In this article, you’ll learn what the best free RDBMS replacements for MySQL Server are, what they have in common, how they’re different, and which cases you should prefer one or the other.
MySQL has become one of the world’s most popular database engines. It is also found and supported by most web hosting providers around the globe as a standard. But sometimes, your first choice doesn’t always work out.
There are plenty of Relational Database Management Systems (RDBMS). Some focus on specific areas; others aim to be a complete replacement.
MySQL is probably the most popular choice, but it is only one of them.
Relational databases remain at the heart of many different types of applications. In helping you make the right choice for your use case, below we outlined five standout replacements for your MySQL Server.
MariaDB is an enhanced drop-in replacement of the MySQL database management system. It is a fork of MySQL developed by the MariaDB Foundation and is being led by the original developers of MySQL.
Above all, MySQL and MariaDB are almost the same, have the same directory structures and syntax, and same performance. But MariaDB has numerous inbuilt powerful features and many usabilities, security, and performance improvements that you cannot find in MySQL.
Aside from standard engines supported by MySQL, users would also be able to avail of many alternative database engines for particular application scenarios.
MariaDB has become the primary database distribution on many Linux distros, and it’s getting high popularity these days. In addition, it’s getting features that are close to the enterprise needs like encryption, hot backups, or compatibility with proprietary databases.
MariaDB is a fork of MySQL, so the database structure and indexes of MariaDB are the same as they are with MySQL. The upshot of this is that your applications will still work if you switch because the way the data is organized doesn’t need to change.
MariaDB team ensures that MariaDB can seamlessly replace MySQL in the existing applications. So, for example, you can do a mysqldump on your current MySQL database and use the output to load all your data into MariaDB.
One goal of MariaDB is to be fully compatible with MySQL, so you can usually shut down your existing MySQL server, copy the data folder over to your MariaDB install, and start it up.
PostgreSQL, also known as “Postgres,” is an open-source object-relational database management system (ORDBMS). It is a fully open-source database system released under its license.
PostgreSQL has aimed to provide a very robust and feature-complete SQL-compatible storage from the very beginning. As a result, Postgres advertises itself as “the most advanced open-source relational database in the world.”
On the other hand, MySQL made some compromises in return for performance in its early years.
Performance should not be a factor when choosing PostgreSQL as a MySQL replacement. Differences are negligible.
In addition, both platforms are also perfectly capable of replication. Therefore, it’s worth considering the other advantages of Postgres over MySQL.
Postgres is an object-relational database (ORDBMS), while MySQL is a purely relational database (RDBMS). This means that Postgres includes features not available in MySQL but can be crucial to specific applications. In addition, Postgres also adheres more closely to SQL standards.
Postgres supports several advanced data types not available in MySQL. Also, PostgreSQL is extensible.
You can add your data types, operators, and index types. In other words, PostgreSQL doesn’t just store information about tables and columns but lets you define data types, index types, and functional languages.
To convert from MySQL to PostgreSQL, you can use pgloader. It is a database migration tool for moving data to PostgreSQL, making it a robust and straightforward process. PGLoader supports migrations from several database engines like MySQL, MS SQL, and SQLite.
However, remember that Postgres might be a worse choice for simple, read-heavy workflows than MySQL.
Firebird is a relational database offering many ANSI SQL standard features. It offers excellent concurrency, high performance, and powerful language support for stored procedures and triggers.
In addition, the latest Firebird version adds support for built-in replication.
Firebird is well suited for embedding it into an application and performs exceptionally well on a standalone server with higher data volumes.
It is super-fast, small, and straightforward. Firebird is often compared with PostgreSQL, which is much bigger, even if it almost has the same functionalities.
So, why is Firebird not as popular as MySQL? The answer is simple. When the web servers and web applications boom began, Firebird wasn’t ready to be a web server database backend.
MySQL was simply in the right place at the right time. Soon, each ISP had PHP and MySQL support, and the LAMP platform was conceded. Those first on a new market quickly take it over, and it’s tough for others to take that market share away.
The key Firebird advantages over MySQL are:
- Firebird is a free and community-driven project. Oracle owns MySQL.
- Firebird is reliable. There are no index or table corruption problems so often with MySQL.
- Firebird’s database is just one file with the
.fdbfile’s extension. So it’s easy to move or backup the database by zipping or moving the file.
- Firebird has a tiny installation package. It supports embedded mode. Therefore installation of a server is not required when working with local files.
So, it can be said that Firebird can be a reliable replacement for MySQL.
4. Microsoft SQL Server Express
SQL Server Express Edition is a free edition of SQL Server. As you know, Microsoft releases the Linux version of its popular RDBMS database, SQL Server. So it is a piece of good news for Linux users since they can now deploy MS SQL Server on top of the Linux system.
Microsoft SQL Server Express is the entry-level, free database and is ideal for building desktop and small server data-driven applications. It can also be used in production.
SQL Server Express has deep integration with Visual Studio, Visual Web Developer, and SQL Server Management, allowing for ease of use and a rich table and query designers. As a result, it may be the best choice for someone who develops in the Microsoft environment.
However, SQL Server Express comes with some technical restrictions unsuitable for large-scale deployments. You should be aware of the following limitations:
- The maximum database size is 10 Gb
- No support for the high availability configurations
- Limited support for management tools
- No support for the disaster recovery configurations
- Limited support for performance tuning tools
- No support for encryption and compression
- SQL Server Agent is not available
As you see, there are significant limitations. So, you might ask, what would anyone use at all?
The short answer is that it is for low-budget needs because SQL Server Express is completely free to download, distribute, and use.
Therefore, you need to consider things carefully before choosing SQL Server Express as a MySQL replacement.
SQLite is a self-contained, serverless relational database management system. It is a database, which is zero-configured, which means, like other databases, you do not need to configure it in your system.
SQLite is a lightweight open-source database with no requirements for a server or installation. The lite in SQLite means light in terms of setup, database administration, and required resources.
Despite its simplicity, it is laden with popular features of database management systems.
A typical SQLite database is contained in a single file on the disk storage with all the database objects (tables, views, triggers, etc.) included.
Supported data types are a significant difference between MySQL and SQLite. SQLite only has five primitive data types: NULL, INTEGER, REAL, TEXT, and BLOB.
On the other hand, MySQL is a lot more flexible. For example, it supports various data types, including different numeric types, date and time types, and string types.
One of the main drawbacks of the SQLite acting as a MySQL replacement is its lack of multi-user capabilities.
With MySQL, different users may be created with a range of individual permissions, while with SQLite, user management is not a capability and, therefore, not supported.
Another significant disadvantage of SQLite is its handling of writing operations. SQLite is only able to handle one connection. This can be a substantial bottleneck for applications that require concurrency.
As we mentioned above, SQLite is serverless, whereas MySQL is not. Therefore, if portability is of concern, go with SQLite.
However, if you want any substantial degree of concurrency or require higher security and user permissions management, MySQL wins over SQLite.
So, as is with many other IT solutions, the most popular choice is not always the best choice. Instead, you need to choose the one which best fits your needs.
We hope this article has helped you by providing a thorough description of each of the databases mentioned above, which can help you make an informed decision.
Do you know of any other free RDBMS replacements for MySQL that you think should have made a list? Then, make your case in the comments below.
What about percona?
Yes, it’s a really a great option. Percona is fully compatible with MySQL, so generally speaking, it also can be used as a drop-in replacement for the MySQL.
Thank you for the suggestion, Alejandro!
“But MySQL comes with numerous inbuilt powerful features and many usabilities, security and performance improvements that you cannot find in MySQL.”
Pardon? MySQL comes with features, that you can’t find in MySQL???
So… sqlite as a replacement for MySQL???
Are you kidding???
Thank you for the remark! It has already been corrected.
Yes, for some use cases, I believe it can be a replacement for MySQL.
But… Sqlite (IMHO) is not a real RDBMS. It is a SQL interface for an in memory db (roughly).
Yes, if someone uses MySQL for a wrong task, then yes, he/she can use sqlite instead of it. But in a multiuser environment, with transactions etc., where MySQL could be a good choice… I doubt…
Ps: many times I try to post my comment, I get a 503 error…
The article author should have also mentioned that these Microsoft SQL Server Express tools..”Visual Studio, Visual Web Developer and SQL Server Management ” don’t run on Linux.
Many of SQL Server and therefore Express version SQL commands and functions are not ISO compliant, and will not work in a Linux directory Server environment like 389 Directory server or any other non-proprietary directory environment designed and configured for Windows server alone.
Enen as near as March 2020 just before the Covid-19 pandemic hit the USA badly, SQL Server and SQL Server express ran ridiculously slower on Linux than other databases in comparison, and experienced considerably greater reliability issues – during a SUSE Linux Expert Days exposition in NYC.
These critical factors should have negated a Microsoft database included for a Linux OS server.
The Author should have mentioned Oracle XE edition, it’s a totally free version of the Oracle Database, with replication, encryption, in-memory acceleration and a few other features you have to pay for in the paid versions of the Oracle database. It’s is limited to only 12G of disk space, but that is 2G more the MS SQL Server Express. You all get all the management tools, like SQL Developer and Oracle Enterprise Manager.
You missed CockroachDB
“SQLite is only able to handle one connection.”
According to the documentation the above sentence is not true. This follows from the following sentences from the documentation:
“Multiple processes can have the same database open at the same time.”
“SQLite uses reader/writer locks to control access to the database.”