PostgreSQL vs. MySQL: What’s the Difference?

5 min read

Similarities and differences in the uses, benefits, features and characteristics of PostgreSQL and MySQL.

PostgreSQL and MySQL are relational databases that organize data into tables. These tables can be linked — or related — based on data that is common to each. Relational databases enable your business to better understand the relationships among available data and help gain new insights for making better decisions or identifying new opportunities.

How are PostgreSQL and MySQL similar?

Both PostgreSQL and MySQL rely on SQL (Structured Query Language), the standard language for interaction with management systems. SQL enables tables to be joined using a few lines of source code with a simple structure that most nontechnical employees can learn quickly.

With SQL, analysts do not need to know where the order table resides on disk, how to perform the lookup to find a specific order or how to connect the order and customer tables. The database compiles the query and figures out the correct data points.

Both MySQL and PostgreSQL support JavaScript Object Notation (JSON) to store and transport data, although PostgreSQL also supports JSONB, the binary version of JSON which eliminates duplication of keys and extraneous whitespace.

Both databases offer robust community support in addition to traditional support mechanisms.

What is PostgreSQL?

PostgreSQL, also known as Postgres, is an open-source relational database with a strong reputation for its reliability, flexibility and support of open technical standards. PostgreSQL supports both non-relational and relational data types. It has been called one of the most compliant, stable and mature relational databases available today and can easily handle complex queries.

Features of PostgreSQL include the following:

  • Point-in-time recovery (PITR) to restore databases to a specific moment in time.
  • Write ahead log (WAL) that logs all changes to the database using tools such as pgBackRest.
  • Stored procedures to create and retain custom subroutines.

How is PostgreSQL used?

PostgreSQL is a “one-size-fits-all” solution for many enterprises looking for cost-effective and efficient ways to improve their Database Management Systems (DBMS). It is expandable and versatile enough to quickly support a variety of specialized use cases with a powerful extension ecosystem, covering efforts like time-series data types and geospatial analytics. Built as an open-source database solution, PostgreSQL is completely free from licensing restrictions, vendor lock-in potential or the risk of over-deployment. PostgreSQL is managed with an object-relational database management system (ORDBMS).

PostgreSQL offers the ideal solution for enterprise database administrators responsible for managing online transaction processing (OLTP) protocols for business activities, including e-commerce, customer relationship management systems (CRMs) and financial ledgers. It is also ideal for managing the analytics of the data received, created and generated.

Benefits of PostgreSQL

These are some of the main benefits of PostgreSQL:

  • Performance and scalability — including geospatial support and unrestricted concurrency — and deep, extensive data analysis across multiple data types.
  • Concurrency support through the use of multiversion concurrency control (MVCC), which enables the simultaneous occurrence of write operations and reads.
  • Deep language support due to its compatibility and support for multiple programming languages, including Python, Java, JavaScript, C/C++ and Ruby.
  • Business continuity, with high availability of services through asynchronous or synchronous replication methods across servers.
  • Greater flexibility and cost-effective innovation through open-source database management technology.

What is MySQL database?

MySQL — a fast, reliable, scalable and easy-to-use open-source relational database system — is designed to handle mission-critical, heavy-load production applications. It is a common and easy-to-start database with low memory, disk and CPU utilization, managed by a relational database management system (RDMS). MySQL Community Edition is a free downloadable version supported by an active online community.

MySQL features include all the SQL standard commands along with transactions and ACID compliance (which stands for atomicity, consistency, isolation and durability).

The two most common relational databases are MySQL and Oracle. MySQL is not synonymous with SQL Server, a licensed Microsoft product that lacks compatibility with MAC OS X.

MariaDB, often confused with MySQL, is an open-source branch off MySQL that is faster and offers more storage engines (12), but it is limited in features. The storage engine used by both MySQL and MariaDB is InnoDB. InnoDB provides standard ACID-compliant features. Unlike MySQL, MariaDB doesn't support data-masking or dynamic column.

How is MySQL used?

MySQL is commonly used as a web database to store a variety of information types, from a single informative data point to a complete list of product or service offerings for an organization. It is the foundational component of LAMP (Linux Operating System, Apache HTTP server, MySQL RDBMS and PHP programming language), a software stack model that facilitates the creation of APIs, web applications and websites.

MySQL Workbench is a single, integrated visual SQL platform used for the creation, development, design and management of MySQL databases.

The benefits of MySQL

MySQL provides many benefits to the market, including the following:

  • Unmatched data security — as compared to other database management platforms — due to its use of Secure Socket Layer (SSL). This helps to ensure data integrity, which makes it a popular database for web applications.
  • High performance, because MySQL’s storage-engine framework supports demanding applications with high-speed partial indexes, full-text indexes and unique memory caches for superior database performance.
  • Scalability and support for unlimited storage growth in a small footprint.
  • Flexible open-source framework with support for transactional processing, although not as flexible as non-relational databases such as NoSQL.

PostgreSQL vs MySQL: What are the differences?

There are many differences between PostgreSQL and MySQL. Some of the differences in features, functionality and benefits are as follows:

  • Database type
    • MySQL: Relational
    • PostgreSQL: Object-relational
  • Programming language
    • MySQL: C/C++
    • PostgreSQL: C
  • Support for CASCADE
    • MySQL: No
    • PostgreSQL: Yes
  • User interface
    • MySQL: Workbench GUI
    • PostgreSQL: PgAdmin
  • Supported procedure complexity
    • MySQL: SQL syntaxes and stored procedures
    • PostgreSQL: Advanced procedures and stored procedures
  • Supported index type
    • MySQL: Binary Search Tree (B-Tree)
    • PostgreSQL: Many, including GIN and Hash
  • Encryption between client and server
    • MySQL: Transport Layer Security (TLS) protocol
    • PostgreSQL: SSL
  • XML data type support
    • MySQL: No
    • PostgreSQL: Yes
  • Support for materialized view and table inheritance
    • MySQL: No
    • PostgreSQL: Yes
  • Support for advance data types
    • MySQL: No
    • PostgreSQL: Yes – hstore and user-defined tdtaa
  • Support for multiversion concurrency control (MVCC)
    • MySQL: No
    • PostgreSQL: Yes

In summary, there are distinct uses for both PostgreSQL and MySQL, and the choice between them depends upon enterprise objectives and resources. In general, PostgreSQL is a more robust, advanced database management system, well-suited for an organization that needs to perform complex queries in a large environment quickly. However, MySQL is an ideal solution for a company more constrained by budget and space.

PostgreSQL, MySQL and IBM

For many developers, the need to manage high availability, monitoring and scaling of enterprise databases can deeply impact personal bandwidth. This takes away from time they could spend building new APIs, applications and services.

IBM Cloud Databases for PostgreSQL is a fully managed database offering that takes the heavy lifting out of database management, letting developers get back to creating new, innovative products.

IBM’s breadth is in open-source databases, and they actively engage with the large community of developers that support them. By regularly collaborating with open-source developers and working together to create scalable and sustainable solutions for your enterprise, you can grow your business with confidence, knowing you’re always supported by the best database developers all working toward the same goal.

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