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May 13, 2021

PostgreSQL vs. MySQL: Key Differences and Similarities

Databases
Open Source

In the world of open source databases, there are an abundance of choices to choose from. Whether you are deciding between SQL vs. No SQL, large scale versus small, choosing the right open source database largely depends on your needs. Among RDBMS options, users often consider PostgreSQL vs. MySQL for their applications.

In this blog, we will examine some of the similarities and differences between PostgreSQL and MySQL — and discuss when users should consider picking one over the other.

Comparing PostgreSQL vs. MySQL

When it comes to scale, massive queries, and a feature rich set of options, PostgreSQL might be the first thing to come to mind. If you are thinking simpler, faster and known reliability, MySQL may be the most common choice. These are just some of the initial differences that come to mind when we first start comparing these two titans of the open source database industry.

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This table compares PostgreSQL vs. MySQL regarding their qualities. And, as you can see, they are similar in many ways.

 RelatedStructuredReadWriteConsistencyAvailabilityPartition Tolerance
PostgreSQLModerateModerateHighHighLow
MySQLModerateModerateHighHighLow

Similarities Between PostgreSQL vs. MySQL

While in the past it was easier to compare the differences between PostgreSQL and MySQL, with each newer release of both packages the similarities are truly starting to add up.

Both Have Similar Features

Some of the features shared now include but are not limited to common table expression, declarative partitioning, full-text search, Geographic Information System (GIS) as well as Spacial Reference System (SRS), JSON, logical and semi-synchronous replication and window functions. Both are ACID compliant as well, and versions of MySQL 8.0.16 and forward now also support the CHECK constraint.

Both Are Mature

Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and DigitalOcean all have Database as a Service offerings for both MySQL and PostgreSQL and both are supported on Windows, OS X and Linux. The level of maturity of both products is equal, as both have well established open source communities surrounding them. These communities provide the developer hours to keep the projects moving forward and provide support for those seeking knowledge and help with the product.

Both Are RDBMS

Because both databases are relational database management systems, they use tabular models to store data. This allows the database to create, read, update, and delete (CRUD). Both databases have optimized CRUD operations in the background, provide multi-user access control, have backup and recovery management, and use stored procedures for common tasks.

Differences Between MySQL and PostgreSQL

When we start to examine the differences between MySQL and PostgreSQL, we must keep in mind that many of these examples may be circumstantial to your needs and there could be other factors that determine your choice in addition to what we know each database is capable of. PostgreSQL has a reputation for being feature rich with a lot of options available, and MySQL is known for its simplicity and ease of use.

Does that mean PostgreSQL is impossible to learn or that MySQL is incapable of advanced use cases? Certainly not, and as an architect I’ve seen many use cases out there that prove to be exceptions to these reputations, so keep in mind that anything is possible.

ORDBMS vs. RDBMS

One of the main reasons to pick PostgreSQL over MySQL is that it’s an object-relational database. This allows PostgreSQL to act as a bridge between the database and the object oriented programming language it’s talking to such as C++. This gives you the ability to define objects and table inheritance which is preferred when using a strict relational model. This also aids itself to creating more complex queries, or queries that require data validation. PostgreSQL has also been known for its ability to scale and support for NoSQL data types as well.

Performance, Reliability, and Ease of Use

Where MySQL shines is when it comes to speed, reliability and ease of use. MySQL offers a huge selection of 10 available data engines to choose from giving you flexibility in storage. Out of the box, MySQL is much easier to set up and provides a ton of options for tweaking the database for performance tuning.

Third party tools like the MySQL Workbench even offer a graphical user interface to work with the database making it even more user friendly for beginners. MySQL is considered cloud ready out the box making it a viable option on cloud platforms where you can install and maintain your database.

When to Use PostgreSQL Over MySQL

When deciding on whether to use PostgreSQL over MySQL, you’ll typically want to choose PostgreSQL when you have:

  • A larger scale data to search and parse.
  • A need to use complex queries.
  • A desire for a feature-rich solution with lots of available tools.
  • A need to communicate with an object oriented application.

When to Use MySQL Over PostgreSQL

Alternatively, you’ll typically want to choose MySQL over PostgreSQL when:

  • You don’t need as many features and are focused on speed and optimization.
  • You prefer ease of set up and cloud readiness.
  • You prefer a well-documented database.
  • You want more flexibility with 3rd party tools from the community.

Final Thoughts

While we only were able to dive into the surface level of differences between PostgreSQL and MySQL, there is a lot more to these open source databases than what we covered today.

And, to reiterate, choosing the right open source database requires a full understanding of your application and infrastructure needs, and that applies beyond  PostgreSQL vs. MySQL.

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