Although MySQL still remains one of the most popular relational database management systems in the world, it’s recently been losing supporters. Some hold that it’s actually on the way out, and that we’ll see it replaced by a better alternative in a matter of years. We’re witnessing the slow death of the system, they claim; particularly since we’ve seen organizations such as Google ditch the database solution in favor of MariaDB.
Such claims ignore the clear advantages MySQL can offer an organization – even in light of its drawbacks. Although the database solution certainly isn’t made for every situation (few are), it’s nevertheless considerably powerful in the right hands. Today, I’d like to take a look at some of its strengths – and shortcomings.
Advantages Of Using MySQL
It’s Easy To Use
MySQL is very easy to install, and thanks to a bevy of third-party tools that can be added to the database, setting up an implementation is a relatively simple task. In addition, it’s also an easy database to work with. So long as you understand the language, you shouldn’t run into too many problems.
Support Is Readily Available Whenever Necessary
Although Oracle’s history of supporting its customers can be spotty at best, the nature of MySQL – which got its start as an open-source platform – means that there’s a large and thriving community of developers and enthusiasts to which one can turn for help. This is due in large part to the popularity of the solution, the end result of which is no shortage of experts.
It’s Open-Source (Sort Of)
Oracle’s purchase of Sun Microsystems (and by association, MySQL) was met with some contention from the development community. The general fear was that Oracle would transform the tool into a closed, proprietary ecosystem. Thankfully, though Oracle has tightened its grip on MySQL somewhat, it can still be considered an open-source database option, as the code is still available for free online.
It’s Incredibly Inexpensive
Depending on what you plan to use it for, a MySQL implementation could range in price from free to $10,000 or more. Either way, it’s significantly less expensive than most other database options on the market (save for MySQL’s open-source competitors).
It’s An Industry Standard (And Still Extremely Popular)
Although MySQL’s popularity has waned somewhat in recent years, it remains one of the most-used database systems in the world. It’s compatible with virtually every operating system, and is more or less an industry standard. This is, of course, in spite of all the folks who say it’s on the way out.
Disadvantages Of Using MySQL
It’s Got A Few Stability Issues
According to Digital Ocean, MySQL tends to be somewhat less reliable than its peers. These stability issues are related to the manner in which it handles certain functions (such as references, transactions, and auditing). While the database is certainly still usable in light of these problems, they do tend to make MySQL a poor choice for certain use cases.
It Suffers From Relatively Poor Performance Scaling
Although MySQL is equipped to handle a virtually limitless volume of data, it has a troubling tendency to come grinding to a halt if it’s forced to deal with too many operations at a given time. This relatively poor performance scaling means that anyone with high concurrency levels should probably look into an alternative.
“In my experience,” writes software engineer Koushik Ramachandra, “I have found that MySQL works better when you have a low write/read ratio, and offers low scalability as the read/write ratio grows.”
Development Is Not Community Driven – and Hence Has Lagged
Since Oracle has taken the helm of MySQL’s development, progress appears to have ground to a halt, with only one major release in the past several years. The company doesn’t accept community-developed patches, nor has it bothered to offer users any sort of roadmap for MySQL development. There’s really no way for developers to discuss the database management system with Oracle – and that’s a problem.
Its Functionality Tends To Be Heavily Dependant On Addons
Although MySQL is relatively easy to set up, it tends to have less out-of-the-box functionality than many other database systems on the market. Certain features – such as text search and ACID compliance – are dependant not on the core engine but on applications and add-ons. While it’s true that there exists a plethora of well-made applications for MySQL, tracking them down can sometimes be a pain, and might cause some developers to simply choose an alternative which – while not as easily installed – offers more immediate functionality.
Developers May Find Some Of Its Limitations To Be Frustrating
Not surprisingly, MySQL isn’t designed to do everything (nor should it be). The database isn’t fully SQL-compliant, and tends to be limited in areas including data warehousing, fault tolerance, and performance diagnostics (among others). Developers may find this relative dearth of functionality frustrating, particularly if they’re used to a more full-featured alternative.