvisation associated with MariaDB. It makes scaling in MariaDB possible due to its distributed data architecture attribute. As a result, a database cluster with various servers scales linearly to facilitate the storage of petabytes of data.   

Better performance in flash storage

The MyRocks storage engine in MariaDB is responsible for its RocksDB database addition. The primary design objective of this database is to facilitate better flash storage performance through the provision of high-level data compression.  

Segmented key cache

This performance feature is also responsible for MariaDB’s performance improvement. A normal cache operation involves a competition between various threads to lock a cached entry. The collective identity of these involved locks is Mutexes. These locks have to get old of these mutexes to use them. Thus, multiple threads will often compete for a single mutex.

There can only be one winner thread. The other threads that cannot get hold of the sort-after mutex have to wait in line for the winner thread to use it first.  Once the mutex is released, another thread competition takes place—this competitive approach of securing a mutex to perform a scheduled operation results in execution delays. The database performance resultantly slows down too. 

For the case of Segmented Key Cache, thread operations take a different approach. An entire page is not under lock and key. Instead, the only affected portion of the page is one associated with a particular targeted segment. This concept leads to multiple threads accomplishing their tasks through parallel execution of their operations. As a result, the database embraces better performance as a  result of application parallelism.        

Virtual columns

This interesting feature is also under the wing of MariaDB database support. The capabilities of virtual columns assist MariaDB in accomplishing the execution of database-level calculations. This functionality is useful when multiple applications need access to a single column. The database handles the individual app-related calculations instead of leaving the task to the database user. Unfortunately, MySQL is not lucky enough to embrace this feature. 

Parallel execution of queries

As of MariaDB 10.0, it is now possible for multiple queries to execute simultaneously or side by side. The functional approach of this feature takes an interesting approach. A Master hosts all the queries scheduled for execution and then replicates some to the Slave. It creates an opportunity for these queries to execute at the same time hence parallel execution. MariaDB’s embrace of this parallelism query execution feature gives it a priceless advantage over MySQL.   

Thread pooling

This feature is also another interesting concept in the domain of MariaDB. Before its implementation, a requested database connection associated each connection with a thread. Thus, the base architecture for a successful database connection was the “one thread per connection” approach.

Thread pooling has changed things. A new connection makes a pick from a pool of open threads before performing database queries. It prevents the need for opening new threads each time a new connection request is needed. This feature promotes faster query results. MySQL Enterprise Edition hosts this feature, but the same cannot be stated about its Community Edition.       

Storage engines

The storage engines under MySQL are not only powerful but also out-of-the-box. Unfortunately, the same cannot be stated about MySQL. Examples of such powerful engines include Aria and XtraDB. MySQL is extensible enough to accommodate some of these storage engines but will require the database user to have the technicality of implementing them through manual installations. This requirement makes it unfriendly to new database users.    


MariaDB is making seamless strides to exist in applications supported by MySQL and outperform it. As you might have noted, each version release of MySQL is associated with a nemesis version of MariaDB with a similar version number as a way of indicating its general compatibility. In short, MariaDB is saying, “what MySQL can do, I can do better.” 

Another advantage of this approach is that switching from MySQL to MariaDB becomes seamless as the database user does not have to incur the technicalities of changing any application codebase.    

Open source versus proprietary database

The name Oracle makes MySQL a giant project sort after by many enterprises and organizations around the world. However, this fame has its advantages and disadvantages. One major drawback is feature releases in large or big organizations. In addition, this process tends to consume a lot of time. 

On the other hand, the open-source nature of MariaDB does not prevent it from embracing outside contributions, enhancements, and new feature releases. As a result, it is a huge deciding factor for many users unsure whether to go with MySQL or MariaDB. 

Key differences between MariaDB and MySQL

  • The storage engines count in MariaDB is more in comparison to MySQL. MariaDB has 12, which is far more than the ones under MySQL documentation.
  • In terms of viable connection pools, MariaDB has 200 000-plus supported connections. The connection pool figure supported by MySQL is smaller. 
  • To understand the performance metrics of these two databases, we will have to look at their replication speed. MariaDB replicates much faster than MySQL.
  •  MySQL Community Edition’s open availability to the RDBMS community does not make it fully open source due to the presence of some proprietary code that defines this database application’s Enterprise Edition. On the other hand, MariaDB is fully open source. 
  • MySQL’s support for Dynamic Column and Data Masking is an advantage over MariaDB.
  • In terms of performance speed, we can generalize that MariaDB outwits MySQL in terms of speed.   

Major differences between MariaDB and MySQL  

  • In terms of server operating systems support for these two database management system software, OS X is the only one absent on the list of MariaDB but present on MySQL.
  • MySQL is missing MariaDB’s new features and extensions like KILL, WITH, and JSON statements. 
  • For every feature conveyed in MySQL’s enterprise edition, MariaDB finds comfort in alternate open-source plugins.
  • MariaDB protects its proprietary content through a closed source priority code. MySQL’s Enterprise Edition also makes use of some proprietary code to protect its content. 
  • MariaDB does not support Data Masking. This support is evident in MySQL.
  • MySQL supports Dynamic Columns, while MariaDB does not.
  • MariaDB performs database monitoring through SQLyog while MySQL achieves the same objective through MySQL Workbench.
  • MariaDB handles routing through MariaDB MaxScale. MySQL does the same through MySQL Router. 
  • MariaDB ColumnStore handles MariaDB’s analytics. This feature is absent in MySQL.
  • The secondary database model is attributed by Document Store and Graph DBMS in MariaDB. MySQL only attributes to the Document Store.
  • MariaDB has a rising 2.8 K Github stars while MySQL leads with 4 K Github stars.
  • MariaDB’s recently recorded fork was 868, while MySQL leads with 1.6 K forks.     

MySQL versus MariaDB Merits and Demerits 

If you need further clarification regarding choosing between MySQL and MariaDB, take a look at the following headlined brief points. 

Why use MySQL?

Two factored points accurately highlight and summarize the usefulness of MySQL as a relational database management system.

  • Its support for multiple storage engines is continuous, unlike systems with single storage engine support like SQL servers.
  • The above-mentioned multiple storage engines support makes MySQL a highly performant relational database management system. However, a major contributor to its flawless performance is the RDBMS’ design simplicity.     

Why use MariaDB?

  • It is operational under the BSD, GPL, and LGPL licenses. 
  • Its support for SQL as a standard querying language is valid.
  • It is packaged with numerous and highly performant storage engines. These storage engines are scalable and integrate well with alternate relational database management systems. 
  • Comes with the advancements of Galera Cluster technology. 
  • For web developers, MariaDB syncs well with the popularity of the PHP programming language.  

Drawbacks of MySQL

  • Scaling this RDBMS is not an easy task.
  • It is not fully expandable to the MySQL community due to restrictions from its owner, Oracle. 
  •  Its design and performance metrics do not suit it to handle large-sized data.
  • It is blurred from clients’ applications hence not visible.
  • The database server can easily suffer a high load imposition from triggers.  

Drawbacks of MariaDB

  • Since MariaDB is still a new face in the database community, many users are still skeptical about its full implementation and usage.
  • The freedom of MariaDB being a host of free database engines implies that user support will have to come at a price.  

Final note  

Famous companies associated with MariaDB include Grooveshark, Accenture, Docplanner, and Nrise. As for MySQL, we have Dropbox, Uber Technologies, Netflix, and Airbnb. The history between these two relational database management systems pushes them to produce the best versions of themselves to their user communities. 

It is no doubt that the performance prowess and epic features of MariaDB make it a force to be reckoned with in the RDBMS community. Also, some of its handy features are viable in MySQL. Finally, MariaDB’s feature-rich nature makes it an outstanding primary backend database. 

If you are already using an oracle license, you are still safe under MySQL. However, MariaDB is recommended for users and enterprises that are beginning to explore the horizons of relational database management systems. You will have more options to explore without any price tags. If you fully understand MySQL, then switching to MariaDB will easily unravel the differentiating factors you might need to consider strongly. Good luck in choosing your ideal relational database management system.     

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