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July 29, 2021

MariaDB Overview: Key Features, Benefits, and FAQ

Open Source

The open source database landscape moves fast – and MariaDB is a good example of that pace. Forked from MySQL in 2009, MariaDB has risen to become one of the top open source databases in use today. But what is MariaDB used for and is it the right database for you?

In this blog, we give a brief history and overview of MariaDB, how it works, its unique benefits and features, and answer common questions that surround this popular database.

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A Brief History of MariaDB

Sometimes in the world of open source software, plans and projects change, and organizations may decide that they no longer want their product to be open source. Such was the case with the popular database MySQL in recent years. We’ve also seen the same thing happen with other products. Often time when this occurs, there is turn over in the organization, and some people feel strongly enough about a product that they create a fork of the project to keep it living on as an open source project. MariaDB is an example of this happening.

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What Is MariaDB?

MariaDB is a free, and popular open source relational database management system that was forked from MySQL in 2009.

When Oracle acquired MySQL in October of 2009, many people on the team worried about the future of MySQL. MariaDB was started and picked up its versioning from MySQL starting it at 5.1. MariaDB is license under the GNU General Public License and intends to stay free and open source. The developer named the project after his second daughter and intended for it to be an easy replacement for MySQL and is often featured as the included DB for popular Linux distros like CentOS. The API and protocols used in MySQL are also found in MariaDB.








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How Does MariaDB Work?

As a relational database, it manages predefined relationships between data items. Those items are organized as a set of tables, columns and rows. Each row in a table may contain a primary key and rows among multiple tables can be created using foreign keys.

The way the relational model works ensures that data tables, views and indexes are separate from the physical storage of the database. What this means for admins is that they can manage physical data without affecting access to that data as a logical structure (e.g., you can rename a database file and it does not rename the tables stored within it).

When we mention physical and logical, we are also talking about database operations. Logical operations allow applications to specify the content needed, and physical operations dictate how the data should be accessed and how it should be carried out task wise.

The benefit of this model is that it is simple, powerful and widely adapted by organizations of all shapes and sizes.

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What Is MariaDB Used For?

MariaDB is often used for things like inventory, transaction management, customer information and more.

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Five MariaDB Features and Benefits

MariaDB has many features and benefits that separate it from MySQL and other open source RDBMS. In the following sections, we discuss five features that make MariaDB stand out.

1. InnoDB

InnoDB is a general purpose storage engine known for balancing high reliability and high performance. It’s the default storage engine in MySQL and a popular choice to use with MariaDB. It provides your standard ACID-compliant transaction features and has support for foreign keys. ACID is short for atomicity, consistency, isolation and durability. What that does is guarantees that each transaction is treated as a single unit. If that transaction fails to complete the entire transaction fails and the database is left untouched. It uses a dual license, one being the GNU GPL and another for use with proprietary software.

2. XtraDB

Once a more popular choice than InnoDB, XtraDB was designed as a drop-in storage engine for MariaDB. This was back in versions prior to 10.1. Since 10.2 of MariaDB, InnoDB has become default storage engine for Maria.

3. MyRocks / RocksDB

MyRocks is a piece of open source software that was developed by the database engineering team at Facebook and is still maintained over there. Considered to be an alpha-stage storage engine, it’s optimized for low-latency, fast storage. It’s main goal was to keep storage savings efficient. By focusing on efficiency, you save on things like SSD wear and tear, actual amount of storage used, and better IO capacity for managing queries. It is officially supported on CentOS 6.8 and 7.2.X with best effort support for Ubuntu 14, 15 and 16 LTS distros.

4. Galera Cluster

Galera Cluster is “a true Multi-Master Cluster” based around synchronous replication. Its main aim is to provide high up-time, prevent loss of data and be scalable for growth. Synchronous replication means that the slave doesn’t lag and there’s no data lost if the node crashes. It’s capable of reading and writing to any node at any time and multi-threads the slave for better performance. It’s got a feature known as Hot Standby which means no downtime during a failover because there simply is no failover.

5. Sequence Storage Engine

Sequence engines let you create ascending or descending sequences of numbers with a given starting value, ending value, and increment value. This creates virtual ephemeral tables as needed. There is not a way to create a sequence table explicitly, and they don’t write to disk or create .frm files, they are read-only and transactional.

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Is MariaDB Free and other FAQ

Get answers to frequently asked questions below. Not seeing an answer to your question? Contact our experts.

Is MariaDB a NoSQL Database?

No, MariaDB is a fork of MySQL, which is an SQL database.

Is MariaDB Free?

Yes, MariaDB is free and open to anyone to use. 

Is MariaDB Popular?

MariaDB is considered to be one of the most popular open source SQL database options, and is used by major logos such as Facebook and Google.

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Final Thoughts

For organizations who want a truly open source RDBMS database (and one likely to remain that way), MariaDB is among the best options available today. However, choosing the right database for your needs is a decision unique to every organization. Finding that database requires alignment with company goals, and keeping it optimized, secure, and supported requires a conscious and ongoing effort.

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