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Six free databases with commercial-quality features

Microsoft, Oracle offer impressive free versions of their commercial offerings, but MariaDB wins our test

By Susan Perschke, Network World
December 03, 2012 12:08 AM ET

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Although our testing was not scientific, we did use the same test data for all database servers and overall we found MariaDB performance to be a notch faster than MySQL when working with individual rows (selects, deletes and updates).

As with MySQL, security in MariaDB is managed through Access Control Lists for access to all objects and operations. In addition, it includes several encryption functions that can be used for data storage and retrieval, along with SSL for encrypted communication between client and server.

As for support, we found the MariaDB website responsive to most questions. There are also several online forums dedicated to MariaDB along with commercial support and consulting available from Monty Program.

There is a lot to like with MariaDB; in particular we appreciate that the company includes in its open source version many of the closed source features of the MySQL commercial edition. One of these features is sub-queries, which did essentially not work well in MySQL, and MariaDB finally resolved this a while back. Also, when a major security hole was found in MySQL/MariaDB earlier this year, the MariaDB community found a solution and notified the community to this vulnerability.


MySQL is one of the most popular open source databases. It is included as part of a variety of LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP) stacks, and large organizations such as Wikipedia, Twitter and Facebook use MySQL. MySQL was originally developed in Sweden in the mid-'90s, was sold to Sun in 2008, and has been owned by Oracle since it acquired Sun in 2010.

MySQL vulnerability allows attackers to bypass password verification

There has been a lot of speculation as to what Oracle's intentions are with regard to MySQL. According to the latest indications from Oracle, it is committed to supporting and updating the core functionality of the community edition of MySQL for the foreseeable future. This obviously makes sense to Oracle considering the vast current installed base, as it gives the company a unique position to upsell several of its commercial offerings such as Oracle Linux, Oracle VM and of course its commercial versions of Oracle MySQL. However, the question still remains as to how many new features will be included in the core open source version and how many will be reserved for the commercial offering.

That being said, since acquiring Sun, Oracle has made several improvements in the way MySQL runs on Windows, and it is now truly a cross-platform database. We installed the community edition, Version 5.5.8, on Windows Server 2008 R2 as part of a WAMP installation. We decided to use both phpMyAdmin and HeidiSQL to manage our MySQL installation. There are also commercial management tools available such as the MySQL Enterprise Edition.

After importing our test data we ran through our basic tests and found most of them perform very similar to MariaDB, as expected. While working with individual rows, we found MySQL to be slightly slower than MariaDB, even if the table, data, indexes and hardware were the same. Oracle has just announced the release candidate for Version 5.6 and this is supposed to have an improved optimizer and other updates that will improve performance. It should be noted that the differences were in the hundredths of a second range.

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